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Many in Nevada’s GOP seem intent on self-immolation

Michael Schaus
Michael Schaus
Opinion
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Carson City Republican Party booth at the 8th annual Basque Fry at Corley Ranch in Gardnerville on June 17, 2023. (Trevor Bexon/The Nevada Independent)

It’s well past time the GOP divorce itself from the man who carried the party into the White House in 2016. 

Nationally, this is fairly obvious as the GOP’s most prolific loser, Donald Trump, continues to lash out at his party’s most popular governors, former cabinet members, estranged allies and pretty much anyone else who refuses to prostrate themselves before the altar of MAGA. Indeed, if you’re a Republican who has built some semblance of popularity without heaping praise on the former president, you can expect to be given a demeaning nickname and have throngs of ardent Trump supporters sicced upon you as punishment for your blasphemous ways. 

And that’s to say nothing of the treatment received by members of the GOP who dare to speak out against the cultish insanity on display in certain factions of the party. 

Given the disastrous electoral consequences such sycophantic hero-worship brought the party last year, one would think even the most ardent supporters of the former president would rethink the tactic of turning the GOP into a Trump fan-club. Here in Nevada, for example, last year’s trifecta of ultra-MAGA candidates — Michelle Fiore, Sigal Chattah and Jim Marchant — should illustrate just how abysmal the Trumpian political playbook has worked out for the party. 

In a sane world, such candidates would be hurriedly cast aside by a party interested in actually winning future elections. Alas, we don’t live in a sane world. 

Marchant, for example, has launched a Quixotic bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen using the same pandering approach to the Trumpian wing of the Republican Party that lost him his run for secretary of state. (Certainly, as in 2022, there are likely some Democrats who are praying Marchant wins the primary.) 

When Sam Brown entered the primary recently, Marchant and his supporters were quick to label him a “handpicked” agent of Mitch McConnell and the Republican “establishment” — McConnell being another former Trump ally who has run afoul of the MAGA mob by daring to question the electability of some of their preferred candidates. (Maybe if Trumpian Republicans had listened more to McConnell and less to Trump in the last election, that “red wave” of 2022 wouldn’t have eroded into little more than a ripple.) 

Such chaos extends well beyond candidates — infecting the inner workings of the party itself. In 2022, for example, Chattah failed miserably in her attempt to unseat Democratic Attorney General Aaron Ford — and yet, members of the state Republican Party nonetheless promoted her to the role of national committeewoman thanks to her continued devotion to the church of MAGA. 

Nothing like failing upwards, right?

Unfortunately, the outrage and conflict that has come to define the Trumpian-era of Republican politics doesn’t end with a few unelectable individuals maintaining popularity within their party. Some of these very same individuals are seemingly also hell-bent on generating controversy and conflict where none otherwise exists for the party. 

A glaring example would be Chattah’s latest legal challenge of a (bipartisan) law protecting election workers from harassment — a law that earned unanimous support by both houses of the Legislature and was signed by Nevada’s Republican governor. As the party’s committeewoman, one would think Chattah might show a little trepidation about challenging a law supported by virtually every elected Republican in her own state — even if it might earn her some accolades with the fringiest “stop-the-steal” conspiracists in her party. 

Then again, such trepidation would require a political aptitude that extends beyond her own narcissistic tendency to peddle outrage to her own (narrow) political base. And so, here we are with Chattah challenging a law that won support from all those Republicans in the Legislature who, unlike her, actually won their races. 

All of this intraparty conflict and incompetence might sound like a problem for just the Republican Party — but it’s actually a problem for all of Nevada. After all, while a GOP in disarray might not sound like a bad deal to partisan Democrats, Nevada’s not exactly ready to be a one-party state. We are an incredibly complex and ideologically diverse electorate, and many of the most pressing questions of our era — from abortion protections to school choice — don’t break down neatly along partisan lines. 

Or, to put it another way: A more competitive (or even competent) GOP would generate more candidates who are actually representative of the broader voting public — forcing Democrats to similarly prioritize independently minded voters over partisan concerns. And that sort of political dynamic would be good news for a state where unaffiliated and minority party voters are quickly becoming the largest voting bloc in the state — regardless of which party comes out on top after Election Day. 

Unfortunately, many within Nevada’s GOP seem more interested in pursuing self-immolation at the altar of MAGA than figuring out how to become marginally more likable among ordinary voters.

Michael Schaus is a communications and branding expert based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and founder of Schaus Creative LLC — an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their story and motivate change. He has more than a decade of experience in public affairs commentary, having worked as a news director, columnist, political humorist, and most recently as the director of communications for a public policy think tank. Follow him at SchausCreative.com or on Twitter at @schausmichael.

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