Let’s talk about the Republicans and their terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Election Day, shall we?
Up until November 8, 2017, to go on offense against Trump meant an impassioned floor speech delivered on the heels of announcing your retirement from Congress, a zinger on Twitter, or stinging rebukes by former presidents who will never be on the ballot again.
On Election Day eve, yet another incumbent Republican (Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas) announced his retirement from Congress, adding to a long line of elected officials who either fear the midterm voter would not be kind to them or simply have had enough with the current Trumped-up GOP.
I’d originally set out here to tackle the tough question, “What the hell is going on with all these retirements?” Because while I cheered Sen. Jeff Flake’s impassioned “enough” speech and snorted morning coffee at Sen. Bob Corker’s “adult day care” moniker for the Trump Administration, retiring seemed to me more like quitting than an act of political courage.
You see when moderation leaves, crazy tends to fill the void. I’ve watched it happen here in the Texas Legislature with the far rightward drift of the Texas Senate away from the business-centered, moderate-minded, traditional conservative GOP into full embrace of the culture-warrior, fear-mongering, divisive Tea Party branch.
Will these retiring members of Congress (and state legislatures) lead a charge from the outside to remake the party or start anew? Or, are we doomed to endure more Roy Moores? I hoped for the former, but feared the latter to be the more likely outcome in 2018.
Or, maybe these retirements will matter less as voters regain their voice, and the backlash against a most unpopular president and a Congress with few accomplishments grows. After all, the voters have now spoken in an opening act to the 2018 high-drama of Congressional midterm elections.
Ralph Northam upended establishment-turned-Trumpian Ed Gillespie, along with a seismic shift in the Virginia House of Delegates. In bluer New Jersey, Governor-elect Phil Murphy’s victory signaled a clear rejection of Trump and his McDonald’s-fetching lackey, Chris Christie.
There were ample doses of more localized karma served up, too. New Jersey Atlantic County GOP freeholder John Carman – who posted a meme on Facebook in January wondering if the women’s protest “would be over in time for them to cook dinner” – got served an election defeat instead. And it came at the hands of a female, first-time candidate Ashley Bennett.
And then there’s Danica Roem, who defeated the Virginia House of Delegates’ bathroom bill Sponsor Bob Marshall, and who ran on core issues of education, transportation, and job creation. And yes, made history too, as the first transgender person elected to a state legislature.
Overall, I don’t care how you slice it or dice it – and exit polls certainly made every effort to do so – this one’s on Trump. Maybe he really is going to Make America Great Again.
So yes, there’s justification for #NeverTrump Republicans, angry Independents, and emboldened Democrats to take a victory lap right now. But it’s a long year until the midterms and lots of domestic political drama, international pee tape intrigue, and geopolitical worries could upend things once more.
Whether you’re an angry Democrat, a sane Republican, or any other political stripe apart from the MAGA crowd, don’t rest on your laurels. Keep the foot on the gas, keep the pressure on candidates, and march on toward the ballot box in November 2018.