Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate
Topics

Why are so many Republicans leaving Congress? My theory: soul-crushing chagrin and shame

Almost four times as many House Republicans as Democrats are retiring without seeking another office.

Rep. Greg Walden
Republican Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon announced on Monday that he will not seek reelection.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Leaving aside the four Democrats and three Republicans who are giving up their seats in the U.S. House to seek other offices, 19 members of the U.S. House have announced that they will not seek another term next year when seats come up. Of those, 15 are Republicans, four are Democrats.

Of course, politicians do retire for various reasons. And of course the next election is still a year away. So some more retirement announcements may come, and perhaps the partisan ratio will change. And you could note that it’s less fun to be in the House when your party has lost majority control, as Republicans did in 2018.

But that 15-4 partisan ratio of retirements looks a tad — hmm — suspicious. Almost four times as many House Republicans as Democrats are retiring without seeking another office.

Article continues after advertisement

On the Senate side, four Republican senators whose terms are up next year have decided to leave their jobs without seeking any other office, while just one Democrat is doing so.

I often wonder, and I don’t claim to know, what sort of combination of party loyalty, fear of losing a primary if they deviate from the Trump line, sincere conviction that Trump’s agenda is what is needed to make America great (again), tribalism, and (your reason here) explains the general solidarity of Republican elected officialdom around Trump, especially given his many deviations from what used to be Republican orthodoxy and, of course, character flaws and obnoxious behavior.

My theory, you won’t be terribly surprised to learn, is that these high Republican retirement numbers are about Trump and the soul-crushing chagrin and shame among Republican members of Congress over having to go along with his antics and other depredations, having to ignore or even defend his transparent lies, and to pretend that they are fully on board with the many ways he is damaging both the nature and the reputation of the “party of Lincoln.”

Sir Thomas (“A Man for All Seasons”) More gave up his head for refusing to go along with King Henry VIII’s decision to repudiate Catholicism so he could dump his wife.

These guys are just giving up their congressional sinecures.

Being Jewish and agnostic, my command of New Testament verses is weak, but I looked up this famous New Testament quote so I could quote it correctly: “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?”

(By the way, none of the three Republicans in the Minnesota congressional delegation has  joined the retirement list, and all appear to be preparing to seek another term. All three scored above 90 percent in the portion of their votes that agreed with Trump’s position, according to these ratings by fivethirtyeight.com.)