It feels odd to find myself appreciating Joe Walsh for a change. I expect the feeling to pass. Walsh goes through more changes than Lady
Gaga’s wardrobe on an awards night.
No, I am not talking about the lead guitarist for the Eagles. I’m talking about the Joe Walsh who is less known for his peaceful, easy feelings.
Walsh, the former tea party-
backed, one-term congressman from Illinois, announced recently that he is returning to the campaign trail, this time in a long-shot challenge to President Donald Trump in the Grand Old Party’s primaries next year.
With Trump’s overall approval ratings among Republicans at 88% in the latest Gallup Poll, Walsh’s chances for success look about as bleak as those of a chicken at KFC.
Yet with Trump’s overall approval at 41%, despite the mostly healthy economy, it would be an unnatural act for all of his party’s presidential wannabes to pass up this chance to take him on, even when it risks creating more enemies than friends in their own party.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld was first to announce his bid. Others known to be considering the GOP race include Mark Sanford, former governor and congressman from South Carolina, and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
As a patriotic American, I appreciate all candidates who exercise their civic duty by running for office, even when I don’t necessarily agree with their politics.
In that sense, I appreciate Walsh’s entry because, first of all, Republicans who tell me they support Trump because their party hasn’t offered much of an alternative yet deserve to have one.
More than the moderate, pragmatic and well-experienced Republican hopefuls I mentioned above, Walsh comes from the same angry firebrand populist right-wing that comprises much of Trump’s base.
But I also don’t expect my appreciation for Walsh to last. For one thing, he is so full of surprises that he almost makes Trump look like the “stable genius” that Trump claims to be.
For example, Walsh launched his campaign with a welcome apology, of sorts, effectively
repudiating much of what he said about former President Barack Obama and others in his years as a congressman and a radio talk show host.
During an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on Aug. 25, Walsh expressed regret that he “helped create Trump,” sometimes “went beyond the policy and idea differences, and I got personal and it got hateful.”
Indeed Walsh pushed the same “birther” conspiracy theories that Trump infamously did and falsely called Obama a Muslim as recently as December 2016. He didn’t get around to apologizing for a tweet Stephanopoulos brought up that said Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California “can say dumb things” and get away with it because she’s a black woman.
But to go through all of Walsh’s past incendiary remarks about race, urban crime and underdeveloped countries (about which Walsh used the same barnyard language that had been attributed to Trump), would take all day.
Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party has been so effective that party leaders are expected to erect further structural safeguards, if necessary, to protect his expected nomination. That’s prudent, since every incumbent president, beginning with Gerald Ford in 1976, who has faced a serious primary opponent was weakened enough to lose reelection.
I expect Trump may simply ignore his GOP competitors, however many there may be, and get away with it. At least, Walsh took Trump’s divisive remarks and refusal to apologize to task, which moves the ethical ball in the right direction.
He may not have a prayer of winning the nomination, but Walsh could give his fellow Republicans a place on the ballot to express their dissatisfaction with how their party is being defined by the incumbent at the top of the ballot.
Yet, I am also wary of Walsh’s fast whip-around in his espoused beliefs and approach to politics. His reputed soul-searching comes at election time a little too conveniently for comfort. Such is the consequence of the steady creep by show business into our politics and governance, first in the television age and now in the Twitter age.
It is an age in which the most startling and angry voices along the right-left battle lines crowd out such niceties as reason, civility and compromise. Sometimes the noise is enough to make me long for the other Joe Walsh.