© 2023 Cincinnati Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Commentary: Ohio GOP Forms A 'Circular Firing Squad'

anthony gonzalez
Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020.

A warning to all Republicans of good conscience who might be asking themselves if this trip to Trump World over the past six years has really been worth the anger and the chaos it caused: keep your thoughts to yourself.

Don't let the Dear Leader, the Master of Mar-a-Lago, catch wind of your seditious thoughts or you, too, could find yourself drummed out of the Republican Party for being a traitor to the cause.

There is only room for the thoughts of the man who skulks in his Florida resort, issuing press releases calling himself "45." Any other thoughts are forbidden. It is futile to resist the Dear Leader.

And if you think the above description is more apt for a cult than a political party, you would be correct.

Because, if you are a Republican in 2021, you are a member of a cult of personality. One personality.

Just ask Liz Cheney, the third ranking Republican in the U.S. House, who was ousted from her leadership position by the House Republican caucus in a closed door vote Wednesday. Or ask Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, the congressman from the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River.

Gonzalez is a rare bird in Ohio GOP politics in that the grandson of Cuban immigrants is not just another white guy in a suit (like all of his colleagues in Ohio's Republican congressional caucus). He is also a former wide receiver for the Ohio State Buckeyes football team under Coach Jim Tressel and a first-round draft pick who played five seasons for the Indianapolis Colts before leaving for the Stanford Business School and a career in the technology industry.

Sounds like the perfect candidate for a district in a heavily Democratic region of northeast Ohio, doesn't it?

Well, yes, it does. But not to the Ohio Republican Party's central committee, which exists in some kind of Bizarro World, where up is down and down is up and not a single thing makes a lick of sense.

Last weekend, the 66 solons of the Ohio GOP met virtually for the purpose of voting to censure Gonzalez and nine other GOP House members from around the country for the mortal sin of joining with House Democrats to impeach Donald Trump as he was leaving office.

As if censure weren't enough, a majority of the committee also voted for a resolution calling on Gonzalez to resign from his 16th Congressional District seat, as if the question of whether Gonzalez stays or goes was actually in their hands instead of those of the good people of the 16th District.

It is positively Orwellian.

"If you could have engineered the perfect candidate for that district, you would have come out with an Anthony Gonzalez,'' said David Niven, professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati. "And this is the candidate the Ohio Republican Party wants to run out of town. What could they possibly be thinking?" 

Thinking, I am afraid, doesn't enter into it. Serving the Dear Leader and his petty whims is all that matters.

This is the same bunch whose top two U.S. Senate candidates, former Ohio GOP chairwoman Jane Timken and former state treasurer Josh Mandel, recently crawled on their hands and knees to Trump's inner sanctum at Mar-a-Lago, bowing and scraping and begging their lord and master for his endorsement.

Pathetic. Pitiful.

"Where does it stop?'' Niven asked. "When you throw everybody overboard because they are not perfectly in line with Trump, what do you have left? Nothing.

"All this party is doing now is forming a circular firing squad,'' Niven said. "There is absolutely no interest among these people in growing the Republican Party."

Alex Triantafilou, the chairman of the Hamilton County Republican Party, is a member of the Ohio GOP's state central committee and was on the call for the virtual meeting. He said he voted for censure but had to get off the call before he was called on to vote on the resolution asking Gonzalez to resign.

"I'm not sure what I would have done on that,'' said Triantafilou. "Calling on him to resign seems like a bridge too far. I honestly don't know what I would have done."

Triantafilou does want to grow the base of the GOP, but efforts along those lines are generally stymied by this cult of Trump.

This party that was so quick to censure Gonzalez and demand his resignation has taken no action to censure Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who stands accused of running a nearly $61 million bribery scheme to pass and defend a $1 billion nuclear bailout.

After his arrest last summer, Republican leaders from around the state called on Householder to resign from the Ohio House. But only the Republican-controlled House can do that. And while he is no longer Speaker, the GOP majority in the Ohio House has not tossed him out on his ear.

Too bad Householder has never bad-mouthed Donald Trump. Then we'd be rid of him.

Here’s the truth of the matter: If the Republican Party doesn't get over this Trump thing sometime in the near future, it is going to become simply the party of angry white males. A cult, if you will. And cults don't win many elections.

And while cults often go off and light up the night sky like bottle rockets, they also eventually fizzle out and fall to Earth, spent and useless.

politically speaking 2
Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

  Read more "Politically Speaking" here.


Howard Wilkinson is in his 50th year of covering politics on the local, state and national levels.