Opinion | In Indiana, the MAGA Revolution Eats Its Own

Opinion | In Indiana, the MAGA Revolution Eats Its Own

Before his victory this weekend, Beckwith was probably best known for leading a campaign to purge the young-adult shelves at the Hamilton East Public Library, where he was a board member until January. (He resigned after a policy he’d promoted, which removed books that included sex, violence or repeated profanity from a section for teenagers, was reversed.) Braun, wrote Bopp, will be “made to answer” for every statement Beckwith has ever made.

Beckwith’s elevation is the latest sign of a conflict splitting Republican parties nationwide, as G.O.P. activists demand ever greater levels of purity and belligerence from their leaders. I’ve written about this in Minnesota, where delegates to the state convention endorsed the Alex Jones acolyte Royce White for Senate, and in Colorado, where the state party recently called for the burning of Pride flags. Cadres of true believers inspired by Donald Trump, and by the religious movement that sees him as divinely ordained, are seizing the party from the bottom up, much to the consternation of more traditional Republicans who thought they could indulge the MAGA movement without being overtaken by it.

At times, the forces Trump has helped unleash can be even more powerful than Trump himself. At Braun’s request, the ex-president gave a last-minute endorsement to McGuire, but convention delegates seem not to have taken it seriously. Beckwith supporters “largely saw the Trump endorsement as a last-ditch attempt to influence the race rather than genuine support from the former president, who likely has little notion of the lieutenant governor race in Indiana,” reported The Indianapolis Star. It quoted one delegate saying, of Trump, “This is not something I think he actually vetted.” Trump’s followers want candidates who ape his transgressive style even if they don’t have his explicit blessing.

The divide within the Republican Party, in Indiana as elsewhere, isn’t really between moderates and conservatives, because almost everyone involved is very right-wing. It is, rather, between people who know how to work within the existing system, and outsiders who want to overturn it. Bopp, for example, is no RINO squish; he’s the general counsel for National Right to Life and an election denier who, in 2020, filed lawsuits challenging election results in four states won by Biden. If he’s worried, it’s not because Beckwith is an extremist, but because he’s an extremist who might threaten Republican power.

In other words, Beckwith’s nomination is an example of the MAGA revolution eating its own. On the podcast he co-hosts, “Jesus, Sex and Politics,” Beckwith explained why he doesn’t feel bound by what Ronald Reagan called his “11th commandment”: Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican. “Remember,” Beckwith said, “Republicans back then weren’t champions of Communism.”

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