The Sane Folks Are Fleeing

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, 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.


  1. So very true, Professor. We need the leaders of the “real Republican Party” that group that helped bring us people like Lugar, Hudnut, Ruckleshaus and countless others to stand up and be counted. Their voices are still powerful and sincere. Look what John Mutz tried to do. John Mutz is a true leader.

  2. I notice that the local and state GOPers aren’t very vocal about the demise of their party. I’m not sure what their silence means other than brand loyalty, but quietly. Of course, now they’re in secret, not-so-secret cabal.

    It’s the same silence that we get from the Mainstream Media when they learn the CIA and The Justice Department were plotting the kidnapping and assassination of a fellow journalist for reporting the truth about the military and CIA.

    It’s a combination of approval and “we hope you don’t notice kind of silence.”

    “I’m kind of ashamed but can’t admit or lose my standing.”

    “I feel guilty but not ready to apologize.”

    Maybe it’s a form of precontemplation.

    Whatever the case, it’s sheer cowardice. It’s challenging their ego identity, but I still look twice at women and minorities who openly claim to be Republican and support Trump.

    I’ve passed the days of letting them explain. I’ve also passed the days of feeling bad for their friends on ventilators who they ask prayers for while giving hospital updates. When I spot it on social media, I delete that person from my worldly view. I don’t deny they exist, but I also don’t need to participate in their madness, whether they be family or someone I’ve never met.

  3. I’ve continued to remove 45’s base from my life. Just yesterday, I sent one of them Heather Cox Richardson’s nightly email as a reference to my saying goodbye to them. Take care, have a nice life, see ya! I don’t have the patience to defend Democrats or Biden anymore. If they continue to follow a crook, a liar, a thief and horrible human being, then so be it. I have better things to do and the rest of the world to befriend who aren’t bat sh*t crazy. I don’t think I’m being rash either. The election was 10 months ago and he is now he’s “The Biggest Loser!”

  4. So only the crazies are left in the GQP. The question that remains is this: Will the electorate come out in force to vote against the crazies? If it’s not a huge blue wave, the new election laws that Manchin and Sinema will allow to stand, will kick into gear, throw out the votes, and we will have true authoritarian government.

  5. It’s a weird world when suddenly Liz Cheney has become “the moderate GOP”. Should be interesting when in 5 years Marjorie Taylor Greene represents the “rational center” of the GOP.

  6. It is NOT the sane folks fleeing; it is the COWARDS still sitting mute and idle in the House and Senate and those who are leaving rather than fighting to take back the GOP, who are leaving candidate openings unprotected for Trump’s supporters to buy with those millions in donations. SCOTUS has become the voice of the country’s judicial system. The Republican party is another of Trump’s bogus business deals where those who helped to build it will be left behind (such as Gonzales); unpaid and no longer needed as his dictatorship retakes the White House with his personal Legislature and Judicial branches of our government. It is the weak, puling, spineless members deserting democracy, Rule of Law, the Constitution, America and all Americans to the Trump party without a fight. Being insiders in the GOP, do they know what is coming and want out before they are part of the battle?

    They are NOT sane; they are cowards who will flee the political scene but will vote to keep Republicans in power but claim no responsibility in the sellout to Trump.

    “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.”

    This is the ultimate Republican CYA; fleeing before the action begins and leaving the “spoils” of this nation to become Putin’s puppet government in the western world.

  7. This is reminiscent of the phrase “The lunatics are running the asylum!”
    People of reason are fleeing, for their own, well deserved sanity, and their spots are being taken by the deluded and bigoted.
    HCR wrote, last night, about the GQP insisting on closing down the gov’t, as of 9/30, the end of the fiscal year. After expanding the nat’l debt by 7.8 TRILLION, to 28 TRILLION, during TFG’s time in office, they now …you now, it does not matter what they say, because whatever they might say will be one excuse after another. And Kentucky keeps electing McConnell, and that other jack***!

  8. Most regular contributors to this blog have been saying, in one form or another, the same things Sykes said. It is a very sinister time for our beloved Constitution. Group insanity, as presented by the Republicans at every level, will destroy our democratic republic if it is allowed to remain in power at any level.

    The essay this morning supports the thesis that Republicans are our nation’s real enemy, our Constitution’s enemy and the clear enemy of people who are not white, Christian nationalists. Being a real nationalist means supporting the rule of law and the Constitution. Republicans do none of these things. They are, as a body, THE BIG LIE.

    Some of us actually took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Who is stepping up to honor that oath?

  9. Thanks for everyone’s comments. However WHAT are you saying or writing to HOllingsworth, Pence, Braun and Young? Shaming them doesn’t even seem enough! I also believe that the longer we linger on how sad the loss of the GOP is .. the longer it will take to get a somewhat more balanced dialogue and voting in this country.. It’s like the recovering Catholic who doesn’t wake up and just become an Episcopalian( sorry that reference may be lost on some..) Enbrace Democratic strategies that speak to the common good and new jobs to address climate change and infrastructure demise.
    No more picking over the bones of the Republican Party, start anew!

  10. Got it. Another great concern is ’24. The Former or similar will run. Biden will not/should not run. Harris has done nada and will be dinged for being female and minority. The DEMS need a formidable, young, non-DC candidate…they have done nothing to develop the party’s future leaders.

  11. If the democrats want to defend our country against the insanity of Trump’s GOP then the progressive and moderate democrats must learn how to stand as a united front against Trumpian insanity. Sadly, they are not doing that. This gives McConnell a lot of power. I wish they would all wake up and stand together.

    Those who are leaving office or departing the GOP need to develop a political strategy that undermines the radical right’s attempt to undermine our democracy. Maybe they should call themselves the “Lincoln” party. Perhaps they need to support moderate candidates of both parties against the Trumpists. If they did so, they might attract independent and suburban voters.

    I note that countries which have more than 2 parties openly acknowledge political diversity better than we do. If we had to build coalitions like they do, perhaps our Congress could better defend us against the radical right. So you would have democratic socialists like B Sanders building a coalition with moderate democrats or a Green party. It seems to me that having only 2 parties lends its self to divisiveness.

    Those who are leaving must be feeling it is futile to try and work in Congress at this point due to the insanity of those who are still supporting Trump and the Big Lie. We need Republicans like Kinsinger who will stand and be counted as congressional leaders who support our democracy and counter the Big Lie.

    And, in the meantime, Republican governors are engaging in abuse of power when they want to undermine the local school boards mask mandates. They just don’t understand how important public health protections are and that some sacrifices must be made if we wish to arrest the pandemic.

    It is predicted that in 2022, the Republicans will take over Congress. Biden and the current democrats must pass the infrastructure bill and the budget if they wish to implement Biden’s agenda. Otherwise, he will be hamstrung by Republicans who love the oligarchy.(Many democrats do as well.)

  12. Lester, @ 9:54 am, I agree with you. Harris is simply not electable as President for the reasons you mentioned.

    The Democratic Party of the JFK era with it’s promises of new young and Progressive Leadership is gone.

    The discipline of the GOP is remarkable – not surprising. They have taken the ideology of the wacko Reactionary Right and made it the GOP’s mainstream. The Trumpet is now the undisputed leader of the GOP. The so-called “Moderates” of the GOP have no where to go within the party. McConnell is the other piece he knows that even in the minority for now he and his cronies in House know how to erect hurdles and road blocks.

    McConnell is being aided and abetted by the blue dog Democrats like Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are poster children for Corporate America. I guess for Manchin and Sinema it is better to Rule in Hell than Serve in Heaven.

  13. The rats are beginning to leave the sinking ship, especially the less rattish among them, including Republican politicians who have little to no say in matters political since Trump has taken over what remains of their party, a “party” that has no platform, no plans and no policies beyond their naked grasp for power. Such abdications are good news for us Democrats, but we should not assume that “party” is dead just yet. It is dying but not dead, not yet, though headed for oblivion in its trek back to the Whigdom from which it arose in 1854. The problem is when.

    I am beginning to hear chatter from “cultural” Republicans (i.e., old Sheila Republicans) about starting a new party after Trump is gone, which will not happen so long as Trumpism and the crazies remain extant on the political landscape.

    To do? What we’re doing while watching our opponents self-destruct, as did the Whigs in 1854 with their pro-slavery stance. A Trump endorsement of his “Good German” candidates who applaud his dictatorial ambitions in 22 and 24 along with a massive Democratic turnout could result in a Democratic sweep and a return to political sanity – or so we can hope.

    We Democrats

  14. One of the important though, as far as I know at least, unknowns, is the degree to which the GOP directs their entertainment media channels or vice versa. When I think of Fox News for instance they have found a business plan happy sweet spot in appealing to their brand and the GOP has just gone along for the ride. Given the demographics that the party is facing perhaps they can’t let go of all of the free advertising (propaganda) so they are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  15. Those of you brushing off Harris when she has only been in office for less than a year, is the VICE-President, not the President, are really, IMO, showing some indications of misogyny.
    Considering the mess they inherited, the refusal of TFG to allow the incoming office holders access to briefings, etc., the constant obstruction by McConnell/McCarthy to any initiative, the deep involvement of the dark money oligarchs, the fact that a third of the likely voters believe the election was stolen, the mounting disparagement of Biden’s mental capacities, what are your expectations of performance for either Biden or Harris?
    Manchin and Simena are playing to enhance their own power and ambitions. Nothing any of us can say to them has thus far made any difference. They are deaf to the reasonable.
    I fear for the country my grandson is going to inherit.

  16. I cringe whenever I hear people simplify what has happened to my Republican Party as the conservatives taking over the GOP against the forces of the moderates. In fact, some of the most anti-Trump people in the GOP are principled conservatives who refuse to go along with Trumpism. Conservative intellectuals have provided the most resistance to Trumpism.. On the other hand, I have a number of Republican friends who are moderate to liberal. They are the most enthusiastic Trumpers there are. Even when Trump takes positions against their core issues, they support him enthusiastically. For example, I have a moderate Trumper friend who is very pro-immigration. When I asked her about Trump’s anti-immigration positions, she told me that only Trump could fix the problems with our immigration system. Of course, that never happened.

    I cannot begin to emphasize enough how brainwashed those Trumpers are. They are daily inundated by “news sources” that confirm their biases and don’t challenge them intellectually. And it’s not just Fox News. A worse offender might be social media algorithms which cause people to just see “news” that reconfirm their own leanings. The problem isn’t that Trumpers look at the world differently. The problem is that they live in a bubble in which they have their own facts.

  17. “If the democrats want to defend our country against the insanity of Trump’s GOP then the progressive and moderate democrats must learn how to stand as a united front against Trumpian insanity. Sadly, they are not doing that. ”

    Robin; you are 100% correct in your comments. The Republican’s strength is in their unity; that does not mean they all agree on anything other than returning Trump to the White House. They have one goal and don’t care what Republican members of Congress do, or don’t do, or how their supporters accomplish their aim (think January 6th). The groups who gathered to accomplish that successful insurrection, used many routes and many weapons to accomplish their aim to support Trump…at his invitation. They have taken President Abraham Lincoln’s words to heart; “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Their goal is for the House, the Senate, the President and the Supreme Court to unite, using whatever tactics it takes.

    Democrats have lost sight of the deeper meaning of President Lincoln’s words and that he gave his life to unite this country at the cost of 600,000 lives.

  18. So when are the “good” retired senator and representative Republicans, like Charlie Dent, John Kaisig, et al, going to start that new Republican party? Sure seems like we need it now!
    This crazed lunatic bunch needs to be gone, sooner not later. If the McConnell, McCarthy, Graham group don’t get their heads ot of their hienies, the entire country is well on it’s way to becoming the newest 3rd world country.

  19. It looks pretty messy right now but I think Rick Wilson had it right. “Everything trump Touches Dies.” We are watching the death throes of the GOP and in it’s current iteration I say good riddance.

  20. What we need is for the “good Republicans” (and many have/are connected to $) to laser focus on the most insane GOPers running in ’22 and “primary” them with “red-dog” GOP candidates. If they do, and the insane ones win, time to see which country you want to move to…My cynical side says we will never know as the “primarying” will not happen…

  21. For those picking on Harris, remember – No Black man could win for President, and especially he couldn’t win Indiana.

    However, agreeing with Lester, Roberta, and others – as long as non-crazy Republicans just wring their hands, nothing will change.

    As Edmund Burke did not say, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

    Where are the Primary challenges, or the “Reform GOP”. If those retiring Republicans want to change the course of the GOP, they have to break ranks and foster a big Trump Party loss. Then, and only then, can we return to having two parties argue ideas.

    There seem to be two levels of GOP based on their rankings:
    Trumpers – Trump first, Party second, never help the Democrats
    Anti-Trumpers – Party first, Trump not so much, never help the Democrats

    See how this goes? [and yes, I know of the Lincoln Project and such, but I am talking about the elected, retiring officials – who is criticizing Mitch about the debt limit?]

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