On the 4th of July we took a look at the battle Trump had ginned up against Ohio conservative Republican Anthony Gonzalez. Back then, we saw how Gonzalez was trying to get his constituents in northern Ohio to focus on everything about his record other than his vote to impeach Trump, which was the only thing his constituents have been focussing on, so much so that yesterday Gonzalez withdrew from his reelection campaign, having already raised $1,218,043.73 between January and June 30. He had spent $263,792.25 in that same period. It was kind of pathetic, especially considering what a putz Trump endorsed, his former roadie, Max Miller, worthless and unaccomplished carpetbagging son of a rich Shaker Heights family. I wonder if more qualified, mainstream candidates will have the guts to jump in now, knowing that Trump will pounce if they do.
Yesterday, reporting for the NY Times, Jonathan Martin wrote that Gonzalez's bitter parting shot at Trump was to accurately label him "a cancer for the country." Martin noted that "Gonzalez is the first, but perhaps not the last, of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to retire rather than face ferocious primaries next year in a party still in thrall to the former president."
Gonzalez, who turns 37 on Saturday, was the sort of Republican recruit the party once prized. A Cuban American who starred as an Ohio State wide receiver, he was selected in the first round of the N.F.L. draft and then earned an M.B.A. at Stanford after his football career was cut short by injuries. He claimed his Northeast Ohio seat in his first bid for political office.
Gonzalez, a conservative, largely supported the former president’s agenda. Yet he started breaking with Trump and House Republican leaders when they sought to block the certification of last year’s presidential vote, and he was horrified by Jan. 6 and its implications.
Still, he insisted he could have prevailed in what he acknowledged would have been a “brutally hard primary” against Max Miller, a former Trump White House aide who was endorsed by the former president in February.
Yet as Gonzalez sat on a couch in his House office, most of his colleagues still at home for the prolonged summer recess, he acknowledged that he could not bear the prospect of winning if it meant returning to a Trump-dominated House Republican caucus.
“Politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now,” he said. “You can fight your butt off and win this thing, but are you really going to be happy? And the answer is, probably not.”
For the Ohioan, Jan. 6 was “a line-in-the-sand moment” and Trump represents nothing less than a threat to American democracy.
“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” Gonzalez said. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.”
Gonzalez said there had been some uncertainty after the assault on the Capitol over whether Republican leaders would continue to bow to Trump.
But the ouster of Representative Liz Cheney from her leadership post; the continued obeisance of Representative Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader; and the recent decision to invite Trump to be the keynote speaker at a major House Republican fund-raiser were clarifying. At least in Washington, this is still Trump’s party.
“This is the direction that we’re going to go in for the next two years and potentially four, and it’s going to make Trump the center of fund-raising efforts and political outreach,” Gonzalez said. “That’s not something I’m going to be part of.”
His decision to leave rather than fight, however, ensures that the congressional wing of the party will become only more thoroughly Trumpified. And it will raise questions about whether other Trump critics in the House will follow him to the exits. At the top of that watch list: Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who are both serving on the otherwise Democratic-dominated panel investigating the Capitol riot.
Asked how he could hope to cleanse the party of Mr. Trump if he himself was not willing to confront the former president in a proxy fight next year against Mr. Miller, Mr. Gonzalez insisted that there were still Republicans in office who would defend “the fundamentals of democracy.”
With more ardor, he argued that Trump has less of a following among grass-roots Republicans than the party’s leaders believe, particularly when it comes to whom the rank-and-file want to lead their 2024 ticket.
“Where I see a big gap is, most people that I speak to back home agree with the policies but they also want us to move on from the person” and “the sort of resentment politics that has taken over the party,” Gonzalez said.
Congressional maps are set to be redrawn this year, and it’s unclear what Gonzalez’s district, the 16th, will look like afterward. But he said he would probably not take sides in the primary to succeed him, which is now likely to include additional candidates.
Gonzalez told Martin that he has no plans to vacate his seat before his term expires and that he's not going to endorse anyone in the primary to replace him. "Asked about Trump’s inevitable crowing over his exit from the primary-- 'good riddance,' the former president said in a Friday morning statement that criticized the congressman’s 'ill-informed and otherwise very stupid impeachment vote'-- Gonzalez dismissed him. 'I haven’t cared what he says or thinks since Jan. 6, outside when he continues to lie about the election, which I have a problem with,' he said. What clearly does bother him, though, are the Republicans who continue to abet Trump’s election falsehoods, acts of appeasement that he said were morally wrong and politically foolhardy after the party lost both chambers of Congress and the White House under the former president’s leadership. 'We’ve learned the wrong lesson as a party,' Gonzalez said, 'but beyond that, and more importantly, it’s horribly irresponsible and destructive for the country.'"
What Trump said in a statement released by his PAC this morning was a laughable direct quote from him: "RINO Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, who has poorly represented his district in the Great State of Ohio, has decided to quit after enduring a tremendous loss of popularity, of which he had little, since his ill-informed and otherwise very stupid impeachment vote against the sitting President of the United States, me."
In Trump's warped mind a RINO is defined as anyone who defies him. Republicans outside the Confederate states are taking a big chance by allowing this new definition to take hold. It turns solid conservatives-- like Gonzalez-- into the worst thing you can say about a Republican. Trump uses it to describe not just Liz Cheney and adam Kinzinger but Mitch McConnell and Richard Shelby (who dared to back a former employee for the Senate nomination instead of insurrectionist and Trump puppet Mo Brooks) and will eventually be using it to define current lackey #1, Kevin McCarthy. He's wrecking their party. And they're too stupid or too weak to do anything about it. And they deserve what's coming to them.