August 3, 2020

The Lincoln Project

A group of conservatives are turning on their own side in a bid to see Donald Trump defeated in November… While political advertisements usually try to win the hearts and minds of voters, the Lincoln Project says it has a target audience of just one man: Donald Trump. They want Mr Trump to lose the election — and believe the best way to do that is by trolling him online and on TV through political advertising.” ABC AU

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From the Left

The left is divided over the antics and efficacy of the Lincoln Project.

“The Lincoln Project’s ads—personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs—are familiar: They are undertaken with all the relish the president shows when he jokes about the mental hiccups of ‘Sleepy’ Joe Biden, just as four years ago, he happily implied that Hillary Clinton suffered from some nameless disease…

“Try to imagine the ‘disaffected conservatives’ or ‘Republican-leaning independents’ whom the Lincoln Project says it hopes to win over. They straddle their fences, scroll through their timelines, leaning first this way then that … Biden, Trump … Trump, Biden … until at last they come upon a Project Lincoln ad and they discover—can it be?—that the president’s genitalia aren’t functioning nearly as well as the world thought! ‘By God,’ they might cry. ‘This is the last straw! We need Joe Biden to restore the soul of America!’ But probably not… This is an old story: We become what we behold. The project partakes of the spirit of a famous Republican president, all right. But he’s not Lincoln.”
Andrew Ferguson, The Atlantic

“To a large extent, the Lincoln Project’s raison d’être is simply to annoy Trump and his closest allies… Political scientists have long been skeptical of advertisements’ ability to persuade voters of anything. And in 2016, Hillary Clinton ran many high-quality ads aimed at getting Trump-skeptical Republicans to vote for her, to apparently little effect. Like those 2016 ads, the Lincoln Project’s spots seem designed to go viral, not necessarily to persuade… Despite the widespread belief that dunking on Trump is a successful political strategy, there’s little evidence that doing so accomplishes much, no matter how many retweets follow… What, then, is the Lincoln Project up to?”
Alex Shephard, New Republic

“If they did want any influence within the Democratic Party, they’re not doing any of the things that would get them there. So what are they up to? What they say motivates them is both fear of a second term for Donald Trump and, especially for some of the campaign professionals involved, a sense of responsibility for what the Republican Party has become. It’s possible that there’s really nothing more to it than that… this might be the end of the line — they may be burning bridges with one party without building any connection to the other…

“My sense is that the group would be happiest with some sort of reformed Republican Party, but that they don’t quite know how to get there from here. The obvious problem is that the more elections Republicans lose, the more the remnant in office will tend to be from the safest districts, which usually produce the most extreme politicians… ultimately the Lincoln Project will be a curiosity — a marker of the deep dysfunction of the Republican Party, but not a group able to do much about it or to find a home elsewhere.”
Jonathan Bernstein, Bloomberg

Others, however, note that “Alongside the top-tier surrogates and ads, there is a grassroots effort to organize women, veterans and evangelicals to reach out to persuade Republicans to abandon the president who dominates their party…

“Trump’s concern about the Lincoln Project has only helped to fill its coffers… The group raked in more than $20m by the end of June, far ahead of its target of raising $30m by the end of the election cycle. Most of those funds came after Trump’s attacks in May, with small donors making up the bulk of its supporters: the average donation is around $50. Now the group has enough funds to go after Trump’s supporters in tight Senate races.”
Richard Wolffe, The Guardian

“If you believe (as I certainly do) that defeating President Trump is the prerequisite for anything good happening again in American politics, you should welcome everyone willing to help get the job done. And in light of Trump’s threats to challenge the results if he loses, the health of our democracy may depend on Biden’s winning by a landslide that would leave not a smidgen of doubt about what the voters were saying. This is an all-hands-on-deck proposition.”
E.J. Dionne Jr, Washington Post

From the Right

The right is critical of the Lincoln Project.

The right is critical of the Lincoln Project.

“[The Lincoln Project has] chosen to target the entire Republican Party and its Senate majority in particular… Ironically, the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, including Susan Collins, Tillis, and Cory Gardner, represent swing states and exemplify the moderate Republicans Never Trumpers claim to represent. The most ardent Trump supporters, such as Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, are not at risk of losing their seats. Working to defeat centrist senators will only solidify Trump followers’ control over the party after he is gone…

“Never Trumpers claim to support many of Trump’s policies and to oppose many the Democrats propose, such as the Green New Deal, public option, abortion on demand, and tax increases. Yet, if they oppose the reelection of Republicans and support the elevation of Schumer and Pelosi, they should admit they are Democrats.”
Bobby Jindal, Washington Examiner

“The Lincoln Project’s leaders clearly align with Democratic values on questions such as trade, immigration and the Internet, and are willing to, at best, overlook Democratic values on matters such as taxes, climate change and religious liberty. Democratic principles in Republican clothing…

“The Lincoln Project has no future if its objective is to remake the post-Trump Republican Party in its image. Republican voters didn’t want what they were selling before Trump, and they certainly won’t want it afterward. Worldwide, center-right voters are seeking populist-tinged conservatism, and so the initiative’s only effective purpose will be to elect Democrats this fall and in the future. There’s a name for people who want to do that: Democrats.”
Henry Olsen, Washington Post

“One of the least persuasive arguments against Trump’s GOP from the left and chunks of the anti-Trump right is when they point out often senator-so-and-so votes X percent of the time for the ‘Trump agenda.’ The vast majority of these votes are for things that Republican senators would have voted for under a president Rubio or Cruz. In other words, that stuff isn’t ‘Trumpism.’ I mean, should Republicans not have voted for Neil Gorsuch, just to send a message to Trump? Their voters wanted them to vote for Gorsuch… I just don’t buy the argument that elected Republicans shouldn’t vote like traditional conservative Republicans.”
Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch

“The Never Republicans refuse to account for the practical calculations of practical politicians hoping, in difficult circumstances, to achieve practical results. Was Mitch McConnell supposed to say after Trump’s election, ‘I can’t work with him,’ and, to borrow a phrase, burn down any chance of achieving anything constructive during a rare instance of unified Republican control of Washington?…

“What the Never Republicans are hoping for is not just a repudiation of Trump, but a major shift of the Overton Window of American politics to the left. They want the least resistance to the most progressive president of our lifetimes to give him the greatest possible running room on abortion, conscience rights, health care, judges, climate, immigration, transgender policy, policing, gun rights, campaign finance, taxes, spending and, surely, things we can’t even think of yet. This is a high cost to pay, not just for the Republican Party, but for the country—at least that’s what you think if you are a conservative who believes progressives are deeply wrong on all these questions.”
Rich Lowry, Politico

“The media can keep calling you ‘Republicans,’ but if you support Democrats, take Democratic Party positions, make voting for Democrats all the way down the ticket a binary choice and moral imperative, and then take most of your money from big Democratic Party donors, you’re a Democrat. That’s fine. You should embrace it… the biggest funders of the Lincoln Project aren’t distraught Republicans but long-time Democratic Party operatives… Call me cynical, but I’m suspicious that these donors, or those who take their money, have the best interests of the conservative movement or Republican Party at heart.”
David Harsanyi, National Review

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