More “Good Republicans” meekly hit the exits as the impeachment show airs second episode
House Republicans today will again take an extreme step to impeach a member of the Cabinet due to policy disagreements, not due to violation of constitutional duty. The first attempt to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas failed when three Republicans defected.
Before that embarrassing vote, one congressional news outlet summarized the efforts aptly:
“The impeachment fight again puts front and center two dynamics that have divided Washington during President Joe Biden’s tenure: the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and House Republicans’ unyielding appetite for political drama over actual legislating.”
Afterwards, Punchbowl reported, “Ten minutes Tuesday night showed you what a disaster the House Republican leadership is.”
Where are the moderate Republicans in the House? Where are the Problem Solvers?
As one GOP aide said during the speaker fight, “The people opposing him are moderates. Either he gets it or the moderates for the first time ever grow a spine.”
Matt Yglesias was even more succinct: “any time you have a chance to bet on ‘moderate Republicans cave for no reason’ you should take it.”
Even so-called “moderate” Republicans like Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon are on board with the impeach-for-show game. No one in the GOP has seriously argued that Mayorkas has violated his constitutional oath, and it’s nearly certain Republicans in the Senate will acquit – or not hold a trial at all.
Bacon is not only touting his impeachment vote, he is firmly refuting the concept that he is a moderate at all:
Retirements and Doing Nothing
The best part of retirement is supposedly “doing nothing without worrying about getting caught.”
Republicans are doing nothing substantive, but doing enough insane stuff that they are sending sane colleagues into early retirements.
Fewer and fewer lawmakers want to be a part of the Republican House majority. Despite polling showing that Republicans hold an advantage on the generic ballot, more and more Republicans are giving up bright futures in the GOP due to “clusterf*** Congress.” Examining only those who are retiring and not seeking higher office, 9 Democrats are retiring, compared to 14 Republicans. However, as journalist Bryan Metzger notes there is a major age discrepancy. Seven House Republicans under age 65 are retiring, while just one Democrat under 65 is voluntarily retiring.
Several of the Republicans retiring under the age of 65, including Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Patrick McHenry and Michael Gallagher were already in leadership or were seen as rising stars in their party. They simply decided gaining power and influence in the current Republican Party was not worth it. And these are not the first: consider Senator Romney, Richard Burr, Anthony Gonzalez, John Katko, Rob Portman or Fred Upton, to say nothing of Peter Meijer, Tom Rice, Jaime Herrera Beutler and other Republicans who lost primaries for doing what was right.
Puck’s Peter Hamby broke down how Gallagher’s display of independence in voting against impeachment portended his retirement:
I wondered in recent days if this was coming: Gallagher was not merely the decisive vote in last week’s failed impeachment vote—he was also notably defiant in the face of right-wing backlash. Strong spines typically manifest when a Republican has made peace with his or her political fate, decided to not seek reelection, and plans to go out in a Butch Cassidy-style blaze of glory (e.g., Jeff Flake, Adam Kinzinger, etcetera.)
Every month, sane Republicans are forced to choose between a future in the party and doing what is right. The result is that fewer and fewer desire to be a part of the party. Political scientist Andy Hall studied this dynamic and found it was a key driver of partisan polarization - fewer and fewer people want to run for office because it has been devalued and degraded by the extremes.
The Democratic side is not pure - this penchant for political theater over progress can sometimes also be present on the Far Left. But even when a member of Justice Democrats literally pulls the fire alarm, moderate Democrats do not run for the exits. They reprimand the extremist in their own party.
Democrats can do more to strengthen moderates, and to welcome those who flee the clown show.