The Lincoln Project’s conception was simple: A bunch of Never Trump Republicans putting party loyalty aside to help Joe Biden and attack the president. It was a liberal fever dream—the venom and ruthless vitriol of GOP politics would finally be put to work for a Democrat. With Never Trumpers in tow, Biden would have an insurmountable base of moderates and, more importantly, Republicans who just couldn’t stand Trump anymore.
It sounded too good to be true. And it was.
The Lincoln Project raised $67 million. Republican Voters Against Trump raised $10 million.
93% of Republicans voted for Trump in 2020, up from 90% in 2016. https://t.co/EUPsQsHuDN
— Andrew Perez (@andrewperezdc) November 4, 2020
According to the data, Republican support for Trump actually increased from 2016. This comes after all the hand-wringing from Never Trumpers that the only way for Democrats to improve on their 2016 results was to swing further right and court disaffected Republican voters.
Plenty of people saw this development coming, of course. Maybe it was the intuition that Trump’s approval rating among Republicans, which never dipped below the high 80s, was solid no matter what. Or maybe it was the knowledge that the architects of the Lincoln Project—neoconservatives like Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt—were entirely full of shit, looking to line their pockets while currying favor with liberals and influencing the potential incoming Democratic administration. The Lincoln Project was a grift from the jump, that many—mostly on the left—called out, even as networks like MSNBC elevated its founders and actually took them seriously.
The Lincoln Project’s abject failure shows that Democrats’ appeal to conservative ideals bears almost no fruit. Instead, those pushing the party right succeed in suckering its electorate into thinking more moderate and conservative candidates and ideas do better, even in the most unwinnable elections. They don’t. Amy McGrath, who was the Democratic Party’s de facto choice to challenge Mitch McConnell’s Senate seat in Kentucky because she was more moderate than her challenger, ultimately raised more than $88 million. She lost by more than 20 points.
Democratic voters are clearly eager to spend money on nationalized races and organizations that are sold to them as winning propositions. But unless people start realizing the racket and those millions of dollars are directed toward initiatives that might actually make an impact, grifters like the Lincoln Project will gladly continue taking liberals’ money.