The Washington Post
GOP’S fringe could be a big winner in 2022
Incumbents tend to have a good feel for political headwinds, which makes congressional retirements a reliable measure of approaching midterm elections. Incumbents are more likely to give up their seats when they expect their party to take a bath.
In 2010, 16 House Democrats opted not to run again — and Republicans picked up 63 House seats.
On Monday, Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.) became the 18th House Democrat to announce he will pass on another term. At the same time, Republicans have opened historic leads on the generic ballot, and they’re making remarkable strides in party registration across battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Florida and Nevada.
At this point, it will be shocking if the GOP doesn’t net the five seats necessary next November to take back the House — and many more besides.
The past few weeks may foreshadow how a newly empowered Republican majority could behave come 2023. Fringe elements are increasingly emboldened; House GOP leaders accept (and thus passively bless) their outrageous behavior, and the redistricting process pours gasoline on the fire in many states.
Going into Thanksgiving, one of the fringiest, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R- Colo.) was caught on video telling an obviously fabricated story about a Capitol Police officer expressing concern that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-minn.), a Muslim lawmaker from Minneapolis who wears a hijab, could be a suicide bomber and referring to her as part of the “Jihad Squad.”
Boebert called Omar on Monday to express regret for the comment, but the call went sour when Omar asked for a public apology. Boebert said afterward in an Instagram video that it is Omar who should apologize “for her anti-american, antisemitic, anti-police rhetoric.”
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) went on CNN to discuss a weekend trip to Taiwan. Asked about Boebert, she replied that the comment about Omar was disgusting: “We have a responsibility to lower the temperature, and this does not do that.” This gentle comment prompted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R- Ga.) to tweet on Tuesday that Mace “is the trash in the GOP Conference.”
“I’m a pro-life fiscal conservative,” Mace responded. “What I’m not is a religious bigot (or racist).”
On Nov. 17, only two Republicans — Mace wasn’t among them — crossed party lines to censure Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-ariz.) for posting an animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez (D-N.Y.) — something Gosar refuses to apologize for.
The only Republicans to break ranks on Gosar were the same Republicans who agreed to serve on the special House committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection: Reps. Liz Cheney, who faces a Trumpbacked primary challenger in Wyoming, and Adam Kinzinger, who has announced he won’t run for reelection in Illinois, where he was facing almost certain defeat in a GOP primary.
This is one of several ways that the once-a-decade redistricting process is making life harder for Republicans who are serious about governing. A Post analysis last week found that, in the 15 states that have approved new congressional district maps, the number of districts where the 2020 presidential margin was within five percentage points has fallen from 23 to just 10. In Texas alone, the number of competitive districts is going from 12 to one.
This means lawmakers in both parties will have more reasons to fear losing a primary challenge from their right or left than going down in a general election. The decline in competitive districts leads to more polarization and less compromise, which is bad for democracy.
Suozzi, who is unlikely to be the last House Democrat to retire before spring, offers a window into the calculations many members are making. He’s giving up a competitive House seat on Long Island — Republicans previously announced plans to target him — to join a crowded Democratic primary for New York governor. The selfstyled moderate will be the underdog against Gov. Kathy Hochul, who inherited the job when Andrew M. Cuomo resigned in disgrace, and New York Attorney General Letitia James.
If there’s a large red wave in 2022, Suozzi’s chances of becoming governor may well be higher than his odds of getting reelected to the House. Republicans made huge gains across suburban Long Island in November’s off-year elections, including knocking out the incumbent Nassau County executive — a job Suozzi himself held from 2002 to 2009.
With the GOP favored to win the House, Republican retirements become all the more notable. Kinzinger, an Air Force pilot who flew missions over Iraq and Afghanistan, is only 43. He was one of the 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s second impeachment. Another in that group who is retiring is Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R- Ohio). The former NFL player is leaving Congress at age 37. Both are impressive conservatives, and their departures will be a loss for the institution.
These gentlemen are voting with their feet based on what they expect the chamber to be like in 13 months. It stinks to be a Democrat right now, but it stinks even more to be a responsible Republican trying to govern.