Martha McSally Is No Barry Goldwater, So She's Got That Going For Her
A new political ad just dropped that attacks my favorite daytime soap opera villain, Martha McSally. It comes from the Lincoln Project, a collection of former or at least just dormant members of the Republican Party. Founders George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson described the Lincoln Project in a New York Times op-ed as "an effort to highlight our country's story and values, and its people's sacrifices and obligations."
These guys all hate Donald Trump and the Republicans who enable him. McSally is one of the latter who isn't married to George Conway, so the Lincoln Project's ad really lets her have it. A mean girl narrator goes into taunting detail about how much of a big fat loser the non-elected senator is. Let's watch, shall we?
The ad kicks off with the inarguable fact that McSally lost her last Senate race. We've all enjoyed making fun of her, but I admit I don't think it follows that voters rejected her like unseasoned chicken at a soul food restaurant. She won 48 percent of the vote. Arizonans preferred Kyrsten Sinema, but if Gov. Doug Ducey was going to pick a Republican to fill John McCain's former seat the (close) second place finisher in the most recent election wasn't a terrible idea. We could've wound up with Meghan McCain. If McSally wasn't facing Starfleet's Mark Kelly, who should be running for president, she'd probably be in good shape to keep her seat, despite her overall terribleness.
The guys at the Lincoln Project contend that McSally lost in 2018 because she got "too close" to Donald Trump. I'd love to believe that, but according to exit polls, the president's approval rating among voters in the senate race was roughly 50 percent (Jeff Flake's approval rating, for comparison, was 26 percent). A whopping 63 percent of voters didn't want Trump impeached. This speaks to the tightrope act Sinema successfully performed. What likely killed McSally's candidacy was her vote in the House to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with Trump's Magic Beans. Sinema hammered her on this. The success of the ACA is a sensitive issue for most NeverTrump conservatives, especially Wilson, who lied professionally about it.
WILSON: I myself worked on plenty of ads that said, "You will lose your doctor. You will have to go to a government DMV-like clinic." But those terrors never happen. We're not in the world we predicted.
Wilson acts like he's a meteorologist who predicted a blizzard that never materialized and kids are still mad at him because they were hoping for a snow day. The "terrors" never happened because they were all repulsive lies, and every single Republican knew they were at the time.
The McSally ad predictably compares her negatively to John McCain. You'd expect that because McCain is the patron saint of the Republican establishment and Democrats who want to impress their conservative friends. But then the ad veered into "Saturday Night Live" parody territory.
Arizona has always produced mavericks, true independents.
People like John McCain and Barry Goldwater.
Wait, hold up, did they just say Barry Goldwater? Sure, Flake rubber-stamped most of Trump's agenda, but he gave some highfalutin' speeches criticizing him on the Senate floor. He even name-dropped Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell. What in the name of the Civil Rights Act possessed the Lincoln Project to dig up the name Barry Goldwater? Hell, the 1964 versions of Never Trump Republicans ran an ad denouncing Goldwater.
Here's an excerpt from the famous "Confessions of a Republican" ad. Remind you of anyone?
But when it comes to Senator Goldwater, now it seems to me we're up against a very different kind of a man. This man scares me. Now maybe I'm wrong. A friend of mine said to me, "Listen, just because a man sounds a little irresponsible during a campaign doesn't mean he's going to act irresponsibly.' You know, that theory that the White House makes the man—I don't buy that.
I wouldn't have worried so much about party unity because if you unite behind a man you don't believe in, it's a lie. I tell you, those people who got control of that convention: Who are they? I mean, when the head of the Ku Klux Klan, when all these weird groups come out in favor of the candidate of my party — either they're not Republicans or I'm not.
The true "mavericks" rejected Goldwater in 1964. If McSally isn't in the same league with Goldwater, that's actually good for McSally. I realize that the Lincoln Project isn't speaking to me -- a black man who instinctively recoils at the mention of Goldwater. These Never Trumpers are trying to sway fellow conservatives who are mostly OK with Trump's policies but would prefer he was less overtly corrupt and embarrassing. Martha McSally is certainly a Trump stooge. She's no "American hero," but then neither is Barry Goldwater or anyone involved with the Lincoln Project.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).