The call for a new Republican
Updated: May 17, 2022
Former Congressman (R - IL) and current conservative radio show host Joe Walsh is someone I remember having intense feelings about for nearly four years. Him being a Tea Party conservative and me leaning left is an obvious sign of political disagreement, but I had always thought of him as someone who cared more for voting for a candidate who aligned with his own party, rather than his own beliefs.
As recently as the end of 2016, Walsh accused Obama of "hating Israel because he's a Muslim." Leading up to the 2016 presidential election, he showed support for then-candidate Donald Trump. In October, he went so far as to tweet that "On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket." His list of provocative actions and remarks extends far beyond just those two incidents, but there has recently been a shift in his tone.
I was a bit taken aback when I first saw it: Walsh, a staunch Trump supporter who even said he would bring his musket if Clinton were elected president (which I would hope was a hyperbole on his part), was now calling out Republicans for not taking a stand against Trump and prioritizing party over policy. After the Helsinki Summit in July 2018, where Trump sided with Putin instead of the FBI regarding potential collusion during the 2016 election, any shred of support that Walsh had for Trump was eviscerated. A man that he once defended relentlessly was now "a man that [he] will never support again" and "a traitor to this country." Since then, Walsh has stuck to his guns with his conservative values, but his criticism of the president has remained unchanged.
On Aug. 14, Walsh published an op-ed for the New York Times titled "Trump Needs a Primary Challenge." He points out how Trump is not only a bad conservative but a bad actor on the political stage. Walsh saw how his former Republican colleagues, who had wanted to minimize the national debt and executive power during the Obama administration, were now allowing the debt to balloon under the Trump administration without so much as a "word of protest." Throughout the op-ed, he criticized Trump on everything from his lack of understanding of trade to his racist and nativist remarks towards four congresswomen.
Walsh also addressed his personal controversies regarding personal attacks against his political opponents and questioning Obama's religious beliefs. In an interview with CNN regarding his op-ed, Walsh even apologizes for playing a role in helping elect Trump. Admitting his regret and apologizing for his previous wrongdoings was a vulnerable move on his part, but what caught me off guard the most was him not only addressing his mistakes, but calling them a precedent for Trump's rhetoric and leadership. In the op-ed, he described the current administration as "the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade."
At the end of the op-ed, he calls for a right-wing contender who "could stand up, look the president in the eye and say: 'Enough, sir. We’ve had enough of your indecency. We’ve had enough of your lies, your bullying, your cruelty, enough of your insults, your daily drama, your incitement, enough of the danger you place this country in every single day. We don’t want any of this anymore, and the country certainly can’t stand four more years of it.'"
Perhaps him apologizing for helping Trump get elected is his way of hiding the skeletons in the closet. Only Walsh knows his own motives, and it is not up to me to forgive him for his past actions. The cynical part of me believes he's currently trying to save face and perhaps become more visible in the public sphere. However, I don't know if a public stunt to gain traction for a conservative talk show would go to this extent for over a year. Regardless, the fact that someone whose support for a single candidate once seemed unmalleable but is now shattered leads me to wonder where the tipping point for conservativism lies. The ex-GOP and the Never Trump Republicans have definitely been a quieter minority within the party, but part of me is hopeful that enough of them can create an opening for a candidate who can represent their ideas. Maybe we can have a candidate who can change the channel from the White House edition of The Apprentice. Or maybe I'm just too optimistic.