Last week, Gonzalez (Ohio), the 37-year-old former rising star, announced he would not stay and fight his Trump-backed main challenger, moving away from what was once a secure seat in Congress .
The move was greeted with dismay by anti-Trumppers on both sides who saw Gonzalez’s survival as a test of whether Trump’s grip on the GOP could be shaken. It was also a surprise. Gonzalez was an attractive candidate, with a solid CV and a lot of money, and he had outperformed Trump by almost 7 points in November. Why would he give his nemesis an easy victory?
The answer is that Gonzalez didn’t give up because he feared he couldn’t win, but because it wasn’t worth it anymore. It turns out that winning is not winning if the price is much more like a loss.
You could fight and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? He asked. And the answer is, probably not.
This was key to his decision to self-purge: he could spend a year fighting the deplorable shit-slinging, only to gain another two years sitting in a caucus next to Reps Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) , Madison Cawthorn (RN.C.), Paul Gosar (R- Ariz.) And other avatars of Trumpism.
The defeat, even before a single vote was cast, could have been disappointing. It might even sound to some like a glaring lack of competitive courage. But this assumes that the result is uncertain, which it is not. The Republican Party is already lost. And the victory meant two more years trapped in a hellish landscape of crazy school board meetings, Trump rallies, My Pillow Guy craziness, Newsmax and Fox News hits, and a caucus led by Kevin McCarthy, a man with none. principle beyond the acquisition of power.
So Gonzalez decided to become the last Republican to walk away from it all.
Trump was jubilant, attributing Gonzalez’s downfall to his ill-informed and otherwise very stupid impeachment vote against the incumbent President of the United States, me.
But the decision of the young members of Congress also underscored once again the transformation of the GOP. The party agrees with members who meddle in white nationalism, peddle conspiracy theories and instigate acts of political violence. Neither bigotry nor nihilism is disqualifying.
The only unforgivable sin, however, is telling the truth about the 2020 election.
Overall, GOP officials internalized this message; they know that defying or even questioning Trump’s weirdest claims is political suicide.
Trump has already made dozens of endorsements in ballot races against Republican officials who refused to support his allegations of voter fraud, let alone the 10 members of Congress who actually voted to remove him for incitement to insurgency January 6.
The result is a Trump-led purge of dissidents, but the bigger story and one with longer-term implications may be the self-expulsion of sane, decent, principled people who simply choose to go on their own.
Their political emigration is profoundly changing the face of the GOP, and it is happening at all levels of politics, from local school boards to the United States Senate. Whatever the outcome of next year’s election, the GOP that remains will be meaner, dumber, crazier, and more beholden than ever to the twice defeated and deposed former president.
Until this year, Anthony Gonzalez was not a particularly likely candidate for political martyrdom. His record was solidly conservative, he voted right 85 percent of the time, according to conservative vote tracker Heritage Action. FiveThirtyEight found that he voted with Trump almost 89% of the time in the 116th Congress.
In 2020, Gonzalez ran unopposed in the GOP primaries and was re-elected in November with over 63% of the vote. (Trump won the Northeastern Ohio district, but 6.7 percentage points less.) It has been reported that the congressman, who holds an MBA from Stanford and whose relatives fled Castro Cuba, could be a future governor or senator.
But that was before he became one of 10 GOP representatives to vote to impeach Trump after the Jan.6 insurgency. The President of the United States helped organize and incite a crowd, he said. At the time, he explained that he was forced to vote for impeachment due to Trump’s lack of response as the U.S. Capitol came under attack.
Immediately, of course, he became the butt of Trump’s wrath, but there was still reason to believe the former college and NFL player might be a survivor. For many politicians, being a member of Congress is the most exciting thing they will ever do; it is the alpha and omega of their identity. But as I told Sports Illustrated earlier this year, that wasn’t the case with Gonzalez, who has done cooler things in his career, and therefore was less likely to blink than some of his others. colleagues.
Additionally, Gonzalez had over $ 1.5 million in his campaign war chest and while he faced a tough main challenge next year, his Trump-backed opponent was a deeply flawed candidate. As POLITICO reported in July, his Trumpist challenger, Max Miller, had a reputation for being an arrogant tyrant with a quick temper.
Miller has a long history of speeding, underage drinking, and disorderly driving. According to sources, a romantic relationship with former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham ended when he pushed her against a wall and slapped her in the face in his Washington apartment after she was killed. ‘she accused him of having cheated on her.
Gonzalez told reporters last week that he was convinced he could have won his primary against Miller. But the father of two young children cited a growing wave of threats he and his family faced after his impeachment vote. He remembers being greeted at the airport by two uniformed police officers responsible for ensuring security. It’s one of those times where you say, is that really what I want for my family when they travel, for my wife and kids to be escorted through the airport? he told the New York Times.
In Georgia, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan went through the same challenge after refusing to support Trump’s election fraud allegations. People wanted to rip my head off, Duncan writes in a new book. Friends disappeared or became enraged enemies overnight.
Like Gonzalez, Duncan also once a rising GOP star announced that he would not stand for re-election next year.
Ultimately, they weren’t prepared to pay the price for staying in a toxic Republican party. They are far from alone.
In 2018, according to Ballotpedia, 23 House Republicans retired from politics, followed by another 20 who stepped down from political office in 2020. Others also retired, but ran for others. functions. Reps Liz Cheney (Wyo.) And Adam Kinzinger (Illinois) continue to hang on, but they are increasingly isolated and outnumbered. The House retirees were joined by centrist GOP senators like Jeff Flake, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, who chose not to stand for re-election. Pennsylvanians Pat Toomey and North Carolinas Richard Burr (who also voted to condemn Trump) will also step down after next year’s election. They will be joined by Ohios Rob Portman, who voted for Trump’s acquittal but criticized his behavior.
In total, according to FiveThirtyEight, only 161 of the 293 Republican representatives and senators who were in office when Trump was inaugurated are still in office.
Of course, there were many different reasons for the Republican departures, but all understood that survival in Trumps GOP required multiple acts of self-humiliation which, in the end, would only earn them more years. lowering.
And even after all that, they knew their obsequiousness and silence might not count for nothing if they ever balked at Trump’s lie or his attacks on democracy.
Ask Mike Pence.
So, that was a price that wasn’t worth fighting for.
From the outside, the apparent surrender of leaders like Gonzalez can look like a case where the best lack conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.
For Anthony Gonzalez, however, a chance to sit alongside Reps Matt Gaetz (Florida), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) And Louie Gohmert (Texas) in a Trumpified GOP caucus for another two years just wasn’t worth it. to put the life of his wife and children in danger.
Gonzalez insists that despite his retirement, he is not giving up his opposition to Trump or his determination to prevent him from returning to office. Most of my political energy will be devoted to this specific goal, he told The Times. Georgias Geoff Duncan strikes an equally provocative note, pledging to help create a post-Trumpian GOP 2.0.
But this appears to be a triumph of optimism over political reality. By stepping down and ceding ground to the Trumpists, they are also ensuring that the identity of the GOP is now set in stone and will be for a generation.
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