Ads funded by Democrats were meant to warn voters about extremist GOP candidates, not to boost them

OPINION: What’s overlooked in the criticism of these ads is that they give voters a badly needed loud and clear warning about how much harm Trump loyalists could cause if they are elected in November. 

Screenshot from an ad about Michigan Republican candidate John Gibbs, right, who is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, that was paid for by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. (Screenshot via Washington Post)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Democratic efforts to inform voters about radical Republican candidates who support extremist positions and falsely claim former President Donald Trump was reelected in 2020 have drawn howls of protest from Republicans and some Democrats. This criticism is unjustified.

Ads funded by the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have not urged Republican primary voters to cast ballots for Republican extremists. On the contrary, the ads have called for the defeat of Trump-endorsed right-wing proponents of the former president’s election lies and exposed the grave threat these candidates pose to American democracy.

When Republican primary voters cast ballots for these Trumpist candidates—giving them big victories in some states, including Tuesday in Arizona and Michigan—they close their eyes to the reality of Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election. That’s their choice. 

The blind allegiance of large numbers of Republicans to Trump and his attempt to stay in the White House despite more than 60 court rulings rejecting his false claims of election fraud says more about these voters than it says about Democrats.

What’s overlooked in the criticism of the ads by Democrats is that ads serve an important purpose: giving Republican, Democratic and independent voters a badly needed loud and clear warning about how much harm the Trumpists (more loyal to Trump than to traditional Republican principles) could cause if they are elected in November. 

Are the Democratic-funded ads necessary? That’s debatable. The Trumpist candidates might have won even without these ads because Trump is their Pied Piper, seemingly able to lead his most loyal followers to any candidate he supports.

However, let’s not forget that Democratic warnings about how dangerous Trump was in 2016 weren’t loud and clear enough to stop him from being elected and punishing our nation and the world with four years of chaotic, impulsive and harmful governance. 

With that in mind, Democrats need to do everything in our power to sound the alarm now to prevent mini-Trumps from winning elections in November to state and federal offices that would empower them to award the presidency to Trump or another Republican in 2024 even if voters reject the GOP candidate. 

And think about this: If Republican officials can award the presidency to the losing GOP candidate with baseless claims of election fraud, they can declare losing Republican candidates for other federal, state and local offices winners as well. 

This nightmarish scenario would result in the death of American democracy, with our elections turned into meaningless exercises like elections held in Russia, China, North Korea, Cuba and other dictatorships where the party in power always wins. 

With a few courageous exceptions—such as Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who serve on the committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 violent attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol—the majority of Republican elected officials and candidates have either embraced Trump’s false claim of election victory or at the least refused to disavow it.

Why? Because unless they are unopposed within their party, Republican candidates need to win primaries in order to run in the November elections. An Economist/YouGov poll published in June found that only 25 percent of Republican voters said they believed President Joe Biden was legitimately elected, compared with 57 percent of independents and 90 percent of Democrats. That makes it hard (though not impossible) for Republicans who reject Trump’s election lies to win nominating contests.   

On top of exposing the threat to American democracy posed by Trump and his fellow election deniers, Democrats have an obligation to tell voters the truth about what would happen if Republican extremists achieve their dream of majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and pick up state offices as well in November. 

Voting rights, already curtailed by U.S. Supreme Court rulings, would be further reduced by so-called “voter integrity” measures backed by Republicans that make it harder to vote. 

Reproductive rights, eliminated at the federal level and left up to states by a recent Supreme Court decision, could be wiped out nationwide if Republican majorities in the House and Senate pass legislation already supported by some GOP candidates to outlaw abortion. 

Kansas voters overwhelmingly defeated a measure Tuesday that would have removed abortion rights protections from the Kansas Constitution, giving us a strong indication that voters will turn against extremist GOP candidates if they are educated about the threat to reproductive rights that these candidates pose. 

In addition, GOP congressional majorities could outlaw same-sex marriage and block legislation that would curb climate change, reduce gun violence, require the rich and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, reduce pandemic deaths and hospitalizations, make health care and college education more affordable, help low-income Americans, reduce systemic racism and accomplish many other worthwhile objectives.

With the stakes so high in November, it’s no wonder that Democrats are doing their best to educate voters about the dangers of victories by GOP extremists by truthfully stating the positions of these radicals in advertising and other campaign materials. Failing to do so would be a dereliction of our duty to the American people and to the preservation of democracy. 

Donna Brazile Headshot

Donna Brazile is an ABC News Contributor, veteran political strategist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, and the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. She managed the Gore campaign in 2000 and has lectured at more than 225 colleges and universities on race, diversity, women, leadership and restoring civility in politics. Brazile is the author of several books, including the New York Times’ bestseller “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.” @DonnaBrazile

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