Last Friday, Politico had an article that focused upon the decision of Republican Representative Anthony Gonzales not to run for re-election.Gonzales is young (37), attractive and well-funded, and he represents a safe district in Ohio. So why has he chosen to exit the political arena?
According to Charlie Sykes, the author of the article, “Gonzalez didn’t quit because he feared he couldn’t win, but because it just wasn’t worth it anymore. Winning, it turns out, is not winning if the prize feels a lot more like a loss.
This was the key to his decision to self-purge: He could spend a year fighting off merde-slinging deplorables, only to win another two years sitting in a caucus next to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Paul Gosar (R- Ariz.) and the other avatars of Trumpism.
Defeat, even before a single vote is cast, might have been disappointing. It might even look to some like a conspicuous lack of competitive mettle. But that assumes the outcome is in doubt — which it isn’t. The Republican Party is already lost. And victory meant two more years trapped in a hellscape of crazified school board meetings, Trump rallies, My Pillow Guy insanity, Newsmax and Fox News hits, and a caucus run by Kevin McCarthy, a man without any principle beyond the acquisition of power.
That’s a pretty accurate description of where Republicans are right now.
As Sykes points out–and as everyone who reads this blog knows–the transformation of the GOP is pretty much complete. Today’s GOP embraces the members who “dabble in white nationalism, peddle conspiracy theories and foment acts of political violence. Neither bigotry nor nihilism is disqualifying.”
But telling the truth about the 2020 election is an “unforgivable sin.”
The devolution of what used to be a major political party into a racist conspiratorial cult has prompted what Sykes calls “the self-deportation of the sane, the decent and the principled.”
Their political emigration is profoundly changing the face of the GOP, and it is happening at every level of politics, from local school boards to the United States Senate. Whatever the result of next year’s elections, the GOP that remains will be meaner, dumber, crazier and more beholden than ever to the defeated, twice-impeached former president.
It is worth emphasizing that the people leaving the GOP are not more “centrist” or (perish the thought!) liberal–according to FiveThirtyEight.com, Gonzales voted with Trump nearly 89 percent of the time in the 116th Congress. His conservative bona fides were impeccable. He even ran well ahead of Trump in an area where both won in 2020. But he happens to be sane and principled; he was one of only 10 GOP representatives who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Gonzales isn’t the only elected official who has decided to depart the No-Longer-Grand Old Party.
In 2018, according to Ballotpedia, 23 House Republicans retired from political life altogether, followed by another 20 who stepped away from political office in 2020. Others also retired, but ran for other offices. Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) continue to hang on, but they are increasingly isolated and outnumbered. The House retirees have been joined by centrist GOP senators like Jeff Flake, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, who opted not to seek reelection. Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and North Carolina’s Richard Burr (who also voted to convict Trump) will also step down after next year’s election. They will be joined by Ohio’s Rob Portman, who voted to acquit Trump but was critical of his behavior….
Of course, there were many different motives for the Republican departures, but all of them understood that survival in Trump’s GOP required multiple acts of self-humiliation that would, in the end, only win them more years of self-abasement.
Gonzales and several others who’ve departed have indicated an intent to work for a post-Trumpian GOP. Those of us who departed years ago–in my case, when I wrongly assumed that George W. Bush represented the low point–applaud the sentiment, even if we doubt its feasibility.
There are only crazy and unprincipled people left in the party that locally once boasted people like Dick Lugar, Bill Ruckelshaus and Bill Hudnut. The GOP is now the party of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert and Louie Gohmert. It’s a tragedy–not just for the party, but for the country, and especially for the possibility of governing in an age where rational, informed government is increasingly critical.
We desperately need two adult political parties, composed of rational, serious people who bring different ideological perspectives to the critical issues we face. Instead, we have one “big tent” party composed of everyone who cringes when they look at today’s wacko GOP, and one cult of crazies and racists that is today’s GOP.
We are in big trouble.