The Associated Press headlines, gleefully: “Republicans jumping ship amid dissatisfaction in Trump era.” This is part of the AP’s daily campaign against President Trump; it sounds as though people are abandoning the GOP in droves.
Actually, the point is much more limited:
Veteran Republicans are bailing on Congress in growing numbers, as GOP control of Washington fails to produce the unity or legislative successes party leaders wish for. With President Donald Trump willing, if not eager, to buck fellow Republicans and even directly attack them, a number of lawmakers no longer wish to be involved.
So, how many do these “growing numbers” of Republicans who won’t seek re-election in 2018 add up to? Four.
[Rep. Dave Trott of Michigan] joins a string of moderate Republicans, including Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Dave Reichert of Washington state and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who are not seeking re-election.
Is four an impressive number, out of a GOP House caucus of 240?
No. First of all, there are quite a few more retirements than that coming up, as usual. 270 to Win reported a few weeks ago that 21 House members, 13 Republicans and 8 Democrats, had announced retirements from the house at the end of 2018. Of these, eight are retiring to run for governor of their state, while five are running for the Senate. Some are just retiring. This source thinks that six of the seats at issue will be competitive in 2018, four currently held by the GOP and two by the Democrats.
How do the four retirements highlighted by the AP compare with past election cycles? In 2016, according to Open Secrets, 18 Republican House members and 7 Democrats retired at the end of the session. In 2014, according to the Washington Post, it was 15 Republicans and 12 Democrats.
So there is nothing unusual about the number of Republicans who have announced retirements this year.
In recent cycles, it seems that more Republicans than Democrats have voluntarily retired from the House. Why? I don’t know. Maybe more Republicans believe in term limits. Maybe Republicans are less infatuated with government. Maybe Republicans have better opportunities in the private sector. Maybe more Republicans have good opportunities to run for statewide office.
In any event, one thing is clear: the voluntary retirement of four GOP House members is not evidence of “Republicans jumping ship amid dissatisfaction in Trump era.” That is just the Associated Press pushing the Democratic Party’s line, as it does 365 days a year.