Editorial Roundup: Missouri

Kansas City Star. November 15, 2022.

Editorial: A question for the GOP in Kansas, Missouri and beyond: Are we still the Party of Trump?

For many Americans, Donald Trump’s decision to run for president means two more years of the mercurial former president’s exhausting approach to politics: exaggerations, falsehoods, crude language and disregard for the law.

For most Republicans, on the other hand, Trump’s campaign, announced Tuesday, is welcome and necessary. It’s a moment of fundamental decision: Are we Trump, or are we something else?

The GOP’s answer to those questions is, at this hour, unclear. “America’s comeback starts right now,” Trump said Tuesday, announcing his presidential campaign in a familiar blizzard of half-truths and unsubstantiated claims.

As they have since 2015, many Republicans have fallen into line. “I am proud to endorse Donald J. Trump for President in 2024,” Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York said in a statement. “We shouldn’t bench our star quarterback at halftime,” wrote Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida (although, interestingly, Gaetz backed out of attending Trump’s presidential announcement.)

Others have been more circumspect. Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Cornyn of Texas said they won’t endorse anyone until the nominating process ends. “I want someone who is going to unite our party,” GOP Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said.

Still others have pursued the nihilist approach. Missouri’s own Sen. Josh Hawley suggests the GOP should be “blown up,” replaced by, er, something. “We are not a majority party,” he said this week, “unless we can appeal to (working class) voters.”

(We’re pretty sure those voters aren’t fond of raised fists and insurrection, or senators who skedaddle when the heat is on. Or senators who allegedly break the law.)

Florida Sen. Rick Scott, blamed by some for the party’s failure at the polls, decided to challenge Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, blamed by some for his party’s failure at the polls. The battle over a new House speaker is lining up as a Trump-no Trump affair.

All of this reflects a deep confusion in the Republican Party about the meaning of Trump, and what was learned during the chaotic four years of his presidency. Well-known conservative voices — The Wall Street Journal, Fox News, National Review, others — have gazed into the anti-Trump future, and like what they see. Some seem less convinced.

The party must spend the months ahead examining those years, and Trump’s behavior during his time in the White House and beyond, and then make up its mind: Should we embrace Trump’s shambling populist approach, or no?

Alternatives are available. Some are Trump dressed in a better suit. Other candidates are thoughtful and focused, ready to endorse mainstream Republicanism (and even some Trump policy positions) while shedding Trump’s penchant for humiliation and casual deceit.

We hope these discussions include a reflection on what voters said in the midterm elections. As it now stands, Republicans will have a slight majority in the U.S. House, and remain a minority in the Senate.

That’s hardly a repudiation of the Republican message, but it isn’t a ringing endorsement of the party either. Trump-backed candidates who embraced the Big Lie, or who danced with QAnon kookiness, or who tried to be Trumpier than Trump largely failed, up and down the ballot.

Voters were extraordinarily clear: Candidates should focus on real problems, actual solutions, and compromise. Americans are tired of bombast and foolishness. There is no time to waste. There is no room for politicians who waste it.

Where does Donald Trump fit into all of this? Republicans must now figure that out. Every elected Republican should now state clearly whether he or she backs the former president, and why — or why not. (Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas declined to comment, his typical posture. Sen.-elect Eric Schmitt of Missouri was equally dumbfounded.)

Speeches will be made. Debates will be held. Finally, votes will be taken. And we’ll know, one way or another.

That’s how it still works in this country, whether Donald Trump and his followers know it or not.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch. November 18, 2022.

Editorial: Hawley opines on midterm disappointments as if he had no role in GOP setbacks

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who has spent the past six years proudly cheerleading Donald Trump’s extreme right radicalism, now acknowledges that something isn’t working with that GOP formula. His acknowledgment follows a dismal midterm performance in which Trump-backed candidates were repudiated by voters across the country, with exit polls indicating that political violence and democracy denialism were among the primary voter turnoffs. Hawley, Missouri’s junior senator, served as the poster child for violence and democracy denial with his fist-pump encouragement of Capitol insurrectionists and his fiction-based Senate-floor challenge of the 2020 election results.

But rather than acknowledge how his own errors contributed to his party’s loss of voter confidence, Hawley is pointing the finger everywhere else. Our longtime policy is not to give Missouri politicians — Democrats or Republicans — unfettered access to our op-ed pages unless they also agree to a sit-down meeting to answer our questions directly. We ask difficult, uncomfortable questions, and Hawley joins the likes of St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and Missouri Representatives Cori Bush and Ann Wagner in refusing to answer our questions. Nonetheless, we’re publishing on Sunday’s op-ed page an item Hawley wrote for The Washington Post last week in which he blames unnamed Republicans for the midterm results. We’re making this exception because Hawley’s essay cries out for response and fact-checking. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Because of Washington Post restrictions, we cannot post Hawley’s op-ed on our website. It is available in the Post-Dispatch e-edition or can be read by clicking here.)

Notably absent in comments Hawley has made since the election — including his Washington Post op-ed — is any semblance of personal accountability. It’s all about what others did to spoil the GOP’s chances and zero acknowledgment of what the party’s leadership actually accomplished. Doesn’t he stand for tighter restrictions on abortion rights? He sure did back when Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell single-handedly manipulated successive Supreme Court confirmation votes to create the conservative majority that overturned Roe v. Wade this year. And yet Hawley was one of 10 Republicans who voted last week against McConnell continuing as leader. Perhaps Hawley realizes that wholesale revocation of abortion rights wasn’t what American voters wanted.

He told KCMO radio that he thinks there needs to be a leader who “actually gets what voters want.” Everything that Hawley stood for on January 6, 2021, was exactly the opposite of what voters want. He’s the one who rolled the snowball of election denialism down the hill with his baseless challenge of the 2020 vote in Pennsylvania. He’s the one who fist-pumped encouragement to the gathering mob outside the Capitol on Jan. 6, shortly before they stormed the building, attacking police and chanting threats to hang Vice President Mike Pence and hunt down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

This was the very violence and denial of democracy that caused millions of voters to reject right-wing extremists at the polls on Nov. 8. But to read Hawley’s op-ed version, it’s as if Jan. 6 never happened: “Many Republicans are primed to learn all the wrong lessons from this cycle. Over the past week, we’ve heard this election is about nothing more than candidate quality or turnout operations. Wrong. The problem isn’t principally the tactics; the problem is the substance,” he writes.

Wrong. The election was about candidate quality (a phrase coined by McConnell). The candidates who came off as right-wing loonies were the ones voters specifically rejected as the low-quality politicians they proved themselves to be. What planet is Hawley living on?

He continues: “For the past two years, the Republican establishment in Washington has capitulated on issue after issue, caving to Democrats on the Second Amendment and on the left’s radical climate agenda.”

The only “Second Amendment” measure approved by Congress was a bill designed to keep guns out of the hands of deranged individuals by offering incentives — not requirements but incentives — for states to pass red-flag laws. Hawley apparently thinks Americans want more deranged people to shoot up schools, synagogues and shopping centers with military-style weaponry. He proposes to fund the hiring of 100,000 more police officers for American cities. Why are they needed? Because the guns he wants to put in the hands of more and more criminals and deranged people are making the streets more and more unsafe. Voters do not want this.

As for the “left’s radical climate agenda,” we will grant him an acknowledgment that Republicans are finally recognizing that wildfires raging across the western United States, more powerful hurricanes bashing the eastern United States, and deadly polar vortexes dumping sub-zero temperatures and snow across the middle United States are all connected to global climate change. Addressing climate change isn’t leftist radicalism; it’s mainstream American survivalism.

Hawley wants to boost tariffs on goods from China, conveniently sidestepping the fact that tariffs aren’t paid by foreign countries. They’re paid by U.S. importers and passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. By supporting tougher tariffs, Hawley is offering a fist-pump to higher inflation. No, this is not what American voters want.

He talks a good game about canceling foreign production in favor of consumer goods made in America while improving pay for American workers. What he doesn’t dare talk about are the astronomical prices American consumers would pay if that happened. Think inflation is bad now? Under the Hawley plan, add a few hundred percentage points to get an idea of how much worse it would be.

Hawley, an elitist Yale Law and Stanford graduate, asserts himself as spokesman for “America’s working people” as if he’s ever earned a paycheck digging a ditch or swinging a hammer.

This man is a fraud and a chameleon. He fist-pumps insurrectionists, then runs for his life as they swarm through the Capitol. He fist-pumps the American workers with hands so soft they would blister at the mere thought of performing the kinds of work that blue-collar workers and immigrants do every day.

The truth is chasing Sen. Hawley. So yes, run, Josh, run.

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St. Joseph News-Press. November 18, 2022.

Editorial: Better candidates bring better results

Every midterm election has important takeaways for both parties. In this past midterm election, like many before it, the party in power lost some ground in the House of Representatives. However, it was certainly not near the “red wave” that was expected.

Commenting on this, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, made a simple statement: “If you run bad candidates, you will get bad results.”

Christie’s comments were about the viability of the candidates, including their experience and their message. He was lamenting the “celebrity culture” approach that seemed to fall flat for the GOP in this past election. Running people with big names or whose main qualification was that they were endorsed by a big name simply did not connect with the American people. Those whose celebrity status, celebrity endorsements or controversial opinions connected enough with regional or local voters to win a primary quickly found out that in a general election the message fell flat due to a lack of deeper substance.

This is not just a GOP problem. Both Democrats and Republicans lost races that could have been slam dunks if the focus were more on relevant messages that connected with the broader needs of constituents. As two well-known currently serving GOP senators remarked, “We have to stop running with the message that we are ‘not Democrats,’ and start running again with the message of what it means to be a conservative.”

This seems to be how democracy works best and how candidates win elections over the long run: an honest, relevant and authentic message of what he or she stands for instead of simply focusing on quick sound bytes and “gotcha” politics. The latter approach can win some elections in certain places and at certain times. However, no “waves” — red or blue — tend to follow.

Also, while it is exciting to vote for the “outsider” and while there are times that outside voices are needed to break up a monotonous status quo, times of crisis call for people who are steady and experienced, and the last few years seem to be such times.

No candidate is perfect. However, riding the wave of celebrity will not lead to consistent wins when it counts. Both parties are finding that out, and one party found it out the hard way.

END