Rep. Paul Mitchell: "I've had enough" and I'm leaving the GOP

First Justin Amash, now Mitchell. What’s in the water in Michigan that’s making Republican pols there take their civic duties a bit more seriously than in the rest of the country?

Even Mitt Romney’s a Michigan native, for cripes sake.

Mitchell’s doubly insulated from Trumpist blowback, though. For one thing, he’s filthy rich. If he doesn’t work another day in his life, he’ll be just fine. For another, he’s retiring from Congress. He got elected in 2016, quickly soured on the institution as any right-thinking person would, and declared last year that he wouldn’t run again. It’s noteworthy, if not at all surprising, that the members of Congress who have been most outspoken about accepting the election results over the past month are all en route to the exit. Pat Toomey has already announced that he won’t run for election in 2022 and Lamar Alexander will end his long political career in a few weeks. “It looks very much like the electors will vote for Joe Biden,” said Alexander yesterday on “Meet the Press.” “And when they do, I hope that he puts the country first — mean, the president — that he takes pride in his considerable accomplishments, that he congratulates the president-elect and he helps him get off to a good start, especially in the middle of this pandemic.” That’s … unlikely, but the thought is nice.

Mitchell hasn’t hidden his displeasure about the “stop the steal” saga on Twitter, making today’s official break with the party something of a fait accompli:

Today he sent a letter to RNC chief Ronna McDaniel declaring himself an ex-Republican. The straw that broke the camel’s back, it seems, was the Texas lawsuit that aimed to disenfranchise millions of swing-state voters. More than a hundred of Mitchell’s Republican House colleagues disgracefully endorsed that effort.

It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote. Further, it is unacceptable for the president to attack the Supreme Court of the United States because its judges, both liberal and conservative, did not rule with his side or that “the Court failed him.” It was our Founding Fathers’ objective to insulate the Supreme Court from such blatant political motivations.

If Republican leaders collectively sit back and tolerate unfounded conspiracy theories and “stop the steal” rallies without speaking out for our electoral process, which the Department of Homeland Security said was “the most secure in American history,” our nation will be damaged. I have spoken out clearly and forcefully in opposition to these messages. However, with the leadership of the Republican Party and our Republican Conference in the House actively participating in at least some of those efforts, I fear long-term harm to our democracy.

“Long-term harm”? The American experiment is already over, my man. All that’s at stake now is the timeline of the great unwinding. If the Court had sided with Texas, that would already be under way. As is it, we have a few more years.

Before you watch Mitchell speak to Jake Tapper today on CNN, watch one of the more interesting figures in the GOP comment yesterday on the “absurdity” of the Trump legal effort to overturn the election. What’s gotten into this guy lately?

Christie is, or was, still close enough to Trump to have helped him with debate prep this fall but his criticism lately has been forthright, if polite. Did his bout with COVID lead him to reprioritize some things after he recovered? I don’t know what his angle is otherwise. Not that there’s a big political future for him in New Jersey, but alienating Trump fans is a weird play for a guy known as a former prominent Republican official.

I don’t think he has an angle. I think he just feels a duty to call this out.

Same with Mitchell, who’s now an independent. His criticism of Trump didn’t start recently, though. From a WaPo story published in July 2019:

Moments after Trump’s July 14 missive telling four U.S. congresswomen of color to “go back” to their countries of origin, [Mitchell] phoned a fellow House GOP leader and asked him to get Trump to stop. “It’s the wrong thing for a leader to say,” he told the leader, whom he declined to name. “It’s politically damaging to the party, to the country.”

Three days later, Mitchell was awaiting a prime-time CNN appearance when he saw footage of Trump rallygoers chanting “send her back,” aimed at one of the congresswomen, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Stunned, Mitchell said he scribbled question marks on a notepad to silently ask an aide: “How do I even respond to this on TV?”

But one of the final straws was the unwillingness of people in Trump’s orbit to listen. Mitchell implored Vice President Pence, his chief of staff, Marc Short, and “any human being that has any influence in the White House” to arrange a one-on-one conversation between him and the president so he could express his concerns.

It was just 10 days later that he announced his retirement. The easy and likely correct explanation for today’s announcement is that he’s on the level, a conciliator trapped in an era of bitter, sometimes delusional culture war. He found himself part of two failing, increasingly embarrassing institutions — Congress and the Republican Party — and decided to parachute out. Seems logical enough.