The GOP Senate Debate: Three Stooges (But Actually Five)

I watched the FreedomWorks Arizona Senate Forum (over two hours!) so that you don’t have to. If you want to subject yourself to an alternative reality, I suggest skipping to about 25 minutes in when the candidates begin speaking. The takeaway from the event is that there is not a single candidate who is an actual conservative in this field – every candidate competed to be the most radical MAGAhead on the stage. Of course, the ultimate winner of the primary will immediately attempt to pivot toward the center for the General – but they must be held to account for their radicalism in seeking the nomination.

Of greatest interest, of course, are the three ‘front-runners’ – Masters, Brnovich, and Lamon – by dint of their endorsements (Masters got Trump’s nod), their name recognition and state-wide official platform (Brnovich flagrantly abuses his office to campaign for Senate), and their money (Lamon is a centi-millionaire willing to self-finance liberally, and Masters is backed by millions from billionaire Peter Thiel), but I took notes on all the candidates. I will focus on the candidates one at a time.

Some conclusions first: In terms of raw charisma, fascist demagoguery, manly man-ness, and conservative biographical appeal, I think Lamon certainly won the debate – I suspect Trump didn’t endorse him becuase he sees a rival in Lamon, not a factotum. In terms of sneaky little rat-bastardry and smarmy, rump presenting beta energy – all of which would appeal so strongly to Trump – Masters prevailed and managed to keep from getting fatally dinged by the other candidates, though he certainly took some shots for his connections to the ‘woke’ and reviled tech industry. In terms of claims of conservative bona fides I think the clear standout is Brnovich, but he won’t ever get the time of day from the MAGAts. Non-factors Olsen and McGuire remained non-factors. I don’t think the debate will significantly affect the trajectory of this race nor propel anyone to prominence.

I think Brnovich would be the most powerful and credibly dangerous opponent for Kelly, and Brno might still be able to eke out a win if Lamon and Masters continue to split the MAGA vote and drive each other’s negatives up. With Trump’s endorsement in hand and Thiel’s financial backing, Masters will never drop out. With nearly unlimited self-funding, there is no need for Lamon to drop out either. So perhaps the MAGA movement will stay divided, and Brnovich will emerge victorious. An open question remains whether Brno will be able to bring the MAGA voters to the polls with his disappointing self at the top of the Arizona ticket this fall.

Blake Masters:

Blake Masters, a man asking a crowd to pull his finger…

Masters stated at the outset that he believes Joe Biden is a criminal and must be impeached for his border policy. I assume that he means he will vote to convict if Biden is impeached, or that he doesn’t grasp that he would be a juror in an impeachment when he said, “I will vote to impeach.” Imagine if a member of a criminal jury were to say to the press before called to serve that he would vote to convict before the trial without ever hearing any evidence. Why would Blake impeach Biden? Because “he’s not even trying to enforce immigration law.”

Masters is definitely leaning into the radicalism of the MAGA faction on immigration. He said, “the right level of illegal immigration is ZERO.” A meaningless statement, really, but he also claims that “I won’t vote for Homeland’s budget unless Biden builds the wall.” So Blake has committed himself to holding hostage the security of the entire country in order to build Trump’s useless wall: good to know. He says he would support deporting DACA Dreamers “if they commit crimes” and would never consent to granting them citizenship.

On entitlements (specifically Social Security and Medicare), Blake feels that we “gotta cut the knot at some point.” which means that he is open to stopping benefits and enrollment of new retirees. He says he fully expects that he will never collect Social Security benefits himself: I’m sure that he couldn’t care less given that he has been made a rich man by managing Thiel’s money. He states flat out that he thinks that “privatizing” Social Security should be considered, which has been noted by the press. “We need fresh and innovative thinking, maybe we should privatize Social Security,” he said. “Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it.” Not so much ‘innovative thinking’ as a masturbatory fantasy of Wall Street operators.

Blake wants to shutter the Federal Education Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which he quipped should be the name of a convenience store, not a government agency.

He bragged that Thiel’s money and backing are good things as they will help him defeat Kelly. So I guess GOP voters should prefer to have a billionaire’s butler in the Senate?

On China, Masters claims that China is cheating to steal jobs in our trade relationship -which has a grain of truth, at least. He praised Trump for his foreign and trade policies, including his disastrous tariffs. He slams both Presidents Bush for their naive hope of liberalizing China through trade and engagement. He specifically criticized Jim Lamon for lobbying against Trump’s tariffs, implying that he did so out of self-interest due to his deals with China.

He once again denounced our military as being “woke” and ineffectual. He opposed (as do all the candidates) federal voting protections. Presumably in service to Trump’s endorsement, he claimed that “if the rules were followed in ’20 Trump would have won.” and implied that all the Federal only ballots cast in Arizona were illegitimately cast by people not qualified to vote because all one has to do is “check a little box” to obtain such a ballot. This is utter nonsense, of course, federal law requires attestation of eligibility under penalty of perjury and sufficient information to allow state officials to confirm eligibility – so you have to do a lot more than check a little box to get a Federal. As usual, GOP panic over ‘election integrity’ is all smoke and bullshit with no actual fire. And Blake doesn’t even begin to explain how Trump would have gotten to 270 to win the Presidency – winning Arizona would still leave Trump at 243 (the 232 that he won, plus Arizona’s 11) and still losing the Presidency.

He says that he will not support Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader if Republicans take back the Senate, but would instead try to recruit fascist traitor Senator Josh Hawley or mere fascist Senator Tom Cotton for Leader.

Masters promised he would not support any more military aid to Ukraine to combat Russian aggression, and praised Senator Rand Paul’s grandstanding and nonsensical stunt in holding up $40B in Ukraine military aid. I wonder if Blake agrees with Rand Paul’s mimicry of Russian propaganda in his claim that “Ukraine is a part of Russia”? Maybe someone should ask him?

Jim Lamon:

Jim Lamon, seen here cosplaying a rootin’ tootin’ lawman…

Jim Lamon declared, “This invasion is intentional” referring to illegal immigration and clearly dog-whistling his support for the White Replacement conspiracy.  He said that remain in Mexico policy should be continued indefinitely, clearly indicating his willingness to continue violating our treaty obligations if elected. He clearly states that “I will obstruct the Senate’s business to force immigration policy, and save our sovereignty.” So nothing new for Republican tactics there. Lamon promises no amnesty and no citizenship for DACA Dreamers.

Perhaps most dangerous to the security of the United States is Lamon’s promise that he will not ever raise the debt ceiling. This assures that he will vote to default on American federal debt and destroy the full faith and credit of the nation. He claimed that there are payments to illegals from federal taxpayers: I gotta admit I have no idea what he’s referring to there? Some crazy logical contortion or lie in the right-wing media hellscape, no doubt. Lamon also vowed to sell off all ‘unnecessary’ Federal assets, giving the example of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Lamon stated his belief that China is the enemy of the US. He countered Blakes’s allegations regarding his dealing with the Chinese by claiming to have ‘on-shored’ power jobs, and got the content of his products down to 5% Chinese origin. I don’t have the resources to figure out if that’s bullshit, but it sure smells of it. He then claimed that he would advocate that ‘zero visas’ be issued for Chinese nationals, and they be banned from investing in the United States. That sounds like all-out economic warfare to me. Certainly not what America needs in our fraught relationship with China.

On ‘election Integrity’ Lamon boldly brought up his being a fake elector for Trump! This portion of the tape should be closely scrutinized by prosecutors for its interesting admissions.

Lamon bragged that his wealth allowed him to be a big donor to the AZ Republican party and that he financially supported the #AZFraudit. So I guess Jim is proud of his role in proving that Biden won Arizona by an even larger margin? No wonder Trump wouldn’t endorse him.

Like the businessman ‘who gets things done’ as he repeatedly reminded the crowd that he is, Lamon promised that he won’t give away weapons to Ukraine to help them defend against Russia, but will certainly sell them to anyone who can pay. Presumably, anyone includes Russia and China and Iran and…?

Mark Brnovich

Mark Brnovich, cosplaying a neck-beard…

Brno’s main message was “What have these guys actually done?” He’s been fighting the good fight and getting shit done. He claims – with some justification from my perspective – that he’s the best man for the job because he’s been effectively fighting for ‘conservative’ -read ‘fascist’ – priorities in court as AZAG. He might go too far when he points out that the other candidates weren’t there in court alongside him. I don’t see how that would make sense for them to have been in court with him, but whatever…

On immigration, Brno claims to have stopped tuition breaks and financial benefits for illegal immigrants and prevented the rescission of Title 42 in court. All that is, unfortunately, pretty accurate. Of course, real accomplishments to harass powerless immigrants aren’t really enough for this crowd: you have to demonstrate your visceral hatred for the target of fascist harassment of the ‘other’, as well.

On ‘election integrity’ Brno wasn’t really able to make his case – he was heckled mercilessly. Brno pointed out there weren’t sufficient facts to proceed with criminal cases, but the crowd just wasn’t having any of those ‘facts’ when they know the gospel according to Trump. Brno was heckled constantly due to his not being able to produce criminal charges out of whole cloth to satisfy the election deniers. It got so bad that at one point toward the end of the debate Brno lost his temper and shouted “If the truth hurts just shut the hell up! Let me talk!” Let’s just say he didn’t win many converts in the room. Brno tried to redirect to his actual victories at SCOTUS in suppressing the vote – the vile little bastard – but the crowd didn’t want to hear it. So much for actually being effective as a vote-suppressing, anti-democratic fascist shit to win support with this crowd!

Brno sensibly restated strategic ambiguity regarding Taiwan’s defense against China, stating that China is an adversary and enemy. He rather overstepped when he claimed that China is at war with the US, but I don’t know that anyone other than Chinese state security would note that slip. He reaffirmed support for Israel and hostility to the BDS movement seeking justice for the Palestinian people.

He took a very lawyerly approach to supposed social media censorship of conservative view, i.e. misinformation and lies: reform Sect 230. A bit too wonky to really excite the crowd or distinguish him from the pack, who just adopted his talking point verbatim.

In the speed round, Brno deflected that there would be no ‘benefits’ for DACA Dreamers – avoiding the question of deportation and citizenship. He also evaded the question of military aid to Ukraine. No wonder Brno is the darling of the establishment and the bete noir of the MAGA crowd – he’s an actual smart and subtle politician and legal tactician, which is not at all what the MAGA base wants right now.

Michael “Mick” McGuire

General McGuire being a mask-wearing sheeple…

McGuire tried to break through by throwing a few bombs. He stated his support for “breaking” federal employee unions. He decried the “theocracy of wokeism”. Very oddly, and not at all in line with fascist ideology, he wants to get rid of our large standing army, claiming it’s the largest threat to our freedom. McGuire will certainly get the doom prepper and Oklahoma bomber votes. He was the most extreme regarding DACA Dreamers, claiming that he would straight-up deport them.

McGuire claims that China is purposefully killing our children with fentanyl precursor chemicals. He also – almost cogently – claims we have to be able to fight and defeat China by bringing critical manufacturing sectors back home so that our war machine is not dependent on foreign supply chains because we cannot sustain a military action of longer than 9 months without resupply – how that squares with his attack on a large standing army, he does not explain.

McGuire wants to “gut” the “enviro extremists”, whatever that means. He seconded -or thirded, or fifthed – oppostion to federal laws protecting voting, as has every fascist since the before the Civil War.

On ‘election integrity’, Mick pedaled some crazy conspiracy theory regarding military absentee ballots because the number went up significantly during the pandemic for some odd reason? He didn’t get the memo that Trump already endorsed someone else, I guess?

He might have picked up some crumbs of support with his performance, but he remains a non-factor.

Justin Olson

Justin Olson, unwilling to be outdone by Blake Masters, would also like you to pull his finger, please…

The main reaction to Olson in the room was, “Who?”

Olson claimed credit for passing a balanced budget in Arizona (but doesn’t mention that the state is required to do so by law). He spouted some obligatory and very tired supply-side/Laffer curve nonsense about how to make an economy grow, apparently never having heard the news that Democrats are provably better at fostering economic growth than Republicans. Olson also didn’t get the memo that his party is now a fascist populist movement, not a country club, and couldn’t give a damn about economic growth if it doesn’t own the libtards.

He made all the standard noises about China being an existential threat to the US, praised Trump’s trade policies, and threw in some COVID nonsense at Mick for having played a role in Arizona’s lackluster response (for having cooperated with Ducey too much, not for doing a shitty job that got many people killed!). He took an ‘election integrity’ poke at Brnovich for not having prosecuted fantasy perps, and poked at Masters’ master’s ties to Facebook.

He trotted out some conspiracy theory validation regarding ‘ballot harvesting’ being the way we Democrats stole the election from Trump (and no one else on the ballot, weirdly…) and cited the wholly discredited ‘2000 Mules’ propaganda film by election felon and conspiracy entrepreneur Dinesh DeSouza. He got pretty extreme regarding DACA Dreamers by supporting their deportation, but Mick also having made the promise lessened the impact considerably. He also won’t support any more aid for Ukraine, but also made the risible claim that Russia would not have attacked Ukraine if Trump were still President.

Olson’s attacks didn’t really land, and he did not change the fact that – despite having held a statewide office at the Corporation Commission – he continues to fail to launch.