Is going to the extreme a winning strategy?

I have been wondering whether taking ever more extreme stands on major issues was a winning strategy for Republicans. There is no doubt that it fires up the most passionate and Trump-supporting faction in the party and also seeks a petty goal of ‘triggering the libs’, as the kids say. But against that is the possibility that it alienates everyone else, including other Republicans. While such a strategy would likely be a plus in the primaries where more loyal party members tend to vote, it would succeed in a general election only if the electorate is so solidly Republican that there are enough people for whom just the identifier (R) after a candidate’s name is sufficient to make their voting decision.

We are likely to see that happening in Idaho race for the governorship in 2022. This is a deep red state that Trump won by 30 points. Both the current governor Brad Little and lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin are solidly right wing but the lieutenant governor is planning to challenge the governor and seems to have decided to make it dramatically clear that she is not going to let anyone outflank her on the right. She even went to the extent of repealing the governor’s mild order on vaccine mandates during the few days when he was out of the state for a meeting and she was nominally in charge. Normally, the stand-in just takes care of routine business. But not her.

Little’s second-in-command, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, announced Tuesday on social media that with Little out of the state for a meeting with Republican governors in Texas, she had the authority to prohibit all state facilities—including public schools—from requiring proof of Covid-19 vaccination or mandatory testing.

McGeachin, who has previously issued executive orders while Little was out-of-state, said on Twitter that she was “fixing” an order the governor issued earlier this year, which only covered non-educational facilities and didn’t include a ban on testing requirements.

Little said that he would rescinder her order on his return.

“I have not authorized the Lt. Governor to act on my behalf,” said Little in a statement shared on social media just four minutes after McGeachin’s announcement. “I will be rescinding and reversing any actions taken by the Lt. Governor when I return.”
Little is expected to return to Idaho Wednesday evening.

So nothing tangible was achieved by her action. But it achieved her purpose of making a splash and making it clear that she is an anti-covid extremist, which was likely the whole point. She was also possibly hoping to catch the attention of Trump and get an endorsement. He has been continuing his warfare against Republicans whom he thinks are not ardent enough in supporting his claim that the election was stolen from him, such as Republican governor Brian Kemp.

Trump used much of his more than hour-long Georgia rally to rail against Kemp, who attracted Trump’s ire when he certified the state’s election results in favor of Biden last year. 

The Washington Post reported in January that Trump asked Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger (R) to “find” more than 11,000 ballots needed to overcome the gap between Trump and Biden in the Peach State. 

Trump during his rally Saturday railed against both Raffensperger and Kemp, who he said “has been a complete disaster on election integrity.”

Trump seems to be going all in on requiring Republicans to march 100% in lockstep with him, to the extent of praising Democrats who run against Republicans he thinks are not supportive enough.

Trump has continually lashed out against Republicans who won’t peddle unfounded conspiracy theories, and has endorsed primary challengers to run against them. Most recently, he’s said that Democrats should win over certain Republicans he’s at odds with. During an interview with The Real America’s Voice last week, Trump said he’d almost prefer that Democrats win over the House Republicans who voted to impeach him after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“There are a few of those candidates in very, I would say, blue areas. I almost would rather have the Democrat win, to be honest with you.”

Idaho’s McGeachin seems to have read the signs as to what Trump wants. Let’s see if Little decides to make this into a race to see who is the most loyal Trump lackey.


  1. seachange says

    “I have been wondering whether taking ever more extreme stands on major issues was a winning strategy for Republicans”

    Yes. Yes it is.

    As for some irrelevant racist criminal fascist …etc… FORMER president’s opinion about ‘better a Democratic’ this is an extremely rare case of him being correct. Because with two very popular bills among the American people right now, it is precisely Democratic party members who are blocking it in favor of the tenth of one percent oligarchy that he belongs to. (If you believe Forbes).

    And of couse the fake news talks about Dr. Suess instead of the ratfucking that they and their collaborators are doing to this country. So how would someone who is moderate and can’t find real information behave? And those who are not radicalized are not paying attention. So:


  2. says

    When you double down and double down eventually you’re all in.

    Republicans feel backed into a corner and they’re preparing to do what cornered rats are supposed to do.

  3. flex says

    I have been wondering whether taking ever more extreme stands on major issues was a winning strategy for Republicans.


    My observation is that popular mania’s usually last around 8-10 years before a declining belief in the population reduces the percentage who believe them to a (generally) ineffectual level. There are popular mania’s which are shorter, but anything longer than about 15 years means it’s become part of the culture. We’ve had about 7 years of Trumpism, I don’t think we’ll have more than 12. He might get the party nomination for President again, but I’d say even that is uncertain. In which case someone will back him as an independent candidate, if for no other reason than to keep up the grifting.

    Signs of weakening popular mania’s include more extreme positions and outrageous actions among the believers, while the general public moves on and stops paying attention. We’re seeing that now. I’ve noticed recently that even Fox News has presented some negative reporting on Trumpism. Not every show of course, but any cracks in the Fox News façade is heartening. My feeling is that Trumpism likely peaked about a year ago, and it’s been on a slow decline since. Trumpist politicians are hoping it will last long enough for them to get elected, or re-elected, and that will probably work for some politicians.

    Trump, of course, is fighting to stay relevant, and there will be enough people willing to go to stadiums for him to continue to feed his addiction to adulation. At least for the next few years. If Trump lives ten years he will be reduced to appearances at State Fairs and Monster Truck Rallies.

  4. Who Cares says

    Is it a winning strategy? Normally no. Is is a winning strategy in a group that has started purity purges? Yes.
    The US adds a wrinkle to this in politics. How elections are setup allows basically only for two parties (a giant excluded middle fallacy). This means if you have another view you either throw away your vote or vote for one of the two parties that have a chance of winning, also the reason why the not insane Republicans stuck with Trump since not doing so would have split the party and thus giving the democrats power while the Republicans wouldn’t even get bribes or revolving door jobs since they wouldn’t be able to do anything as a quid pro quo.
    Tribalism works here as well, why would I vote for someone else then the current Democratic/Republican candidate.
    The final piece is that the fanatics tend to be more active in the candidate selection process.

    So you need to be the most pure of the candidates for, in this case, the Republican party or you won’t get (enough of) the fanatics on your side. The tribe will vote for that candidate since it is their tribes candidate. And at this point it is all down to if there are more Republicans voting then Democrats + independents.

    A multi party system would reduce the chance of this happening (see Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler as an example of it happening in a multi party system) because the fanatics would have long been abandoned by anyone instead of being coddled since they are needed to win, which reduces the spread of their ideas while other parties would absorb the refugees from the party (or parties) that went nuts.

  5. mnb0 says

    In times of polarization going to the extreme is a winning strategy indeed. A historical example is the Reformation.

  6. garnetstar says

    As noted above, going to such extremes can be a winning strategy in the short, or even medium, term, but it is not sustainable.

    You cannot ratchet it down, even gradually so it must go up and up and up to ever greater extremes, which eventually become unworkable. So, the basics then have to change: you have to create a static societal situation that does not change, and maintain the extreme at a static level, that is controllable.

    In this case, that means eliminating democracy for a dictatorship or other authoritarian state where there are no politics or news except those required or issued by the authority.

  7. says

    One reason McGeachin was able to perform this stunt was because of one particular phrase peculiar to the Idaho Constitution (emphasis added):

    Section 12. Lieutenant governor to act as governor. In case of the failure to qualify, the impeachment, or conviction of treason, felony, or other infamous crime of the governor, or his death, removal from office, resignation, absence from the state, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the powers, duties and emoluments of the office for the residue of the term, or until the disability shall cease, shall devolve upon the lieutenant governor.

  8. Aoife_b says

    And currently Idaho is in a state of crisis, hospitals are filling up again and we’re just blithely skipping along with zero restrictions

  9. says

    “But it achieved her purpose of making a splash and making it clear that she is an anti-covid extremist…”
    I disagree. She sounds very pro-covid to me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *