The Republican National Committee’s 168 members are scheduled to meet in January in California for their annual winter meeting. It may be a raucous affair complete with finger-pointing, a search for scapegoats on whom to blame the results of the November midterms, and a contest that will decide the fate of the party’s current chair.
Ronna Romney McDaniel has chaired the RNC since 2017, when she was elected with the support of the newly elected president, Donald Trump. She told her fellow RNC members two years ago that if reelected, it would be her last two-year term. Now she has decided to run again. Winning would make her the longest-serving national party chair in modern history.
Mrs. McDaniel kicked off her campaign by releasing a letter signed by more than a hundred RNC members saying they would vote for her. That would be a majority and was designed to discourage competition for the chairmanship. But members of the RNC are elected themselves, and the worker bees who vote for them in the states are less than happy with the recent performance of the party and may not support the enablers of a slam-dunk referendum on failed leaders who’ve lost several elections in a row. Signatures on such a letter are no guarantee of votes in January — as both Mrs. McDaniel and her potential opponents know.
There are plenty of Republicans who want Mrs. McDaniel gone, including half a dozen or so potential candidates … from the serious, such as California National Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon, to the less serious, like My Pillow man Mike Lindell or former Trump White House staffer Mercedes Schlapp. A challenger may well be able to count on the support of activists who noted that Mrs. McDaniel has presided over electoral disasters in 2018, 2020 and this fall, when she and everyone else predicted a massive “red wave” that would sweep Republicans into office at virtually every level.
After the results were in, Mrs. McDaniel appeared on television claiming she had never predicted a red wave, only to have to sit silently as her interviewer played clip after clip of her doing just that. Most acknowledge that she has presided over a decent fundraising effort but say the party’s ability to beat the Democrats on the ground developed under former RNC Chair Reince Priebus has atrophied under her leadership. Ground games are not to be sneered at; they often predict wins. Former RNC Chair Bill Brock’s team may not have been my conservative cup of tea, but their precinct operations and ground game played a part in Ronald Reagan’s upset of a sitting president in 1980. Ken Mehlman, who chaired the RNC in the George W. Bush years, targeted and reached voters where they lived, worked and played on his boss’s behalf, and without Mr. Priebus’ efforts, Mr. Trump would almost certainly have lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Recently, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem summed up the attitude of many GOP leaders, “Now that we underperformed in this election cycle, we need to look at what we’re doing and why we’re not winning.” In sports, a disappointing season often results in a demand for new team leadership. That’s a reality that professional baseball team managers live with — at the end of a losing season, they often find themselves out of a job.
None of this seems to bother Mrs. McDaniel, who boasts of her success as party chair and vows to find out what went wrong so she can fix it prior to the 2024 elections. That is precisely what she pledged to do the last time she ran for reelection so that we could celebrate a red wave in 2022. She apparently wants to keep at it until she gets it right. That’s a luxury other party leaders may understand that they cannot afford.
Last month, Taiwan’s president, who also heads her party, resigned from the Democratic Progressive Party chairmanship in the wake of municipal election results that cost the party and several important mayors, including that of Taipei. After thanking the party faithful, President Tsai Ing-wen said, “I must shoulder all the responsibility. Faced with a result like today, there are many areas that we must deeply review,” then promptly stepped down as party chair.
In other countries, political leaders are more likely to take responsibility for their failures. In our more “mature” democracy, elected officials, failed candidates and party leaders always seem prepared to let us know that when things go wrong, it’s someone else’s fault.
One must wonder why it so often takes a revolt to send a failed American leader on his or her way. Maybe that won’t be the case this year. Mrs. McDaniel may discover in January that failure, as well as success, has its consequences.
• David Keene is editor-at-large at The Washington Times.
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