You Can’t Save the GOP By Electing Republican Senators

I’m trying to find the right analogy to explain former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson’s advice to Republicans who have a moral conscience, but I’m not at 100 percent today. I’ve got one of those headaches in which you can’t fully open your eyes. It could be that reading Gerson’s piece contributed to my condition.

The best I can come up with is to ask you to imagine yourself witnessing a bank heist. The robbers have succeeded in getting the vault open, and you have a momentary window of privacy to use your cell phone and alert the police. What do you do?

According to Gerson, you should absolutely make that call, but when the crooks hear the police sirens and make their getaway attempt, you should seize the moment and go into that vault and secret away as many bars of gold as you can.

In November, many Republican leaners and independents will face a difficult decision. The national Democratic Party under Nancy Pelosi and Charles E. Schumer doesn’t share their views or values. But President Trump is a rolling disaster of mendacity, corruption and prejudice. What should they do?

They should vote Democratic in their House race, no matter who the Democrats put forward. And they should vote Republican in Senate races with mainstream candidates (unlike, say, Corey Stewart in Virginia).

Why vote strategically in this case? Because American politics is in the midst of an emergency.

If Democrats gain control of the House but not the Senate, they will be a check on the president without becoming a threat to his best policies (from a Republican perspective) or able to enact their worst policies. The tax cut will stand. The Senate will still approve conservative judges. But the House will conduct real oversight hearings and expose both Russian influence and administration corruption. Under Republican control, important committees — such as Chairman Devin Nunes’s House Intelligence Committee — have become scraping, sniveling, panting and pathetic tools of the executive branch. Only Democratic control can drain this particular swamp.

When it comes to ill-gotten gains, whether we’re talking about the Supreme Court seat that ought to be held by Merrick Garland, or the tax giveaways that Hillary Clinton would not have sought, Gerson is fully in favor of keeping those and gathering some more.

He expects the House Democrats to expose the Russian influence that gave Trump the presidency and he doesn’t want Mitch McConnell or the Senate Republicans to face justice at all.  For this reason, he’ll concede that not all GOP Senate candidates can be supported (neoconfederates, for example), but you can go right ahead and vote for “mainstream” candidates like Mike Braun of Indiana, whose companies have “violated the Fair Labor Standards Act 26 times” and been cited “41 times for work-time logging violations” since 2015 by the Federal Transportation Department. I guess Mr. Gerson feels like notoriously birther-curious Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is “mainstream,” that there is nothing outlying about Florida’s Rick Scott, who committed the biggest Medicare fraud (at the time) in history. Presumably it’s okay to support Patrick Morrissey of West Virginia in his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin.

As a lobbyist, Morrisey was paid $250,000 to represent a pharmaceutical trade group funded by some of the same distributors West Virginia is now suing.

Records show he also took more than $8,000 in political contributions from Cardinal Health, a defendant in one of the state’s lawsuits. The West Virginia bar was concerned enough about a potential conflict to launch an investigation.

When he first took office [as attorney general] in January 2013, Morrisey said he would step away from cases involving Cardinal. But five months later he met with senior representatives from the company.

“Is it appropriate for you to be meeting with two executives and a lawyer for Cardinal Health care when the state is suing them?” we asked.

“Well, as you know, the state meets with entities involved in cases all the time. And I would argue, we should meet with everyone involved across the board to go solve this problem,” Morrisey responded.

Two months later, Morrisey again clarified his position — saying he was now “permanently screened” from the case.

That didn’t end the questions. Morrisey’s wife is a lobbyist. One of her biggest clients? Cardinal Health.

While he’s been in office, his wife’s firm has made roughly a million and a half bucks from Cardinal. “I — you’d have to talk and take a look at those numbers. I don’t pay attention,” Morrisey told us.

How does that not present an enormous appearance of a conflict, if not an actual conflict, CBS News wondered.

Even Mitt Romney presently holds the land-speed record for lying in a campaign. Is he really what passes for a “mainstream” candidate in the Republican Party?

According to Gerson, Republicans should vote for these people because they’ll assure that more conservative judges are confirmed and that Trump’s “best policies” won’t be threatened. And this will somehow “save the GOP.”

For one thing, this sure puts a lot of responsibility on House Democrats. They’re supposed to do all the work here. They get to hold the hearings, issue the subpoenas, call the witnesses, write the reports, and hold the president accountable.  And, in doing so, they will become the mechanism for cleansing the Republican Party so it can enjoy a new birth in freedom. Secondly, electing a slate of deplorables to six-year terms in the Senate is supposed to result in a return to normalcy and decency for the GOP.

A moral person doesn’t steal money from a bank, even when they leave the vault open. A moral person calls the cops and returns any stray loot to its rightful owners.

Mr. Gerson fails this simple test.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.