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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Conservatives should retire their fears about new GOP blood in 2018

It’s safe to say whenever we hear someone’s retiring we’re never quite sure how to react. What might be cause for celebration for many may be a sore spot of mixed emotions for others. Retirement is something most people embrace while some dread it until their last working day.

A similarly ambiguous feeling seems to exist among the GOP congressional delegation this year. Already there have been a number of high profile retirement announcements from Republican senators and GOP Retirementscongressmen who apparently decided enough is enough and they won’t be returning to Washington for another term. Their reasons for wanting out vary but only one thing’s for certain – it’s harder to hold onto a vacant seat than it is to defend it with an incumbent.

For this reason some suggest the Republican majorities are at risk – at least on the House side. David M. Drucker wrote at the Washington Examiner, “The Republican Party’s tenuous grip on the House majority slipped Wednesday after Rep. Darrell Issa became the second California Republican this week to opt for retirement over fighting an uncertain battle for re-election.

“Issa, from northern San Diego County, joined retiring Rep. Ed Royce, from historically Republican Orange County, putting two seats targeted by the Democrats further in play as they seek to erase the GOP’s 24-seat House majority.

“Their departures raise the number of Republican retirements to 31, a figure not approached since 28 Democrats rushed for the exits in 1994, the year the GOP won control of Congress for the first time in four decades.”

 (Note: The always helpful Washington Examiner compiled a useful list of those Republicans who chose not to run for re-election in 2018.)

According to Drucker’s article Issa indicated he’s retiring because he’s turning 65 (which used to be considered the retirement age) and looking forward to doing something other than serving in Congress. Observers speculate the wave of House GOP exits in 2018 is partly due to the party’s own rules whereby committee chairmen are limited to three two-year terms.

Whatever the reason, the prospect of getting new blood in Congress is never a bad thing. It’s an uncommon occurrence when a congressman of either party leaves willingly after only a comparatively short time. In recent years Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn left after just a decade in the upper chamber (to go with three terms in the House) as did South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint after “only” eight years (and three terms in the House).

In contrast, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch announced he’ll step down after he completes his seventh term in the Senate. As I pointed out last week that means Hatch’s spent over half his life as a senator. Is this really what the Founding Fathers had in mind?

Coburn and DeMint are only two examples of principled early exits but it’s always a special thing when those in power decide to willingly transfer power to someone else. Both of these conservative senators commanded enormous respect from not only their colleagues but also from those in the conservative movement who admired their penchant for “boat rocking” and challenging the leadership on certain issues -- and also for leading from the front instead of cowering in the back, collecting fat checks from lobbyists for their reelection campaigns and moving to the center ideologically because they’re worried about losing their sweet job title.

That’s what career politicians like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham do; how many politically driven decisions have those two made in the time they’ve been in the nation’s capital?

Founding Father President George Washington set a precedent for self-imposed term limits which lasted up until the 1930’s when wartime President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for and won a third and fourth term as president (the 22nd Amendment was then ratified in 1951). Strangely enough this voluntary “retirement” tradition does not appear to have made its way into the congressional bodies.

Washington famously wrote (to his former personal secretary Jonathan Trumbull five months before his death in 1799) that he believed he would not win a single “anti-federalist” vote if he ran to regain the presidency (in 1800) and therefore it was preferable to remain retired rather than potentially split the country apart through an attempt to unseat John Adams. Washington concluded his letter by writing, “Prudence on my part must arrest any attempt of the well meant, but mistaken views of my friends, to introduce me again into the Chair of Government.”

Washington carried his bitterness towards the early republic’s growing factional divides to his grave. It’s a well-known fact Washington resented fellow Virginians Thomas Jefferson and James Madison until the end solely because he felt the latter two had undermined his presidency with their scheming against the Hamilton (Federalist) faction during his first term. Who could blame Washington for desiring to remain at a distance from the mess, having happily returned to live out his days at his beloved Mount Vernon?

At any rate, Washington believed it was a good thing to relinquish power when the time was ripe. One could only wish more elected lawmakers these days would follow his lead though few seemingly do. As Drucker reported in his article only about six of this year’s Republican retirements are in highly competitive districts and the rest of the attrition is due to budding scandals or because the congressmen have conflicts of interest.

Of course two of the three senate retirements were all-but forced because the incumbents (Bob Corker and Jeff Flake) were trailing badly in pre-primary polls. Those two ran away before they got beat. Good for them.

If anything we hear more these days about politicians coming out of retirement to run for office than the other way around. 2012 Republican presidential nominee (and loser) Mitt Romney is said to be near announcing whether he’ll run for Orrin Hatch’s vacant seat and the establishment can hardly wait to gain another prominent swamp defender to battle Trump.

Reliable “deplorables” basher Kevin D. Williamson wrote at National Review this week, “The issue is that you [Romney] can go to Washington by way of Utah and set an example, to remind people that the GOP and the conservative movement that animates it can still speak to our hopes rather than to our fears, to our highest public purposes rather than our basest political instincts.

“You’ll be in for it, of course: Trump will savor pointing out that he won the presidency and you did not. (Voters. Inexplicable. Hyperion to a satyr and all that.) Trump doesn’t like criticism, but he needs it. The Republican party needs to hear it, and to hear it from you. You can show them a different kind of Republican. If you don’t, Trump will be the only kind anybody knows. I can’t see a way that will end well.”

One wonders why Williamson continues pretending he’s a “conservative” when the vast majority of self-identified conservatives see Trump as the “different kind of Republican” rather than someone like musty dusty moldy old Mitt Romney. Mitt and Trump are of comparable age but which one seems older?

Trump exudes passion and energy while Romney -- who is not nearly as wealthy and successful as Trump -- is the embodiment of an out-of-touch rich guy the Republican Party is said to represent.

Heck, Trump eats fast food and regularly comments (intelligently, too) on sports. Can you imagine Mitt Romney sitting down to a meal of Big Macs, fries and a chocolate shake? Hardly. Instead, when you envision Romney you think of frog legs and caviar. Trump enjoys the benefits of wealth because they go together with the things he enjoys most in life; Romney does it because he drips contempt for the common folks – the infamous 47% -- who he said would never vote for any Republican.

Like usual, Williamson is flat out wrong; the GOP needs fewer guys like Romney and more conservative/populist doers like Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Washington is already loaded with intellectual elites and ruling class consultants who pass the time speculating on how to win elections; meanwhile Trump flies around to the interior of the country taking his message directly to real Americans – the same people who do the work of the country and are affected the most by high taxes and suffering under a government that spends too much and runs up debt like there’s no tomorrow.

Trump doesn’t need Romney’s voice to understand what it’s like to be a Republican either. Trump already has more than enough establishmentarians like Mitch McConnell to provide bad advice on how to treat important issues like immigration and health care reform.

Trump needs fighters, not pampered carpetbagger office-shoppers like Romney.

One such Trump-supporting “fighter” announced a run for senate in the Grand Canyon State this week and it’s drawing a great deal of attention and commentary. David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner wrote, “Despite his 85 years of age, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio jumped into Arizona's open-seat Senate race yesterday. He's a near-certain loser in any statewide general election, but he could prove much more popular in a Republican primary.

“In the first poll conducted since his official entry into the race — actually conducted the very day of his entry — it becomes clear that Arpaio is a serious contender, and also that he's just killing the candidacy of the former anti-establishment frontrunner, former state Sen. Kelli Ward.”

The poll shows Ward now trailing the would-be establishment favorite, Rep. Martha McSally.

Anti-establishment conservatives will have enough difficulty battling the “electability” argument after Steve Bannon tarnished the cause, so we can’t allow intra-party divisions to deprive us of a golden opportunity to replace an awful RINO (Sen. Jeff Flake) with a principled conservative like Kelli Ward. Ward is someone who can actually win the statewide election in Arizona and do some good towards advocating for the Trump agenda.

As was true in Alabama and other places, local conservatives and Republicans will decide on their own candidates. But it appears Arpaio’s presence is only dividing the conservative vote, possibly allowing a RINO like McSally to sneak in and win the primary. That would be a shame.

Perhaps it’s time Arpaio considered retirement instead of a new career in the senate at his age. With his support, Ward would be tough to beat in the general election.

Retirement is hardly an easy choice. For motivated people who spent years serving and providing it must be difficult to simply walk away. Nevertheless, bringing fresh perspectives to Washington is something the Congress desperately needs. On balance, it’s a very good thing.

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