Image Credits: House of Representatives.
Rep. Will Hurd of Texas was supposed to be the future of the GOP. Writing in Politico in 2017, Tim Alberta called him “a phenom,” who possesses “a rare combination of competence as a policymaker, responsiveness as a representative and ferocity as a campaigner.” It turned out that the GOP has no room for a 6’4″ black man who worked undercover in the Middle East as a CIA case officer.
By mid-July 2019, Hurd was voting to condemn the president for making racist remarks against some of his congressional colleagues. On August 1st, he announced that he will not seek reelection. His south Texas district, which spans 820 miles of U.S.-Mexico border and is 71 percent Latino, will be hard for the Republicans to defend.
As the president gleefully celebrates that fact that Rep. Elijah Cummings’ West Baltimore home was burglarized on Saturday, it’s not hard to understand Hurd’s decision to call it quits. It’s hard for a black Republican to stand by while Trump makes more and more brazen attacks on politicians of color.
The announced retirements of Martha Roby of Alabama and Susan Brooks of Indiana may indicate that it’s also tough for many women to stand by or with the president as he does his insult-comedy routine.
Even in more normal times, a party that finds itself suddenly in the House minority will suffer a wave of retirements. The Republicans makes things harder for themselves by limiting how long members can serve as committee chairmen. For example, Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas walked away in large part because he’s not permitted to continue on as the top-ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee in the next Congress. In his case, at least, the GOP doesn’t have to worry about holding the seat. Containing George W. Bush’s home base of Odessa/Midland, it might be the most right-leaning district in the country.
But that’s part of the problem. If Texas colleague Pete Olson retired to avoid a possible defeat in the Houston suburbs, Conaway (and his colleague Rob Bishop of Utah) retired because of party rules and the misery of serving in the minority. This may not have much impact on who controls the chamber, but it does eliminate some of the more serious legislators in the Republican Party. And, let’s face it, the Republicans are short on serious legislators.
At First Read, Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann write:
The non-Trump wing of the Republican Party wants out.
Think about the other GOP retirements we’ve seen — Reps. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., Martha Roby, R-Ala., and now Hurd.
And these Republicans parachuting out of the Republican Party underscore how vulnerable Trump really is, despite the growing economy.
The fewer Will Hurd-like members running in 2020 reduces the number of moderate/non-Trump Republicans who would eagerly go to the polls for those representatives – and then still hold their nose and vote for the president.
The Republican Party is getting smaller and smaller, and that isn’t good news for an incumbent Republican president.
I don’t think they characterize the problem in the most astute way. Few people show up to vote for a U.S. representative and then decide who to support for president. Ordinarily, it works the other way around. These retirements are signals about things that are already happening, rather than warning signs. Republicans who are in Washington DC to legislate are leaving because minority members of the House have little influence. Other members are leaving because their own party is stripping them of power. Still more members are quitting to avoid the risk of humiliating defeat, as their districts move away from Trumpism. They don’t make that kind of decision without looking at detailed polling of their constituents. Finally, some are leaving out of disgust with the moral tenor and direction of a party led by Donald Trump.
The president continues to reshape the electorate and to reconfigure his party. As his party gets smaller in some areas, he hopes to grow it in others. This isn’t a good strategy for the House, because the growth, where it exists, is coming in districts that are already safely in Republican hands. But running up the score in red areas is how Trump won in 2016 and he’s bent on repeating the effort in 2020. Control of the House of Representatives may just be a casualty of that strategy.