For those who enjoy watching competitive and highly consequential campaigns, this year will not be boring. There are exciting campaigns to watch in every part of the country, up and down the ballot, which will not only dictate the course of the nation’s government in the near future, these races are also likely to have a major impact on our democracy. The stakes couldn’t be much higher.
It’s against this backdrop that Donald Trump traveled to Wyoming for his latest political rally, where attendees heard the former president identify what he considers the nation’s most important electoral contest. The Casper Star Tribune reported:
“Wyoming, all of America is counting on you,” he said. “So important. We all know how great of a state you are, how beautiful you are. But you’ve become, politically speaking, you’re at the top of the list. We have a lot of elections coming up…. I think this is the most important election that we have, right here.”
In context, “this” referred to Rep. Liz Cheney’s Republican primary race against attorney Harriet Hageman.
At face value, this might seem difficult to understand. Control of the U.S. House is on the line in 2022. So is control of the U.S. Senate. There are gubernatorial elections in nine of the nation’s 10 most populous states.
But for the former president, one race stands out as the “most important election.” Is it a contest that will dictate which party has power in the new year? No. Is it a gubernatorial race? No. Is it an election that will determine whether future election results are certified? No.
It is instead a primary race to determine whether the nation’s least populous state is represented by a conservative Republican woman or a different conservative Republican woman.
For Trump, this is not ridiculous, and it’s important to understand why: He believes getting even is far more important than getting a majority. Cheney may have voted with the Trump White House roughly 93 percent of the time, but she also came to recognize Trump as a threat to our democracy and the rule of law.
And once we recognize the fact that the former president cares more about vindictiveness than his party’s interests, the logic becomes obvious: Of course Cheney’s primary is the year’s “most important election.” She’s the Republican who’s gone further than any other to rid the GOP of Trump.
For a narcissistic politician preoccupied with spite, what could possibly be more important than defeating Cheney? The odds are obviously against it, but if Democrats were to actually build on their congressional majorities, and Hageman were to replace Cheney, it’s easy to imagine Trump feeling a degree of satisfaction with the midterm results.
What’s less clear is how the former president might take these attitudes. In Georgia, for example, Trump went all out to take down his perceived intra-party foes in statewide primaries, and as we saw last week, he failed spectacularly. Republicans such as Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and state Attorney General Chris Carr cruised to easy victories — even after they balked at Trump’s coup scheme, and even after the former president set out to derail their careers.
New York magazine’s Ed Kilgore asked the other day, “Will Trump ruin Georgia Republicans out of spite?” As a partisan matter, it might seem as if the GOP’s biggest voice would prioritize Republican election victories over his personal sense of grievance.
But given all we know about the former president — a man who seemed to publicly revel in Republican defeats after the 2018 midterms — it seems obvious that spite trumps every possible consideration.