Thoughts on the Lincoln Project

The Lincoln Project was a fraud from its inception. I explained why in a post last summer that included this quote from David Harsanyi:

If The Lincoln Project was exclusively campaigning against Donald Trump, one might be tempted to believe it wasn’t merely an arm of the Democratic Party. If one of its co-founders, John Weaver, hadn’t been registered as a foreign agent lobbying for a Russia-owned nuclear-energy company against U.S. sanctions not long ago, one might accept that the group believed the conspiracy theories it spreads. If the group wasn’t working against the moderate Republicans senators for the sin of supporting originalist Supreme Court justices, who will transcend the Trump presidency and help preserve the traditional constitutional order, one might believe that its mission was to preserve the system.

If you target moderates like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner — politicians who not only parted with Trump on issues but have quite un-Trumpian dispositions — you’re not working against Trumpism, you’re working against the GOP.

The media can keep calling you “Republicans,” but if you support Democrats, take Democratic Party positions, make voting for Democrats all the way down the ticket a binary choice and moral imperative, and then take most of your money from big Democratic Party donors, you’re a Democrat. . .

I’m not really a fan of making a big deal over a group’s funding. Your arguments should stand on their own. I don’t care who pays you. But if you advertise your cause as something it’s not, you’re a fraud. And the biggest funders of The Lincoln Project aren’t distraught Republicans but long-time Democratic Party operatives.

Those who founded the Lincoln Project had various motives. George Conway was a disappointed office seeker. He had wanted not just to serve Trump administration, but to be its Solicitor General — the man in charge of defending the administration’s legal positions on behalf of the government in the U.S. Supreme Court. Only after losing out on this bid, and maybe others, did he turn against Trump.

John Weaver and Steve Schmidt wanted to avenge their former boss John McCain, whose war record Trump had stupidly and unfairly attacked. Weaver might also have been looking for new opportunities to have sex with boys and young men.

One common motive seems to be have been enrichment. All across the political spectrum, the Lincoln Project is viewed this way. The socialist magazine Jacobin called it “a giant grift.” National Review used the same word — “grift” — to describe the ridiculously high consulting fees received by the Lincoln Project’s founders. A liberal group complained:

The Lincoln Project promised to export their knowledge of how conservative voters think, instead they mostly exported the conservative consultant class’s instinct for grifting.

But it wasn’t just the Lincoln Project’s grift that might well have caused Abraham Lincoln to turn over in his grave. There was also the group’s signature dishonesty and nastiness.

How dishonest was the Lincoln Project’s advertising? So dishonest that even this NYU liberal balked.

How nasty was the Lincoln Project? So nasty that James Carville expressed envy.

How unethical was the Lincoln Project? So unethical that it tolerated Weaver’s sexual harassment of boys and young men, and published the private messages of a co-founder who raised questions about his misconduct.

The viciousness of the Lincoln Project should have come as no surprise. This project did not arise from concerns about public policy. It was a vehicle for revenge — revenge by Conway for being snubbed by the White House; revenge for McCain’s acolytes for Trump’s treatment of their man; and revenge for consultants whom Trump had bypassed and rendered irrelevant.

How effective was the Lincoln Project’s nastiness? Not very, maybe not at all.

According to Dave Weigel of the Washington Post, “focus groups found that some of its most viral spots were far less popular than economy-focused ads that got far less media attention.” Republican voters — the Lincoln project’s target audience, as the name suggests — were unmoved by its attacks. According to this report, Trump won 93 percent of the GOP vote and 40 percent of independents, about the same percentage of the latter group as had been backing him all along.

Now, the Lincoln Project is discredited and scorned across the political spectrum. Its founders are washed up.

I’m fairly confident that the Republican Party will have a reasonably bright post-Trump future. I’m quite confident that this future will not include the frauds and vicious grifters who spearheaded the Lincoln Project.

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