Yesterday, on CNN’s State of the Union show, Florida Representative Francis Rooney told host Jake Tapper that he was troubled by President Trump’s actions concerning the quid pro quo issue and Ukraine. So much so that he could not rule out voting to impeach the president if the evidence warranted. Rooney also fired a warning shot to his fellow Republicans concerning the future of his party.
I have a few thoughts about the Congressman’s remarks from yesterday. First, as for his concern with possibly impeaching Trump, I welcome any Republican who speaks out when they think this president has gone too far. Sadly, we haven’t had enough of them willing to do so. However, when someone does, we should commend them.
But, we shouldn’t be ready to award the man a medal for profiles in courage either. Much like former Senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, Rooney has announced that he would not be running for a third term. Flake and Corker both took the same route after making several statements critical of Trump. We don’t know what’s in Rooney’s heart of hearts, but the timing certainly raises questions.
At this point, though, we should welcome Rooney’s take, regardless of his future intentions. We all know where Democrats stand. We need more pushback from Rooney’s party, however, and not just from those who plan on retiring.
The thing is, what Rooney said about his party stood out even more than his take on the president’s problems. When Tapper asked him if he was concerned about the direction of the Republican Party, he said yes. While he still believes in traditionally conservative ideals, especially as it relates to the economy, he breaks with the extreme positions of his party on issues like the environment and gun violence.
Rooney is well aware of the demographic shift going on in the country, and the need for his party to start reaching out to younger voters, as well as individuals living in the suburbs. Being the party of rural, older white voters isn’t enough. He was less than enthusiastic when Tapper asked him if he still considered himself a Republican.
Congressman Rooney is spot-on. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is going in the opposite direction. Led by the recalcitrant Mitch McConnell, the party is standing in the way of any meaningful legislation that majorities of voters support across the entire country.
Bills to mitigate climate change, regulate guns, rid our politics of dark money and corruption, improve health care access and voting rights, sit–gathering dust on the Majority Leader’s desk. Instead of doing things the public wants, McConnell and his corporate masters would instead rather rely on voter suppression and radical gerrymandering to win elections.
Mr. Rooney recognizes the dangers that lie ahead for his party if they don’t begin to change their ways. After Obama won in 2008, the party supposedly conducted an autopsy as to why they were defeated so handily. There was the talk of moderation and more outreach to a younger demographic—for a minute. In the end, nothing of the sort occurred. Instead, what we got was the status quo and rigging the system to their benefit.
The key to any change for the Republican Party will be when moderates like Rep. Rooney begin to drown out the ideologues. For now, it’s not happening. Maybe the horrors of Donald Trump’s presidency will inspire a massive restructuring and direction for the party. Or, perhaps they double down again. I’m betting on the latter.