Washington Co. GOP boss says quiet part out loud about Repubs’ collapse into personality cult | Wednesday Morning Coffee

February 17, 2021 7:28 am

Washington County Republican Chairman Dave Ball (KDKA-TV screen capture)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

If you were looking for further confirmation of the intellectual and constitutional rot that’s taken hold at the heart of the Republican Party, then you don’t need to look much further than Dave Ball.

In an interview with KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh on MondayBall, the chairman of Washington County’s Republican Party, said the quiet part out loud when he was asked about a growing movement in the state party to censure U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.

Toomey was one of seven Republicans who voted with Democrats last Saturday to convict former President Donald Trump on a single impeachment charge of inciting the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

“We did not send him there to vote his conscience,” Ball said, jerking his knee in the direction of Trump with such force and rapidity that it’s a wonder he didn’t give himself a concussion. “We did not send him to do the right thing, whatever he said was doing. We sent him there to represent us, and we feel very strongly that he did not represent us.”

There are so many things wrong with what Ball said that it’s hard to know where to begin.

But suffice to say, if there was ever a time to vote one’s conscience, it’s when you’re called to determine the guilt or innocence of an authoritarian chief executive who spent months laying the groundwork for January’s deadly riot by filling his supporters’ heads with outright lies about voter fraud; incited them on social media, during television appearances, and pugilistic rallies, and then set them loose to march on the Capitol to hang the vice president of the United States and assassinate the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

That 43 Republicans could watch the video of that murderous day, which cost seven people their lives, and then fall back on the slender constitutional justification (that they cynically provided to themselves) to let  Trump skate is horrifying, if sadly unsurprising.

Sen. Pat Toomey. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Toomey, who is retiring in 2022, and the Republicans who stepped up and did the right thing, deserve the mildest of praise, not censure, after years of complicity with the former administration.

But such is the severity of the Mar-A-Lago syndrome now afflicting the hollowed-out soul of the GOP, that any other outcome seems impossible.

And then there’s the 2022 race for governor.

As the Capital-Star’s Elizabeth Hardison reports, on Tuesday, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, a Trumpian Republican who wants to roll back the state’s mail-in voting law, announced he planned to seek the GOP nomination for governor next year.

If Gale’s name sounds familiar, it’s because state House and Senate Democrats pushed a measure to impeach Gale if he didn’t resign over racist and odious remarks he made last June.

Gale rightly earned the ire of a coalition of clergy, activists, and local residents for using county letterhead to put out a statement saying, among other things, that the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters are “radical left-wing hate groups,” who are responsible for “urban domestic terror,” WHYY-FM in Philadelphia reported at the time.

“One cannot simply pledge allegiance to the flag, and then turn around and … brand neighbors and fellow citizens as terrorists because they are marching in protest demanding freedom and justice for all,” Rep. Margo Davidson, D-Philadelphia, said according to WHYY-FM.

If he eventually wins the nomination, Gale could well end up facing off against Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, also a former Montgomery County commissioner, who is widely expected to run for the top spot next year. The two men briefly served alongside each other.

Gale has promised to be an ideological enforcer, saying in a statement that “we cannot allow the other top-of-the-ticket race in 2022 to fall into the hands of the Republican Party establishment and the ring-kissing candidates they control, influence and endorse.”

He added, “In the final days of Donald Trump’s sabotaged presidency and the bogus impeachment that followed, we have witnessed the beginning of a concerted effort by entrenched politicians and party bosses to return the Republican Party to the failed policies and platforms of the Bush, McCain and Romney era. However, the Republican Party cannot go backward to move forward.”

Gale’s assertion that Trump, whose xenophobic and nationalistic policies moved the country forward is as reality-defying as Ball’s argument that loyalty to party outweighs loyalty to country is vacuous. But both are a perfect distillation of the GOP’s transformation from working political party to personality cult.

Senator Jake Corman takes questions from reporters (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller).

It’s probably worth noting that Gale’s announcement came even as Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centretook a victory lap on Twitter over the looming departure of state Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawannawho’s resigning to take a job with U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-8th District.

Blake’s “resignation is another clear sign moderates are not welcome in the Senate Democratic caucus,” Corman opined, as he tried to avoid making eye contact with such right-wing firebrands in his own caucus as Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, who pushed false claims of voter fraud and bused supporters to Trump’s Jan. 6 rally.

“From the radical progressives defeating moderates for leadership to members fleeing their caucus, it’s clear reasonableness isn’t a value associated with them anymore,” added Cormanwho got called out by fact-checkers for saying that false election claims didn’t play “any role” in the deadly attack on the Capitol.

Corman’s own GOP is suffering something of an exodus these days: more than 12,000 Republican voters in the Keystone State have deserted the party in the past month, the New York Times reported on Feb. 10.

Democrats came out of the 2020 election season occupying both the political and moral high ground. No matter how well-intentioned, being haunted by their attempts to interfere with what is legitimately a local matter in the Philadelphia suburbs last year is the last thing they need.

There’s an old saying in politics that when your opponent is self-destructing, the best strategy is simply to get out of the way. Since it seems only a matter of when, not if, the fractured GOP will go the way of the Whigs, Democrats should just step out of the way and let them.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Pennsylvania’s vaccine program is flailing. Nurses in the statehouse are out to fix itElizabeth Hardison reports.

Here’s our full story, courtesy of Hardison, on GOP Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale declaring for governor. 

Elected officials and community partners want to see Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia turned into a mass vaccination site, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page this morning, an Ohio State University expert explains how public schools fail to recognize Black prodigies. And opinion regular John A. Tures wants you to imagine the consequences if some other president, not named Trumphad left Congress to die last month.

Love Park in Philadelphia (Photo via Flickr Commons)

A former Philadelphia police officer has made it his mission to expose police shootings of Black people, the Inquirer reports.
Congressional Republicans from western Pennsylvania have lined up against the new COVID-19 relief bill pushed by the Biden administration, the Post-Gazette reports.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, is pushing the Biden administration to forgive students carrying up to $50,000 in loan debt. If approved, 36 million people would be debt-freePennLive reports.
Will a state GOP rebuke of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa.actually mean something? The Morning Call takes up the question.
This week’s severe winter weather has caused a delay in the vaccine supply chain, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:


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A post shared by Unruly Diplomats (@unrulydiplomats)

Most Philadelphia residents could be vaccinated by July, WHYY-FM reports.
The Pennsylvania State Police won’t be subject to legislative scrutiny during this year’s budget debate, Spotlight PA reports (via WITF-FM).
The Lancaster County GOP has opted against censuring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., LancasterOnline reports.
Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 cases are decliningbut that might not be from the vaccine yet, the York Daily Record reports.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report says that, right now, Pennsylvania’s 2022 U.S. Senate race is a toss-upPoliticsPA reports.
Bipartisan earmarks could be in the offing 
this year, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., says (via Politico).

What Goes On.
Budget hearings roll on in the House Appropriations Committee this Wednesday. All sessions are held in the House chamber, and are being live-streamed. Here’s today’s schedule:
10 a.m.: Department of Corrections
1 pm.: Department of State (Nobody expects the Stannish Inquisition!)
Also, at 11 a.m., the House Democratic Policy Committee meets in G50 Irvis.

Read Any Good Books Lately?
We’re pleased to announce the launch of the Capital-Star GoodReads Book Club. Come on over and join us on our GoodReads page, we’ll be sharing what we’re reading, and you can weigh in on your favorite books as well. Associate Editor Cassie Miller gets things rolling with her latest read, “White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, by Robert P. Jones.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Megan Dapp at Triad Strategies, who celebrates today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
Some among you know of my un-ironic (and unapologetic) love for 1970s/80s hair-metal rockers Kiss. Now that the band have (finally?) hung up their platform boots and batwings, frontman Paul Stanley is out with a new solo project: Paul Stanley’s Soul Station, and a new record filled with his interpretations of soul classics. Here’s the lead track, a cover of the immortal “Ooh Child,” and it’s shockingly good.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Washington handed Pittsburgh their first loss on home ice, beating the Pens 3-1 on Tuesday night. Washington’s Vitek Vanecek made 26 saves on the way to the win. Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese scored the third period goal that saved the Pens from being blanked.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.