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Republicans burned by Trumpist politics unite to fight against reelection

Reed Galen, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, speaks at the Cooper Union Great Hall on Feb. 27. Members of the Lincoln Project from left to right are Jennifer Horn, Rick Wilson, Galen, Steve Schmidt, Mike Madrid and Ron Steslow. (Photo by Grant Lancaster)

BY GRANT LANCASTER

A group of former Republican strategists called on their audience to ditch party-line politics and do whatever is required to defeat President Donald Trump in November – even voting for Democrats.

Six members of the Lincoln Project discussed historical Republican ideals, their disappointment with current Republican senators and the danger of what they called Trumpism – a system of unquestioning fealty to Trump – at the Cooper Union Great Hall.

The Lincoln Project is an alliance formed in December 2019 by a group of former Republicans, many of whom worked for George W. Bush or John McCain, who have abandoned the GOP in the wake of the 2016 election, fearing that their former party had been corrupted by Trump’s ideals. They have one primary mission – to prevent Trump’s reelection.

They chose the time and place to honor the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Feb. 27, 1860, Cooper Hall speech, where he spoke on the moral necessity of ending slavery and asked Americans to trust that “right makes might.”

Jennifer Horn, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican party, thinks that the Republican party that exists today is totally incompatible with the party Lincoln led to victory in 1860, she said.

“The party of Trumpism cannot also be the party of Lincoln,” Horn said.

Several members of the project condemned Republican senators, with Rick Wilson, who has served as a Republican media consultant and has written two books about Trump’s corrupting influence in government, dividing them into one group that thinks they can use Trump’s presidency for their gain and another group that seeks to satisfy Trump’s requests out of fear of retaliation, he said.

“You can’t make him happy, there’s nothing that will satisfy him – short of a crown, maybe,”  Wilson said.

Reed Galen, a political strategist that worked for McCain and W. Bush before leaving the Republican party in 2016 and founding the Lincoln Project in December 2019, thinks that elected Republicans have lost their moral backbone and now serve at the whim of Trump, he said.

“We have a name for things like that, they’re called gangs,” Galen said.

While Lincoln Project members disagree with Democrats on many issues, most are willing to work with them to defeat Trump, Galen said.

Echoing Lincoln’s imagery of a divided house, Galen compared the U.S. to a house with two sides that never meet – “in fact, one side is actually on fire,” he said.

Galen called for voters, especially Republicans and conservative independents, to take action against corruption in government from Trump and his allies by voting for change, he said,

“Liking a tweet or clicking yes on Facebook doesn’t count,” Galen said.

Ron Steslow, a marketing strategist and political consultant who left the GOP in 2016, thinks that defeating Trump in November means living to fight another day, even if the alternative, such as Bernie Sanders, is not ideal for conservatives, he said. Steslow declared that he would “vote blue no matter who.”

Other members of the project, like Steve Schmidt, a political strategist who worked under McCain and W. Bush, were skeptical about Sanders’ electability, but agreed that the consequences of a second term under Trump would be devastating.

Schmidt thinks that a second-term Trump would be validated and unrestrained, and the Democratic party would be in shambles for failing to offer a more appealing candidate than “a con man from New York City,” he said.

While they may not agree on who can best take down Trump in November, the project members are united by the ideals of improving the country by removing Trump’s  corrupting influence.

Horn is not particularly concerned with the party affiliation of those that support the project, so long as “they share our vision and our concerns for the future of the country, and they are ready to finally do something,” she said.

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