“I don’t believe he can ever be president again,” Gonzalez told The New York Times of Trump. “Most of my political energy will be spent working on that exact goal.” Of the broader GOP, Gonzalez said. “politically the environment is so toxic, especially in our own party right now.”
Know what else is true? That Gonzalez, by retiring from Congress, hands Trump (and the Trump wing in Congress) yet another win, a further demonstration that crossing the former president always ends badly for those who do it.
Gonzalez, a former star wide receiver at Ohio State University, was widely seen as a rising star in the party — both in the state and nationally — when he was elected in 2018. But unlike the vast majority of his House Republican colleagues, Gonzalez never gave over to the utter fealty demanded by Trump. And in the wake of the January 6 riot at the US Capitol, Gonzalez was one of 10 House Republicans who voted with Democrats to impeach the President.
Gonzalez’s decision to walk away rather than fight back will be taken a win by Trump and his forces. In fact, the president was already busy taking a victory lap Friday morning.
So while Gonzalez’s retirement is being touted in some circles as an act of principle, the practical political effect of his decision is the opposite.
Rather than seeing Gonzalez as someone who stood up to Trump, the Trump base will cast him as a coward who ran away because he couldn’t win. A symbol of what happens when you cross the president. The latest in a long line of politicians, which began with then-Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake way back in 2017, who have learned that there is no future within the Republican Party for those who are willing to speak out against Trump.
“We’ve learned the wrong lesson as a party,” Gonzalez told the Times, “but beyond that, and more importantly, it’s horribly irresponsible and destructive for the country.”
His retirement empowers those irresponsible and destructive forces.