Republican Group 'Lincoln Project' Working To Defeat President Trump
The 2020 election has seen the advent of a group called The Lincoln Project. The initiative is made up of Republicans working against the reelection of Donald Trump by creating videos using sharply edited, pointed attacks on the president. Recently, Texas Public Radio’s Jack Morgan spoke to one of its four founding members, Mike Madrid.
Morgan: Can you tell me where the idea of the Lincoln Project came from?
Madrid: “We started this process right as the impeachment hearings were starting to gear up. And we realized that the Republican Senate was going to be derelict in its duty in terms of having a fair trial. And in fact, they voted to not hear evidence in a trial against a president who was accused of high crimes and misdemeanors. And so we realized that the Republican elected class was going to fail the American people. And we thought it was incumbent upon us to do our work to what we believe is protecting our constitutional values, our constitutional principles and the document itself.”
Morgan: Choosing the name Lincoln — that was no accident there, right?
Madrid: “No, and that's absolutely central to the mission here, is restoring some of those original ideals and values which we really believe permeated through most of the Republican Party's history.”
Morgan: At the time it was being created, the idea of Republicans working against the reelection of Republicans must have seemed really radical.
Madrid: “Yeah, in fact, it wasn't just radical on the Republican side, it's really never been done on the Democratic side either. So it is an entirely new facet of campaigns. But the truth is, I think most of us have recognized that Donald Trump in many ways is really symptomatic of a larger problem that has been building in the Republican Party for some time. And had we worked to perhaps change that trajectory, we might not have ended up with the president as dangerous to the country as he is.”
Morgan: That seems — tell me if I'm wrong — but that seems to be a product of his personality rather than an elucidated set of principles as put out in some kind of a document. I mean, doesn't it all pretty much revolve around Donald Trump himself?
Madrid: “Yeah, that's a great question and the answer is yes, that it revolves entirely around the personality. It’s a cult of personality. We for the first time in the party's history, we did not adopt a new policy platform at our convention. Basically saying that whatever the president wants is what we will support. That's problematic not only as a Republican, as a conservative. It's very problematic as an American who believes in a healthy democracy. What we're really witnessing is the rise of authoritarianism in this country. And without having some sort of policy platform that adherents to the party agree on, you don't really have a party. You have a gang. You have people who are really just following a strong man. And whatever he decides is the right policy position, people are blindly following him. And that's a very dangerous development in a country that relies on a democratic system to govern itself.”
Morgan: Did you have any people come and call you a traitor?
Madrid: “Not only did they, they still do, which, you know, we're very comfortable with because the decision between being a traitor to the Republican Party or being a traitor to our country is a very easy one to make for us. We don't we don't lose any sleep over that. Look, I'm a Republican and I remain a registered Republican. I have since the day I was 18. I'm a conservative who holds very strong conservative values and conservative principles. I'm working to defeat Donald Trump, not despite my conservative values, but because of my conservative values. Donald Trump is a threat to conservatism. He's a threat to right flank of the Republican Party. But most importantly, he's a threat to our country.”
Morgan: Among the many things that fascinate and give me pause is the incredibly deep and wide gap between you as a lifelong Republican and someone who supports Donald Trump and what he's doing.
Madrid: “We don't believe that we're in a fight between moderate and conservative Republicans. We don't believe that we're having a debate over tax policy or foreign policy. We believe this is a fight for the very core of our republic. Those that seek to support people who undermine the Constitution and the rule of law are not worthy of holding office. And so we will work to remove them as Americans, not as Republicans. And I don't seek compromise to anybody who thinks that you can undermine the Constitution sometimes, or in certain circumstances, or undermine the rule of law because it fits your political views. That's anti-democratic, that's anti-American, and it's a threat to (the) United States government.”
Morgan: Do you feel like you've got support from mainstream Republicans who haven't publicly endorsed your efforts but supported either philosophically or financially?
Madrid: “Well, we certainly think that we have enough support to unseat the president, and I think we'll probably see that in a week's time frame. Look, you can't have a president as weak as he is in the public opinion polls unless you're seeing Republicans leaving him in record numbers.”
Morgan: The spots The Lincoln Project is making—they’re not targeting hardcore Trump fans, right?
Madrid: “Most people think that we're probably engaged in trying to win 50 percent of Republican voters or 30 percent. That's not the case. We know that we only need four percent of the Republican electorate. Let me say it again. If only one in 25 Republicans respond to the Lincoln Project's ads and votes either for Joe Biden or chooses not to vote at all, the likelihood of Donald Trump losing is very, very high. And we know that because Steve Bannon, his adviser, when we (The Lincoln Project) first launched, said if these guys get four percent, we're in deep trouble.”
“In most battleground polls, including in Texas, we're more than double that right now. I think in Texas the last number had nine percent or 10 percent of Republicans were not voting for Donald Trump. That's far in excess of what we need.”
Morgan: Do you make any kind of projections as to whether or not Trump will take Texas?
Madrid: “The Lincoln Project is spending very aggressively in the state of Texas because we believe that not only are enough Republicans moving away from him to make the state contention. Every public poll since March has shown that it's going to be a battleground state. But we expect exceptionally high turnouts. And most of those turnout demographics favor the Democrats overwhelmingly.”
“So we believe it's very likely that Joe Biden will win Texas. Even if he doesn't, the fact that we're talking about Texas going towards a Democrat in a very real sense a week before the election tells you how much damage has been done to the Republican Party by Donald Trump. And I think Republican voters are saying we've had enough. We regret this decision we made in 2016 and we need to move a dramatically different direction.”
Morgan: If he loses Texas, do you see wholesale abandonment of Trump by the politicians who have supported him up till now?
Madrid: “If Donald Trump loses Texas, I think that we will see the elimination of Trumpism as a viable political force or party or entity in this country. And that's the aim of the Lincoln Project. We believe that the only way to get back to a true conservative party and away from populist nationalism is to send a resounding message to Republicans nationwide that even in the strongest Republican base of support in a state like Texas will reject this type of extremism and push the party back into a normal direction and get back to normal discussion of what it means to be a conservative and away from the idea of nationalism.”
Morgan: Do you have a plan for what to do if the president wins?
Madrid: “Well, we'll continue to fight if he were to somehow win, what we would do is just continue to build the core of support that we need to make sure that we defend the country.”
Morgan: Do you have a plan for what to do if the president loses but doesn't accept the result?
Madrid: “We do. We are planning for that possibility. I think it's shocking that we are having that discussion in 2020 in America. It's a sign of how unhealthy our democracy has become under this president. But perhaps it's even more shocking that people continue to support a man who would claim that he is not going to leave, even if he is duly unelected in our country. If nothing else, people need to hear that and understand how dangerous that is to the political system that we have here in this country.”
Madrid says it is likely that The Lincoln Project will continue after the election to promote traditional Republican conservatism regardless of election results.
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