• Retiring GOP Politicians Have the Party Feeling Jittery, Pointing Fingers

    Surge Summary: Numerous Republican congressmen are suddenly retiring — from discouragement and weariness, among other reasons — and their departures have the GOP nervous and diagnosing the cause as the 2020 elections approach.

    The Hill’s Reid Wilson conveys this political insider info:

    House Republicans plotting to win back their majority in Congress fear they are on the brink of a massive wave of retirements that could force them to play defense in a high-stakes presidential election year.

    Three House Republicans recently announced they will not be seeking another term in their present office. GOP strategists were unprepared for this news, partially because they came earlier than in a typical election cycle. Members who are ready to throw in the towel on their political service usually wait until after the August recess or after the Christmas break to make it official.

    Six Republicans have now said they will not seek reelection next year. Two more, Reps. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), are running for a different office.

    Concerned congressional Repubs say this trend indicates

    the depressing reality of life in the minority and a pessimistic view of the GOP’s chances of regaining the majority.

    “We are in the minority. That is never much fun in the House,” said one senior Republican member of Congress, who asked for anonymity to provide a candid assessment. “The odds are against us retaking the majority.”

    Umm, question: Were these lawmakers elected to “public service” so they could have “fun”?

    Transitioning from the all-powerful majority to the back-bench minority can refocus one’s outlook on public service, said Tom Davis, a former Virginia congressman who ran the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC).

    “Moving from the majority to the minority changes your mindset about why am I here, am I getting things done,” Davis said. “It’s a very frustrating life for some of these members right now. There’s been no pay raise for 11 years. You’ve got to maintain two households.”

    The job of politicking has been undergoing changes in recent years. Angry, confrontational constituents have driven some members of Congress to routinely skip town hall meetings, they are regularly asked to defend President Trump’s tweets and, according to some, a relatively small, hard-right conservative contingent is exerting increasing influence in the House Republican Conference.

    The aforementioned member of Congress who is, evidently, neither a Trump-enthusiast nor an ideological “right-winger” confided,

    “Serving in the era of Trump has few rewards. He has made an already hostile political environment worse. Every day there is some indefensible tweet or comment to defend or explain. It is exhausting and often embarrassing.” Even if Republicans were to win back the majority, [he added], “our edge would be narrow which means we would live under the tyranny of the Freedom Caucus. Frankly I wonder if this conference is capable of governing.”

    That last comment reminds us so-called Republican “moderates” often don’t seem to want to stand for much.

    More dismal news for the president’s part:

    Republican strategists concede they’re expecting even more departures after the August recess affords members a window to spend time at home with their families and consider their prospects. Two dozen Republicans won reelection bids in 2018 by fewer than 5 percentage points. Another 25? By fewer than 10 points. Not terribly comforting margins for some.

    “There are going to be a lot more [retirements] to come,” said one consultant who works for House Republicans. “Between people finding themselves having to actually work hard for the first time in their long, lazy careers and members who came in in the majority and now hate life in the minority, it’s just getting started.”

    Democrats have indicated they’re eye-balling the takeover of a number of closely-fought, narrowly-held districts.

    Democrats will try to make life uncomfortable for those Republicans who won the narrowest races in 2018. Already, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has highlighted 19 Republicans they say are on their retirement watch list.

    Contra the less sanguine GOP assessments, NRCC spokesman Chris Pack says his group is watching those legislators who represent potentially vulnerable districts through its Patriot Program. He asserts they do not envision a rush of exiting GOP pols in the coming months.

    A potentially significant, signal-sending special election looms in September, when North Carolina voters will be hitting the polls to fill a vacant seat there.

    That berth has been unoccupied for months because, although Republican Mark Harris won the 2018 race, there were accusations of absentee ballot fraud, prompting the state Board of Elections to overturn the results.

    Currently, a close contest is persisting between Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop and the Democratic choice, Iraq War veteran Dan McCready.

    “Expect more [retirements] if Republicans lose NC-09,” said another Republican strategist involved in House races.

    History is not the Grand Old Party’s ally in this cycle.

    The last time a party lost the majority in a midterm only to win it back two years later came in 1948, when Harry Truman won election to a full term and carried the House with him.

    No party has gone from the minority to the majority in a presidential election year since Republicans won a narrow majority in 1952, the year Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency.

    More immediate historical precedent is even more unsettling for the Republican minority.

    The President’s approval ratings remain stubbornly settled down in the 40s. Some congressional Republicans quietly dread he’s moving toward defeat in 2020. Then there are those frankly weary of being expected to answer for his every tweet.

    “It’s way too early to tell what the [political] dynamic will be, but Trump doesn’t seem to be adding to the equation at this point. He’s doing a lot with his base, but he needs to get beyond that base,” Davis said. “President Trump promised to be a change agent, and he is. He’s torn up the old rule book, and a lot of members aren’t used to playing by these rules.”

    Again, nobody promised these men and women an easy, obstacle-free time in the nation’s capital. Formulating the laws that circumscribe American’s lives is a sacred trust. Challenges and conflicts are inevitable.  They didn’t understand this when first standing for office? If not, they better get that resolved in their thinking now because things are likely to get more fraught – whatever happens – in the period following November 2020.  The nation needs reflective, dogged Constitutionalists to step up.

    The nation doesn’t need those who want to bail on their fiduciary obligations because things have ceased being D.C. fun-and-games.

    Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 


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