Harmeet Dhillon’s allegiance to Donald Trump earned her a brief appearance at the 2016 Republican National Convention. It also helped improve the GOP’s image in California. (J Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)
Anyone with a beating heart and a shred of humanity reacted to the October attack on Paul Pelosi in a similar fashion, with a combination of shock and horror that transcended politics.
Not Mother Dhillon.
The California Republican National Committee wife jumped on Twitter to spread conspiratorial speculation about the late-night invasion of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home and the attack on her husband by a hammer-wielding lunatic.
Dhillon’s imprudent guess was then picked up and reinforced by the flamboyantly malicious Tucker Carlson, who even checked the names of the San Francisco attorney and the MAGA cheerleader in his Fox News propaganda hour. Dhillon is a regular on Fox and other right-wing media outlets, sowing unfounded doubts about the integrity of the elections, among other flimsy claims.
So it was notable when Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel recently appointed Dhillon to co-chair a committee analyzing the disappointing results of last month’s midterm elections.
It’s like asking an alcoholic in the middle of a drunken attack for tips on living sober.
Republicans had an excellent opportunity in November to take control of the Senate, win a large majority in the House of Representatives and increase the party’s governor ranks. They became very shy and barely managed to gain control of the house, in large part due to former President Trump’s malicious touch.
His meddling in the Republican primary helped raise a bunch of fourth-rate, losing candidates. His campaign-style rallies, his involvement in countless investigations, and his incessant lies about the 2020 election helped make Trump and his followers a focal point of the campaign, turning the midpoint from a typical referendum on the party in power into one Choosing between President Biden and the US pathetic ex-president.
The attack on Paul Pelosi just over a week before Election Day helped underscore the danger of right-wing inflammatory rhetoric and Trump’s role in inciting political violence.
In California, the result was another dismal performance for beleaguered Republicans.
The story goes on
One of the best and brightest candidates the party has fielded in a while, Lanhee Chen, failed to overcome the Trump stain and scarlet “R” associated with the Republican Party and lost his race for state controller. That makes it 16 years since the GOP elected their own to statewide office.
The Democrats easily retained their supermajorities in the Senate and the state assembly, and possibly expanded their ranks. And while California Republicans claimed a dozen seats in the House of Representatives, the GOP is still little more than a limited faction in the country’s most populous and influential state.
For that they can thank leaders like Dhillon, one of the most prominent faces of the Republican Party in California, who wants to fight an uphill battle to replace McDaniel as national party leader, according to a Politico report Sunday.
The 54-year-old daughter of Indian immigrants grew up in rural North Carolina and has been a Republican since registering to vote. Her sensitivity and political acuity were shown during college; As editor of the Dartmouth Review, Dhillon gained national attention for defending a satirical column comparing the college’s Jewish president to Adolf Hitler and its campus politics to the Holocaust.
Dhillon was a critic of Trump before winning the 2016 nomination. Recalling her posts mocking Trump during peak season, a GOP adviser and Facebook friend described Dhillon’s conversion as purely opportunistic.
Like many converts, she became a zealot.
After Trump lost re-election — undeniably and undeniably — Dhillon was among those who backed his rampant litigation and promoted unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud. Researchers analyzing nearly 50 million tweets over a 3½-month period surrounding the 2020 election named Dhillon one of the nation’s top 20 spreaders of misinformation.
Since then, she’s become something of an inside advocate for the MAGA movement, taking on a sordid collection of electoral deniers and political scamps. Her firm represented Trump before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 coup attempt, and Dhillon was also on the legal team for Kari Lake, the losing candidate for Arizona governor, who made false fraud allegations by refusing to give his to admit defeat.
Getting involved with Trump and other political villains has apparently been good for Dhillon’s livelihood. (She also pursued a series of lawsuits against California Gov. Gavin Newsom and his pandemic-related policies.) It certainly raised her profile.
Whether it benefits the Republican Party is another question.
In 2012, after losing the White House, Republicans mandated a similar by-election scrutiny.
The autopsy report made a number of recommendations, including a call for a more inclusive and welcoming tone and a less harsh, more welcoming stance on immigration.
“Public perception of our party is at an all-time low,” said Sally Bradshaw, a Florida GOP strategist and one of the project’s co-chairs, at the time. “Unless changes are made, it will become increasingly difficult for Republicans to win another presidential election in the near future.”
Of course, four years later, Trump took over the White House after doing exactly the opposite of what the autopsy suggested. So there is every reason to believe that the findings of the current task force will be taken to the same dark and dusty place where most white papers and blue ribbon commissions die.
With that in mind, Dhillon probably shouldn’t bother putting too much time or effort into her investigation. On the other hand, she doesn’t have to work hard to find out what’s ailing the Republican Party.
All Dhillon has to do is look in a mirror.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.