The real reason Kari Lake lost

Kari Lake is a flake, and even Republicans won’t vote for her.

That’s how she lost the 2022 election for Arizona governor (read story here).

The Arizona Republic, the state’s biggest newspaper, dissected the election and found … (drum roll) … not voting fraud, but “practical Republicans” who want (A) democracy and (B) functioning government. Lake stands for neither.

Raw Story reports, “Essentially, the newspaper found that a significant number of Republican voters in the state crossed over to back Democrat Katie Hobbs in this year’s elections, and they also helped put nails in the coffins of fellow MAGA candidates Blake Masters and Mark Finchem,” all of whom are election deniers, and were defeated.

(I linked to Raw Story because the newspaper story is behind a paywall.)

An Arizona political consultant says, “There are practical Republicans” who “want government to work. They’re not part of this conspiratorial environment and partisan behavior.”

This was a very winnable race. Arizona is a red-leaning state, with a Republican governor, and Hobbs is a flawed candidate. But GOP primary voters threw it away by nominating Lake, who ran on a “Trump endorsed me, the 2020 election was rigged, and I won’t concede” platform.

Lake, a former local TV anchor who seems to have been pushed out of that job, has no governing experience. Hobbs, at least, has held statewide office before, even if she made a minor mess of it. And her head isn’t full of conspiracy theories and stupid ideas. State government probably won’t fall apart under her leadership.

By the way, I predict Lake has no future in politics; she’s unelectable. There’s talk she’s going after the #2 spot on a 2024 Trump ticket, but even if she gets it, she’ll end up being another Sarah Palin: Famous (or infamous), but elected to nothing (see that story here).

To be a viable candidate, and have a political career in Arizona, she’ll has to sit down and review why she lost, then change her tone and messaging to what those Republican voters to hear from her, in order to build a majority base. If she can’t succeed in her home state, she won’t succeed nationally either. The U.S. as a whole is less MAGA and less radical than Arizona GOP politics is.

The majority of Arizona voters are pro-family, pro-business, small-government conservatives. They’re demonstrated this time and again. They elected people like John McCain and Jeff Flake to represent them in the U.S. Senate. But bomb-throwing radicals like Lake essentially ran them out of the Arizona GOP. In the aftermath of 2020, Arizona became a hotbed of election mobs and MAGA extremism, and the GOP there was overrun by crazies.

There are Republicans in Arizona who want no part of the craziness, and they sent a message in the 2022 elections by swallowing hard and voting for Democrats who aren’t all that threatening. They elected Hobbs, which ensures the actual winner of the 2024 presidential election will be certified, and they returned former astronaut Mark Kelly to the U.S. Senate, who will vote for Biden’s judicial nominees and other appointments.

They decided that’s easier to live with than the anarchy that Lake, Masters, and Finchem stand for and promote. I can’t say I blame them; and Lake has nothing and no one to blame for her defeat except herself. She’s a liar, she’s anti-democracy, and a rule-breaker. If you were a business owner, you wouldn’t hire her to run your company.

More Republican voters need to do what these GOP voters did. Democrats aren’t perfect, but they aren’t awful. And when Republican candidates are awful — as Lake, Masters, and Finchem are — voting for moderate Democrats is a practical short-term alternative. In fact, analysis of 2022 results shows ticket-splitting by voters was widespread, and played an especially prominent role in Georgia and Pennsylvania, among other states (see story here).

For decades, American political alignments gradually ossified into “R” and “D” camps, with party labels increasingly driving voter behavior. As I wrote here, you could run a German Shepherd for statewide office in Washington with an “R” after “Fido” on the ballot and it would automatically get 42% of the vote. Even Loren Culp, a total nothing, got 43.12% in 2020 for governor.

(A credible GOP candidate might approach 47% or even 48%, but wouldn’t win; Washington hasn’t elected a Republican governor since 1980, nor a Republican U.S. senator since 1994. Washington, of course, is a “blue” state; and the reverse situation is true in “red” states — although the GOP goes farther off the rails, and its candidates become ever crazier, some of those states are turning “purple.”)

The point is, people stopped voting for candidates, and just voted for parties, because issues dominated over things like candidate knowledge, character, and competence. In Georgia this year, the GOP’s Senate candidate is so flawed it shouldn’t be close, but it is because voters there are still voting for party label instead of candidate quality.

But as time goes on, and things come into clearer focus, the real story of 2022 is these elections may have broken the fever, and voters — or, at least, a critical mass of them — are once again examining candidates and rejecting those who have no business running for high office (or any office). A middle-of-the-road Republican voter doesn’t have to become a Democrat to vote for one; nor is that a protest vote, it’s simply voting for the better candidate (or the lesser evil, if you will).

This should work in the other direction, too. If Democrats nominate lousy candidates, and there’s a reasonable Republican alternative, they should vote for the Republican. This is actually happening on a small scale in Seattle, a deeply liberal town, where voters recently rejected progressive candidates and elected law-and-order candidates for city and county prosecuting attorney jobs — in obvious response to an escalating quality-of-life situation on the city’s streets.

On a larger scale, there’s little need for most Democratic voters to elect Republicans to major offices, because most Democratic candidates aren’t crazy — or anti-democracy. That seems to be a uniquely Republican problem, and it’s one that some Arizona Republican voters are signaling they want solved.

Those voters, not Kari Lake’s election conspiracy fevers, are why should lost in a red state.

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