Just when you thought nobody could possibly make American politics more ridiculous, Joe Walsh steps up, says “hold my beer,” and contributes even more frivolity to the American political theater stage. The former congressman and radio talk show host recently announced that he is running for president and intends to challenge President Donald Trump in the primaries.
After you stop laughing, it might be instructive to take a closer look at Walsh’s announcement, the potential motivation behind his “run,” and what it says about the nature of today’s political discourse. Then you might want to crack open a beer yourself.
Walsh Says He’s Sorry
Walsh made his announcement during an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. Walsh slammed Trump, saying “I’m running because he’s unfit; somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative. The country is sick of this guy’s tantrum – he’s a child.”
While viewers likely wondered how Stephanopoulos kept a straight face during the conversation, the journalist referenced Walsh’s past incendiary comments: “You said you want to make the case against the president. The question is, are you the best messenger?”
That’s when it got interesting. Walsh apologized for contributing to the decline in political discourse. “I helped create Trump,” he told Stephanopoulos. “And, George, that’s not an easy thing to say.” The former talk show host, who was elected to Congress during the rise of the Tea Party movement, said he “wanted to shake Washington up” and “went beyond the policy and the idea differences, and I got personal, and I got hateful.”
Then, Walsh expressed contrition. “I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret,” he said. “And it’s difficult, but I think that helped create Trump. And I feel responsible for that.” Walsh previously had promoted the unproven allegation that Obama was secretly a Muslim infiltrating the United States.
Stephanopoulos asked if Walsh truly believed Obama was a Muslim. “God, no,” Walsh replied. “And I have apologized for that. And that’s not an easy thing to do, not at all.”
But Walsh’s past might be even more problematic. Indeed, some of his previous comments are so egregious, they make Trump look like a purple-haired social justice warrior protesting at a free speech rally.
Can Never Trump Make a Comeback?
Since Trump won in 2016, there have been calls for a primary challenge in 2020 from Republicans who did not support him. Charlie Sykes, Bill Kristol, and the rest of the Never Trump gang were desperate to find someone on the right who could bring the GOP back to a sense of normalcy. But in the end, they were nothing more than the conservative version of “Orange Man Bad.”
The Bulwark, the conservative anti-Trump news outlet that rose from the ashes of the recently departed Weekly Standard, had Walsh on its latest podcast, which went something like this:
Charlie Sykes: Trump is so horrible and dumb.
Guest: Yes, he is, and his supporters are horrible and dumb, too.
Charlie Sykes: Yes, they are all dumb. But we are smart because we don’t like Trump.
Guest: Yes, our Trump hatred makes us brilliant.
Come to think of it, that’s pretty much how all their podcast episodes go. But do they really think Walsh has even a small chance of defeating or even damaging Trump in the 2020 primaries? In fact, Stephanopoulos was right to question if the former congressman is the right vessel to excoriate Trump’s least desirable tendencies. After a quick look at Walsh’s comments on social media and on the air reveals that he would be far worse for the party than Trump
As discussed in the ABC News interview, Walsh has made a series of controversial and racially insensitive comments. In 2014, he tweeted: “It makes Dems seethe and my fellow Repubs uncomfortable when I say it out loud, but so what? It explains everything. Barack Obama is Muslim.”
But that’s not all. When Walsh lost his radio gig, he posted a series of tweets lamenting his fate and used racial epithets to make his point. “Found out if I said Redskins or Cracker or Redneck Bible Thumper, I could stay on,” he wrote. “But if I said N****r or Sp**k, they cut me off.”
He also tweeted: “How many fans would the Washington Dirty Micks have? How about the Washington N*****rs? Zero. So…every Washington Redskins fan is a racist?”
He really likes that “n-word,” doesn’t he? But these are only a few of the strident remarks Walsh has made over the years, and there is no chance that the controversies will go away. Indeed, if you think the left has been out of control with its race-baiting against Trump, imagine what would happen if Walsh got any momentum.
Given the fact that there is no chance for Walsh to beat Trump in the primaries, one might wonder why he is running. After all, it doesn’t seem likely that he actually believes he has a chance. While we can’t read Walsh’s mind, and would likely become mentally damaged beyond repair if we tried, his motivations might be simple.
It seems Walsh might have calculated it is more politically beneficial to turn on Trump, especially if he believes the Democrats will win the presidency in 2020. He is not the first high-profile Trump supporter to abandon the president. Former White House Press Secretary Anthony Scaramucci recently came out against him. It seems the move is inspired more by a desire to be seen positively by the press than by sincere opposition to Trump saying mean stuff on Twitter. After all, Walsh and the Mooch knew exactly who Trump was when they supported him.
As 2020 approaches, others may jump off the Trump train. Polls showing Trump losing to several Democratic candidates were the election held today might push others to turn on the president as well. But such polls come far too early to make solid predictions. Moreover, Trump’s approval ratings are better than they have been. Perhaps Walsh’s about-face might have been too hasty.