Indiana GOP Rejects Trump Lieutenant-Gov. Pick for Extremist

Micah Beckwith and Mike Braun, the Republican ticket for Indiana lieutenant governor and governor.
Photo-Illustration: intelligencer; Photo: WTHR/Youtube

Even as Donald Trump has firmly put the Republican Party under his thumb, the main dissenters from the MAGA party line may not be from the GOP’s Establishment class but from extremist elements arguably to Trump’s right. This is evident in the grumbling of anti-abortion activists who are unhappy with Trump’s efforts to take the issue off the table in the 2024 election by adopting a strict states’-rights posture. There are also some lurid examples of state Republican parties (e.g., in Texas and in Colorado) that are advocating wildly controversial and unpopular stances that their more serious candidates for office will likely ignore or repudiate.

The boldest revolt-from-the-far-right move yet comes from the normally placid state of Indiana, a solid Republican bastion as bland as its former governor Mike Pence before the vice-president decided he didn’t have to obey Trump’s order to overturn the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 victory. In the state’s GOP gubernatorial primary last month, sitting U.S. senator Mike Braun had a relatively easy time defeating five opponents, in part because he was endorsed by Trump. But in Indiana, gubernatorial running mates (i.e., candidates for lieutenant governor, who run with the top candidate as a single ballot choice in the general election) are chosen by a state party convention rather than in the primary, though by tradition the convention typically rubber-stamps the gubernatorial candidate’s choice.

Not this year, though. A right-wing preacher who built a following via a podcast chose to directly campaign for the LG gig among state party delegates on the very dubious grounds that the “progressive left has taken over the Republican Party in Indiana.” Not particularly wanting to run in the general election with someone who claimed divine sponsorship for the January 6 insurrection, Braun endorsed state legislator Julie McGuire as his running mate. For good measure, McGuire received a “Complete and Total Endorsement” from Trump himself (presumably at Braun’s urging). Micah Beckwith won nonetheless by a narrow margin.

Braun’s freshly minted partner is quite the piece of work. A self-described Christian nationalist who co-hosts a podcast called Jesus, Sex and Politics, Beckwith gained fame leading a book-purging campaign at a school library in his hometown of Noblesville. His campaign has, to a considerable extent, focused on a pledge “to have Indiana join Florida in being a conservative leader in the United States and stopping the woke agenda.” He also helped rally hard-core anti-abortion activists on behalf of the near-total ban on abortion the state adopted in 2022, calling abortion-rights protesters “demonic.” He called masking to prevent the spread of COVID-19 the work of the Devil: “The masks were more than just masks. There was the demonic assault trying to cover up both physically and spiritually the voice of God’s people.”

Braun dealt with McGuire’s humiliating defeat by talking tough and suggesting he wears the pants in the partnership with the ungovernable Beckwith. But Politico obtained a copy of a confidential memo from no less a conservative than James Bopp, longtime anti-abortion strategist and Republican Party litigator, warning that Beckwith may endanger Braun’s election in the deep-red Hoosier State. The campaign of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Jennifer McCormick (an ex-Republican whose own running mate will be nominated in July) has clearly been energized. But Bopp argued Democrats might replace her with an even stronger candidate like former senator Joe Donnelly.

Even if Braun overcomes the millstone on his campaign represented by Beckwith, the uprising shows that Trump’s relentless radicalism has legitimized extremists previously considered beyond the pale. They have no interest in moderating the party message in the pursuit of electoral victory, as New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg observes:

Beckwith is channeling something widespread in his party when he presents politics as a Manichaean battle in which compromise is impossible. “We are in a season of war right now,” Beckwith said on a right-wing Christian podcast called “For the King.” “People need to wake up, or else this mental and heart battle that we find ourselves in culturally, it will lead to bullets and bombs. It’s just a matter of time.”

When these people talk of “spiritual warfare,” it’s clear “bullets and bombs” are never off the table.

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