As of today, you can add two more names to the list. Another pair of House Republicans have announced that they’re quitting instead of seeking reelection in in the 2020 race, adding to the mounting ash heap of GOP careers suddenly and voluntarily going up in smoke. There’s a reason for this, and it may not be as simple as the fact that Donald Trump is dragging the party down.
Bill Flores and Jim Sensenbrenner both announced today that they’re retiring from the House. They’re 65 and 76 years old respectively, so if it were just the two of them, maybe you could explain it away as mere age-related retirement. But when you put it within the context of the numerous other GOP Congressmen who have also recently called it quits, many of whom are much younger, it makes clear that there’s something else going on here.
Here’s the thing. Will Hurd and some other “retiring” House Republicans are in swing districts that will probably go Democrat in 2020 if Donald Trump’s poll numbers end up being even half as ugly as they are right now. But Flores and Sensenbrenner, and plenty of the others, are in solid red Republican districts that would have given them a good shot at reelection in 2020 no matter how unpopular Trump ended up being. So why quit?
It’s not as if any of these quitters are linked to any particular scandal. Most of them aren’t linked to each other, beyond all being House Republicans. Some of them are pro-Trump, some of them anti-Trump. Some of them would have gotten reelected, some of them wouldn’t have. The only common denominator is that they’ve all decided they don’t still want to be in the House after the 2020 election.
Let’s say Donald Trump loses. Then we’ll have a Democratic President, an Attorney General appointed by Democrat, and a Department of Justice that’s finally able to do its job with regard to Trump’s criminal scandals. Trump’s arrest is a given; even if the DOJ doesn’t charge him, New York will. Keep in mind just how deeply some of Trump’s scandals have enveloped the Republican Party leadership. At the least, every House Republican took NRA money that was funneled through Russia. Many or most of them may not have known it was Russian money at the time. But this is still going to get ugly as all get-out.
Let’s say you’re a Republican Congressman. You’re not a criminal but you know Donald Trump and your party leadership are. You expect Trump will likely lose, and when he does, you expect criminal dirt to finally come out that will decimate the party. Why stick around and take the heat, at a time when every Republican left on the national stage could become a pariah just for being a Republican? It would explain why so many of them are quitting now, and getting out of Dodge, before things can get truly ugly after the election.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report