- - Friday, January 27, 2023

It is not at all obvious that those who run the Republican Party wish their own voters or the party itself well.

This week, in California, the Republican National Committee selected Ronna McDaniel to be chairwoman for the next two years. But it doesn’t really matter which of the two candidates the committee selected. Mrs. McDaniel and her competitor, Harmeet Dhillon, were essentially the same. Both of them take money out of the party, have an unhappy aversion to policy, tend to engage in talking more than doing, and both are uncomfortably close to the former president.

During the campaign for chairman, we kept hearing from the actual 168 voters that they wished they had different choices. Here’s some news: You could have had better choices. Any of the members of the RNC could have run for chairman. Only two did. That bespeaks a certain amount of institutional complacency, which is odd, given the failures over the last three election cycles.

The problem is not limited to the RNC. It was reported recently that Senate Minority Whip John Thune, South Dakota Republican, is urging Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona independent and former Democrat, to caucus with Senate Republicans instead of with the Democrats, which he suggested could help avoid a three-way race for her seat in 2024. In a conversation with The Hill, Mr. Thune made it clear: “We’ll see. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said when asked whether he would support an Arizona Republican who runs against Ms. Sinema, noting that “a lot of Republicans [are] talking about it.”

“Obviously, we’d love to have her become a Republican or at least caucus [with] Republicans. That would make things a little more clear,” he said.

In short, Mr. Thune, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, would rather have a warmed-over Democrat than an actual Republican.

Things aren’t any better over in the House. There, leadership made Rep. John Curtis, Utah Republican, whose last job was being the Democratic mayor of Provo, vice chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee that will deal with climate. Mr. Curtis is probably as far to the left on climate as any member of the Republican conference.

Finally, Rep. Kay Granger, Texas Republican, the new chair of the House Appropriations Committee, recently made it clear that she has no intention of entertaining any alterations to the defense budget. That certainly seems reasonable. The Department of Defense probably can’t be improved in any way.

There is, of course, the small matter of not having prevailed in all our conflicts since we handily won World War II. Or, if you care about such things, you could be concerned about the department’s continuing audit failures or its inability to figure out where $2 trillion of weapons and whatnot might be. If it were any other agency, the Republicans would be screaming bloody murder on television and lighting up social media about mission failure and misappropriation of funds.

Dependency on the government inevitably corrupts and destroys societies (native tribes), places (Baltimore, Detroit) and organizations (the military). Once the military became a purely bureaucratic operation, without the leaven of a draft, it was just a matter of time until it started to look like the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The Republican establishment hasn’t won an election cycle since 2010. Arizona has been a shambolic mess for the Republicans for years now. The last time we had a clear victory in a shooting war was in 1945.

Healthy people and organizations, when faced with that immediate history of failure, would wonder what they were doing wrong and what changes and improvements might be needed. Not the Republicans, whose answer always seems to be to stay the course, even if it is clearly failing.

Think about all this as we wander toward the 2024 elections. Former President Donald Trump was not some weird aberration. His victory in the Republican nominating contest in 2016 was a direct consequence of the party’s inability or unwillingness to address its deficiencies head-on. Unless and until it does, there will continue to be candidates like Mr. Trump, and they will and should win.

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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