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EDITORIAL: For Dent, others, it’s exit, stage right
It’s far from an exodus, but the growing number of congressional Republicans who have announced they do not intend to seek reelection in 2018 is causing alarm among party insiders.
There’s reason for concern in midstate Pennsylvania, as well, given that one of the lawmakers headed for the door is Rep. Charlie Dent, whose 15th Congressional District snakes east from Harrisburg and includes neighboring Londonderry Township.
Dent, who has represented the district since 2005, is one of the good guys in Congress: Less interested in ideological purity than in getting things done.
He co-chairs the moderate Republican Tuesday Group and is a member of the House’s Problem Solvers Caucus, a roughly 40-member bipartisan bloc that formed to counter the outsized influence of conservative House coalitions such as the Freedom Caucus.
But his common-sense approach to governing has proven to be a continuous uphill slog, even now that his party controls both houses of Congress and the White House.
“Basic fundamental tasks of government have become extraordinarily difficult to enact,” he told the New Yorker last week. “And because of that, because so much energy is expended and wasted on those issues, it is very, very difficult for all of us to focus on major policy issues like tax reform, infrastructure and health.”
It’s only going to get more difficult with lawmakers like Dent bowing out.
Also announcing their own exit strategies in the past week have been GOP Reps. Dave Trott of Michigan, Dave Reichert of Washington state and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida. U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee is reportedly on the fence.
The fear in Republican circles is that this list could grow considerably longer should the party continue to flail and fail despite its congressional majorities. The inability to at least repeal if not replace the Affordable Care Act was a major embarrassment, and the rest of the Republican agenda has languished amid infighting, competing priorities and the ongoing investigations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
Oh, and then there’s the president.
On the campaign trail, then-candidate Donald Trump painted himself as the great political uniter. "I will be a great unifier for our country,” he told Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union” in October 2015.
Never mind the country, he cannot even unite his own party. In fact, Trump appears to have gone out of his way to do just the opposite.
His Twitter eruptions have repeatedly taken attention from more important issues, he has insulted elected officials in his own party and members of his own Cabinet, and his statements in the wake of last month’s deadly Charlottesville white nationalist demonstrations are just one example of positions that, to say the least, do not rally his party.
But they do draw like-minded political hopefuls, half a dozen of which have already announced plans to challenge GOP incumbents in primaries next year.
It’s bad enough Trump-style politics appears to be driving more moderate members of his party out of Washington. Even worse would be to draw similarly chaotic, narrow-minded and divisive characters into the mix.
Thus far, a total of 14 House Republicans have opted to forego reelection next year. We can’t say we blame them. But we think we know where the blame lies.