Those of us who lean toward the left and a more liberal ideology than that of the GOP have hoped for more than seven months now that the republicans in Congress would get fed up with Donald Trump and start standing up to him, standing for policies that benefit their constituents rather than Trump and his wealthy cronies. Well, apparently the more moderate among them are getting fed up, but instead of standing up to him, challenging him and refusing to do his bidding, they are jumping ship.
The latest in the exodus to escape the toxic environment is Charlie Dent, a republican representative from Pennsylvania. Dent is moderate republican who has publicly expressed concerns about Trump in the past. He called for Trump to drop out of the race last year after the release of the Access Hollywood tapes that should have doomed Trump’s political career. Since then, he has spoken out against Trump’s travel ban, his firing of James Comey as FBI director and his false moral equivalency after Charlottesville. I applaud Mr. Dent for taking those stands and wish more would follow suit. However, he has also voted with Trump’s wishes more than 90% of the time during the past seven months. Dent cites “disruptive outside influences that profit from increased polarization and ideological rigidity that leads to dysfunction, disorder and chaos” as part of his reason for not seeking re-election next year.
Dent is not the first congressional republican to jump ship, nor likely the last. Just the day before Dent made his announcement, another republican representative, Dave Reichert, from the state of Washington, announced his plan to retire after seven terms. And republican representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida has announced her intention to step down also, saying that the prospect of two more years in the current environment just didn’t appeal to her.
“I’m not one of those name-callers that think the Democrats don’t have a single good idea. Too many people think that way, and I think that’s to the detriment to civility and of good government.” Give the lady a round of applause!All three of the departing members of the House of Representatives were moderate republicans, the kind we need more of in order to have a functioning, truly bi-partisan Congress. Obviously, the upside is that this is three seats up for grabs, and we could hope that they are ‘grabbed’ by democrats in 2018.
Here is something interesting … the three representatives who are reportedly fed up with Trump, have voted to support Trump’s agenda more often than not:
Charlie Dent 90.7%
Dave Reichert 83.3%
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen 70.7%
In the case of Mr. Dent, he only disagreed with Trump on issues of the ACA repeal, Russian sanctions, and requiring state and local governments to distribute federal funds to qualified health centers even if they perform abortions. Other things, such as rolling back environmental regulations, partial repeal of Dodd-Frank, and immigration, he voted the ‘party line’. If Mr. Dent is so fed up with the Trump regime, wouldn’t the better way to make a statement have been to vote more in line with the best interest of the country and its citizens?
Interestingly, pro-Trumpeters held an ‘anti-Dent’ rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania last month. It was a small affair by any standard … Breitbart reported 300 attended, a local news source reported just under 200, and The Washington Post reports about 100, so take your pick. Ed Martin, one of the event planners, said, “Charlie Dent and the Tuesday Group have been masquerading as Republicans, while running President Trump’s agenda straight into the ground. It’s high time we called out these liberals in Pennsylvania and across the country for betraying their voters and capitulating to … the far left.”
A fairly homogeneous group, wouldn’t you say?
If the exiting representatives were the more hard-right Freedom Caucus members, I would be more than happy to see them go. But these three, along with about 45 others, were the ‘moderate’ voices of the GOP. Some pundits see the decision not to seek re-election by these three as an opportunity for democrats to win these seats, and the GOP is concerned also. When Ros-Lehtinen announced in May that she would not seek re-election next year, The Washington Post headline read:
With Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s retirement, the good news for Democrats just keeps coming …
Forgive me for being a cynic or a Debbie Downer, but frankly I think this is a matter of putting the cart before the horse. Remember that over-confidence killed the cat! In the case of Florida representative Ros-Lehtinen, it may be a valid assumption that a viable democratic candidate could take the seat, as Hillary Clinton won in that district last year by 20 points, however her district remains strongly republican. Reichert is in a swing district that also supported Clinton, so his seat, also, may be easier than some for Democrats. However, Dent’s district is predominantly republican and I think it will be a tough sell to get a democrat elected.
So where am I going with all this?
First, I would like to see more of the moderate voices in Congress speak up and out. However, I don’t necessarily wish to see a mass exodus of moderate republicans from Congress because … that will ultimately leave only the more hardcore, unbending ones. Some democratic strategists say these retirements are just the latest proof points that the Trumpeters have completed their hostile takeover of the GOP.
Second, there are 424 days left until the mid-term elections. The Democratic Party needs to get busy now, not a year from now. And while yes, I would certainly like to see democrats a majority in one or both chambers, I am more interested in seeing moderates of both parties speaking up for the good of the nation, not for selfish interests, not simply to go against the other party or support/deny Trump, but in true bi-partisanship. The legislative branch is intended to ‘check and balance’ the power of the executive office. Right now, it is doing a damn poor job of that.