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Ronna McDaniel Was a MAGA Toadie Who Betrayed the GOP

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty/Reuters

In case you missed it, former Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel was on NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday. When asked why she has now changed her position on whether Jan. 6 “hostages” (to use Trump’s term) should be freed, McDaniel replied with a telling quote: “When you’re the RNC Chair, you kind of take one for the whole team.”

Truth be told, McDaniel has taken far more than just one for the team. But let’s be clear about which team she so bravely sacrificed for—once she ascended to the head of the RNC, it was only ever Team MAGA. She even dropped “Romney” from her name to appease Trump, and took sides against the family in order to defend him.

In the political realm, your priorities should probably be along the lines of God, country, and Constitution (or faith, freedom, and democracy). These things were clearly not at the top of McDaniel’s list. Instead, as her Meet The Press comments betrayed, loyalty to Trump and/or personal ambition (be it for status, money, or power) overwhelmed all other concerns, including the need to support liberal democracy and to be honest.

Open Revolt at NBC as ‘Morning Joe’ Joins the Ronna McDaniel Pile-On

Clearly, she saw this blind loyalty as part of the job. After her “take one for the team” comments, McDaniel added: “Now [that she’s a paid NBC News commentator] I get to be a little bit more myself, right? This is what I believe.”

To be sure, if you are the head of the RNC, party loyalty and combative partisanship are the job. You work long, hard hours, and it’s easy to get caught up in the notion that “winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” But when the survival of democracy is at stake, the only team that matters is Team America.

There are, of course, careers that require you to suppress your own opinions and advocate for the views of your client to help them win. In this regard, lawyers and press secretaries could be considered paid liars, to a certain extent.

But even in these roles, if you are asked to cross the line into illegality, immorality, or unethical behavior—you have a responsibility to blow the whistle or to resign.

Blame the ‘Team Normal’ GOP for Trump’s Political Survival

And while Ronna McDaniel might claim to have been “just following orders”—she was no mere cog in the machinery; she was the chair of the RNC. She was a leader. She had agency.

At this point, it might be helpful to remind everyone of the kind of activities McDaniel engaged in, on behalf of Trump. Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) summed them up well on X, writing: “Ronna facilitated Trump’s corrupt fake elector plot [and] his effort to pressure [Michigan] officials not to certify the legitimate election outcome. She spread his lies & called Jan. 6 ‘legitimate political discourse.’”

As Cheney went on to editorialize, “That’s not ‘taking one for the team.’ It’s enabling criminality and depravity.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that McDaniel’s story is also a media story. Much of the attention she is now receiving is because she was recently hired as a TV contributor.

Some journalists are upset that a former RNC Chair who has attacked the press and harshly criticized MSNBC will now be a paid contributor for NBC News. Likewise, when the mainstream media reward people who have engaged in efforts to overturn the 2020 election and justify political violence, they are sending a signal that a) normalizes this deviant behavior and b) incentivizes bad behavior.

McDaniel is merely the latest Trump enabler who now gets paid by a mainstream media institution to offer conservative political commentary, despite the fact that she was a willing soldier in his hostile takeover of the GOP and his perversion of the conservative movement.

She might be publicly embarrassed by her former boss now, but only because he kicked her out of the big tent for not short-circuiting the 2024 GOP primary process. Think about that. McDaniel did Trump’s bidding for years and her capital crime against MAGA was allowing a largely irrelevant primary campaign to take place—even though Trump’s victory was all but predetermined.

So how did a Romney family member and establishment Republican-type end up defending and enabling such reprehensible behavior? How did McDaniel get to the point where she thought it was OK to “take one” for Team Coup and Team Chaos? The question to ask yourself is “What team am I on?”

Who Will Win the Biden-Trump Double-Haters?

I am reminded that Haley Barbour, Chair of the Republican National Committee RNC in 1994, had a favorite saying: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Sadly, McDaniel either didn’t do that—or she made the wrong things her main thing.

The lesson for the rest of us is to think through how you rank your values. And once you establish that hierarchy, you should work long and hard to preserve that order, despite the temptations and distractions that may arise.

Tribalism is a powerful force. And partisanship is a helluva drug. Just ask Ronna.

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