To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we lose our freedoms, it will be because we have destroyed ourselves from within.”
Those of us in the Republican Party should heed his warning.
In 2016, both nationally and locally, Americans were growing weary of career politicians, lobbyist groups and moneyed power brokers and just wanted to put an outsider in office. Crowded and contentious primaries ultimately resulted in voters selecting candidates who shocked many in the GOP establishment — Donald Trump and Eric Greitens. Both quickly made enemies within their party, and both faced misleading and false allegations as well as personal morality issues that fanned flames on both sides. However, their bases grew stronger while their enemies grew hotter. When Greitens resigned, many Missourians felt disenfranchised by their party, while Republican insiders sighed in relief.
The 2018 Missouri Senate race had a crowded primary with solid candidates working exhaustively, attending events to meet Missouri voters and to promote their messages. However, state GOP leadership suspended a rule that prohibited the party from endorsing any one candidate until after the primary and poured millions into its chosen candidate. It showed many Missouri conservatives that our voices didn’t matter and that our candidates weren’t getting a fair shot. Once again, many Missourians felt disenfranchised, and insiders sighed in relief.
With the discouraging blow of the 2020 election, Republicans were in a whirlwind. Was there election fraud? Cheating? Scandal? Was a rare pandemic unfairly politicized? Was it media bias, or were our president’s flaws so offensive that he could no longer be tolerated? Finger-pointing, division and in-fighting over support for the president tore friends within the GOP apart, and once again, Missourians felt disenfranchised and the insiders breathed another sigh of relief.
2022 offers a new opportunity with the all-important Senate race for retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt’s seat. For Republicans, it is critical we hold the 20 seats up for reelection and secure at least one of the 14 seats currently held by Democrats. Only two Missouri candidates have officially announced they are running, but rumors of several strong candidates considering a run buzz around the state, and we already are seeing friction.
Good men and women — friends — appear ready to destroy one another. The political strategy groups and political action committees are poised to destroy reputations and push exaggerated narratives against fellow Republicans.
Qualified candidates may not get a fair shot at winning the primary because the power brokers won’t let the process play out. Once again, Missouri Republicans feel weary, discouraged and disenfranchised as we destroy ourselves from within.
Mike Armstrong said it best: “There is something wildly wrong with public discourse in America. The more polarized our society becomes, the more we retreat into our ideological echo chambers. We reject new information that might challenge our bias. We demonize those with whom we disagree.”
I believe this is not only a profound truth for Americans with different ideologies but also for those within the GOP.
At the end of the day on Aug. 3, 2022, there will be one Republican candidate left standing for the Senate race. Many will be disappointed with the outcome; many will be relieved. We cannot spend the next 18 months destroying our GOP candidates. or discouraged and disenfranchised Missouri Republicans will walk away.
When all is said and done and the dust settles from an impassioned primary, I hope decency and integrity will be what unites us all as champions of liberty.