Former GOP Congressman: ‘Republicans Have Thrown Acid On The Constitution’
Former Republican Rep. Wayne Gilchrest minced precisely zero words when he spoke to The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Rodricks last week, telling the columnist that “Senate Republicans have just thrown acid on the parchment the Constitution is written on.”
Gilchrest was referring to Republicans’ vote against hearing new witnesses at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, which saw only two GOP senators vote in favor of allowing new testimony.
Singling out Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who is retiring at the end of this term and cast a key vote on the issue, Gilchrest said: “Lamar Alexander will never be seen as having integrity again.”
Alexander acknowledged that House Democrats had proved their case: President Trump did in fact attempt to shake down the Ukrainian government, withholding nearly $400 billion in military aid in order to extract an investigation that would prove damaging to his Democratic political opponent.
But while it was inappropriate, Alexander claimed, Trump’s misconduct did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense.
Gilchrest expressed his disgust with such reasoning and waxed nostalgic for a time when Republicans in Washington carried themselves differently.
“I knew some of those senators when we were in the House together,” the former congressman, who represented Maryland’s 1st District from 1991 to 2009, told Rodricks. “They came in with a really strong thing called ‘family values’ and now they’re all in for Trump.”
He said that the Senate’s decline has been a long time coming, adding that it is now far from being a “place where grownups reflect, debate, deliberate and lead.”
Gilchrest, a Vietnam veteran, was ousted from his seat by Tea Party Republican a decade ago, but he saw the party begin its descent more than a decade before, pointing to the rise of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995 as a pivotal moment.
Now, he does not seem to think much of many who serve in Congress.
“You think these are people of substance, but they are not smart, and they don’t care about public policy,” he said. “They just put on a suit and spout talking points. … They don’t do research. They have their minions getting them coffee and lunch and handing them speeches. It’s like an assisted living facility.”
What to do now? Gilchrest said it is imperative that the people of the United States speak up and demand to be heard.
“We have to keep speaking out as citizens,” he told Rodricks. “It’s not a time to be quiet. And we have to start teaching kids about democracy. You know, ignorance and democracy are not compatible. I didn’t come up with that, someone else did. But it’s true. … Democracy can crumble. It’s not set in stone. It depends on people with integrity, morals and competence.”
Gilchrest no longer recognizes those traits in the Republican Party, which is why he left the GOP to join the Democrats. The move came as he listened to the widow of his former colleague Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) speaking at an event last year. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings is now a candidate in the special election to decide her late husband’s successor.
“It was last spring or summer,” Gilchrest said. “I felt close again to Elijah’s deep courage and integrity, morality and justice, and therefore compelled to leave the Republican Party, lacking in all four.”