New York Republican Rep. John Katko’s surprise retirement announcement Friday is simply the latest proof that there’s no room in the Republican Party for people who are insufficiently loyal to former President Donald Trump.
Katko is one of 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for his actions (and inaction) during the January 6 riot at the US Capitol. He is now one of three – Reps. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois are the others – who have announced they will leave Congress at the end of this term.
The reality for Republicans right now is that breaking with Trump – especially in such a high-profile way as the impeachment vote – is political poison. And the former President himself will try to make you drink it.
“1 down, 9 to go!” Trump said in a statement released after Gonzalez’s announcement. “2 down, 8 to go!” he said following Kinzinger’s decision. “Great news, another one bites the dust,” the former President said in reaction to Katko’s news.
Putting aside the three retiring members, the remaining seven are also in varying degrees of political peril.
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney has already been stripped of her leadership role after her outspoken critique of Trump and is fighting for her political life against a Trump-endorsed opponent.
The former President has also endorsed primary challengers to Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, Peter Meijer of Michigan and Fred Upton of Michigan. (Upton remains a retirement possibility as well.)
The message here is simple: Break with Trump and watch your political career end (or face the toughest primary challenge you can imagine). It’s not exactly an incentive for elected officials to voice any critique or difference of opinion with the former President.
The Point: The current Republican Party much more closely resembles a cult of personality than it does a national political organization. And every time one of the “Trump 10” bows out, the former President’s grip on the party gets a little tighter.