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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

RNC and the Bliss Precedent

 Our latest book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. The 2024 race has begun. The nomination phase has effectively ended. Trump has begun turning the RNC into his personal fiefdom. 

After becoming president, Nixon sacked RNC chair Ray Bliss, who had declined to subsidize Nixon's campaign travel in the 1966 midterm campaign.  Bliss was probably the greatest RNC chair in history up to that time.  At Politico, William Hershey and John Green write:

The episode represented a big step toward the development of candidate-centered politics, of which Trump is a reigning master. In candidate-centered politics, one service that party chairs can’t — or won’t — easily provide is a check on the excesses of ambitious office holders.

With his record of winning races, Bliss, who died in 1981, would have stewed over the GOP’s losing efforts during McDaniel’s long tenure — most notably the loss of the House in 2018, the Senate in 2020, and the disappointing results of 2022. He would have understood McDaniel’s limited ability to rein in Trump in recent years but would have disapproved of the deference she showed him while he and the party were out of power.

In his view, party organizations should be independent of candidates and respect the diversity of opinion among rank-and-file Republicans. Ideally, the party would also serve as an independent check on office holders as well — something he hoped to do with Nixon — but at the very least it could serve as a neutral incubator for future candidates when it did not hold the White House.

All of this would have put him at odds with Trump. If there were any questions about whose interest the new RNC leaders will serve, Lara Trump, Trump’s daughter-in-law and an RNC co-chair along with North Carolina GOP chair Michael Whatley, put them to rest.

“Every single penny will go to the No. 1 and the only job of the RNC — that is electing Donald J. Trump as president of the United States and saving this country,” she told Newsmax in February. This prospect may not be music to the ears of congressional, state and local Republicans.

One test of the new leadership’s intent will come soon enough. Trump’s team has said it will not use the RNC to pay his mounting personal legal bills, which are estimated to be in the millions, as it did when he was president. But with a family member and other Trump lieutenants now controlling the party’s fundraising machinery, the gravitational pull toward supporting Trump by any measure possible will be strong.