July 22, 2024 3:10 pm
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Opinion | Well, Nevada Republicans are a Hot Mess

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by Hugh Jackson, Nevada Current

It wasn’t entirely surprising to see CNN’s report last week that Nevada 2020 fake electors Michael McDonald and James DeGraffenried were granted limited immunity in exchange for testimony as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of the January 6 insurrection. 

NBC News had reported earlier in the month that McDonald, who was and still is the Nevada Republican Party state chair, and DeGraffenried, state party vice chair in 2020 and now State Republican National Committeeman, had been spotted entering the federal courthouse in Washington where the grand jury was meeting.

Anyone with even a casual familiarity with McDonald’s character, conduct and career can hardly be shocked to see that among the 84 people in seven states who signed fake election certificates, he is one of only two (the other being DeGraffenried) publicly known to be making deals with Smith. It’s a transaction. Las Vegas is perhaps the most transactional town in the U.S., and McDonald has always aspired to be exemplary of the local mover/shaker custom and culture.

If prior results are an indication of future performance, the disposition of all this will be anticlimactic. Let’s say Trump is charged with, oh, sedition (perhaps as a result in part of evidence provided by Nevada’s fake electors). A critical mass of Republican presidential primary voters will only want to vote for him harder. All the so-called Republican presidential primary “opponents,” who so far are campaigning not to defeat Trump but to see which one of them totes adorbs him the most, will dutifully parrot Trump’s “weaponization” and “witch hunt” mantras.  

And it’s hard to imagine a trial and conviction happening before the election. (Although Smith, the Department of Justice special counsel, seems refreshingly uninfluenced by both the political calendar and news cycles.)

As for McDonald and DeGraffenried, it’s always possible the mercurial and serially disloyal Trump could publicly disown them for singing to the grand jury, (further?) souring the Trump base in Nevada on McDonald’s leadership of the state party in the process, and forcing the ever-resourceful McDonald to seek a new personal revenue model.

The more likely scenario is that a McDonald “led” Nevada State Republican Party will continue to be a Trump worship service, perhaps with severely unhinged conspiracy theorist Jim Marchant as its nominee for U.S. Senate. 

And Nevada Republican elected officials and candidates who are not conspiracy-minded loons will end up going through the 2024 election cycle the same way such folks went through the the last cycle in 2022: Stuck with Trump and Trumpists, and self-muzzled – or worse, kowtowing to Trump on command – terrified that even the slightest publicly shared deviation from fealty to Trump will end their political careers.

As Trump might say, sad.

“Leaders.” Ha ha as if.

Apart from a one-off visit from Ron DeSantis to a picnic hosted by DeSantis’ elf, Adam Laxalt, Republican presidential candidates have paid virtually no attention to Nevada as yet. Maybe a forgotten, irrelevant Nevada will go through the entire rest of 2023 and early 2024 without ever being blessed with the magisterial presence of former VP Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, that governor nobody has ever heard of from some Dakota or other, and the rest of the dozen or so people who think if only Trump gets fatally hit by lightning maybe they might have a chance.

But if Trump doesn’t bully those and all the other candidates into going away with their tails between their legs and visions of his patronage in their heads, thus bestowing the nomination to him by default – that is, if by chance there is a truly contested Republican nomination process – Nevada will be the third state on the calendar.

A competitive contest for the nomination seems unthinkable right now. 

But so have other things before they happened. Like O.J. Simpson in the white Bronco. Or Donald Trump in the White House.

Nevada’s presidential caucuses, for both parties, have never had more than a negligible impact on a nomination. A Nevada Republican presidential primary in February probably won’t either. Even if the state’s Republican “leaders” were to, you know, lead, and warn about the threat (of which at least some of those “leaders” are aware) of a second Trump administration, that wouldn’t guarantee Nevada’s Republican presidential primary contest would be relevant. 

If Republican “leaders” in Nevada and elsewhere did speak out against Trump – not just his electability, but his unfitness for the office – could it possibly make a difference and help deprive Trump of the nomination? 

We’ll probably never know.

Rep. Mark Amodei, Nevada’s only Republican in Congress, fancies himself a folksy and sensible straight-talker, but it has turned out his true talent is crafting pained rationalizations in defense of Trump’s perpetual criminality.

Nevada Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s campaign was based more than anything on his career as a sheriff – a law and order sort of guy, you might say. And yet during that campaign last year he repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to genuflect and fold before the notoriously and perpetually lawless Trump on command.

Amodei and Lombardo both would like to get through the 2024 cycle practicing a quiet acquiescence that doesn’t get too much Trump on them. McDonald won’t make that easy. 

Knowing better but not acting accordingly, Amodei and Lombardo are among the multitude of Republican politicians nationwide who are complicit in Trump’s current overwhelming lead in Republican primary polls and seemingly inevitable nomination. 

Their ongoing silence and complicity is effectively an in-kind contribution to Trump’s campaign, helping to assure Trump will be their nominee, no matter what he’s charged with or convicted of. That in turn guarantees that professional Republicans, in Nevada as across the nation, will spend yet another year-plus defending and bowing before him. Whether they like it or not.

Don’t spare the tiniest drop of pity. After so much practice, cowardice probably comes easy to them by now.

This article was originally published on Nevada Current and is republished here under a Creative Commons License