Joe Walsh: In 2016, I was a proud ‘deplorable.’ In 2019, I’ll gladly be ‘human scum.’


Joe Walsh

Opinion contributor

Published 3: 15 AM EDT Nov 1, 2019

President Donald Trump has never bitten his tongue when lashing out against those he perceives to be standing between him and personal gain. So it was not surprising last week when the president felt threatened enough by the looming perils to his presidency (and legacy) to blast Never Trump Republicans as “human scum.”  

What is surprising is how quick hard-core Trump supporters were to excuse the very behavior from Trump that they were appalled by in his political rival just a few short years ago.

It was in September 2016, the final days of that presidential election season, that Hillary Clinton described half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” This was beyond candidate gaffes of election cycles past, like Mitt Romney’s “47%” blunder four years earlier or even when John Kerry, a decade before, had dishonored our troops by suggesting that it was those who don’t study hard and “make an effort to be smart” who “get stuck in Iraq.”

No, this was a person who was asking to be the elected leader of our country while simultaneously impugning those of us who would dare oppose her as “deplorables.” 

At the time, many Americans rightly recognized Clinton’s comments as a gross mischaracterization of Republican voters — there were many good reasons to vote against Clinton in 2016, as I did. By uttering those words, she signaled she would do more to divide us as a country than unite us. 

You already know how that election turned out for her. 

Trump turns on his own party

Now, in his greatest moment of fear yet, as his presidency crumbles beneath his feet, Trump is harnessing that same sort of divisive language. This time, he’s directing it not against rivals across the aisle, but at anyone in his own party who would dare to question him.

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Trump has good reason to be fearful. The reelection landscape for Trump looks awfully different from when I announced my candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in August. Not only is the president on the brink of being impeached and possibly removed from office, a majority of registered voters support the inquiry, including a gradually increasing number of Republicans. Trump is losing in the vast majority of general election polls against Democratic primary challengers, and the Democratic Party has not even selected a nominee yet.

In Trump’s twisted reality, anyone who flags questionable behavior, such as pointing out that we should trust our own intelligence community over dictators or asking foreign governments to interfere in our election, is a “Never Trumper.” Some of these so-called Never Trumpers are people who were appointed by his own administration. In Trump’s dystopian worldview, any dissent means disloyalty — and moreover, that the dissenters themselves are “human scum.”

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That is an attitude that reflects a feeble-minded insecurity by a person so terrified of losing that he will go to the ends of the earth to smear his opponents. Just as Trump’s “human scum” epithet reflects his fear, the behavior of those closest to him does as well.

Republican Party is falling in line

Five state Republican parties have already canceled their primaries. Campaigns challenging Trump in the primary have been locked out of access to resources from the Republican National Committee that primary candidates might normally enjoy, such as access to data files, fundraising prospect lists and technology. 

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Presidential reelection campaigns used to be the time for leaders to shore up support among those in their party who may disagree with them. It was a time for coming to the table to hash out productive compromises that reflected the best interests of the American people, a time for listening tours to get the pulse of the country.

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Instead, Trump defames his rivals and quips that maybe his supporters will demand he have more than two terms. He has cowed formerly proud Republicans from challenging him, especially in public. He has drained the Republican Party of the vigor of debate and discourse; he has abandoned the principles that used to be our lodestars — open trade, responsible budgets, secure but humane borders, tax reforms that reward hardworking families, an acknowledgement of empirical scientific data, just to name a few. He has doubled down in defending some of his most corrupt practices.

If this is how Trump behaves when he’s under the microscope and losing ground, what would a second-term Trump presidency look like post-reelection? Would his increasingly erratic behavior become all the more so? Would he even turn on his closest aides, including those who now senselessly defend his decisions to privilege dictators over American intelligence, to pursue financial arrangements that enrich his family on our dime, to collude with foreign governments against our own? It is disturbing to think of where that outcome would leave all of us.

Voters have a choice in 2020

I know that a lot of our families are having the same conversations around their kitchen tables expressing a wish for the Republican Party to return to our principles. I know these feel like desperate times, but we are not powerless in this. Trump is losing support by the day, and a majority of states will still hold primaries in 2020.

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I’m challenging this president in the Republican primary because I think the crisis he poses is not insurmountable. I’m challenging him because I want to give the American people hope that they can have a viable choice in 2020 — this does not have to be a choice for Republican voters between the far-left’s penchant for socialism and Trump’s passion for despotism. 

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I know my message to “Be Brave” is resonating because I’m asking all Americans, especially Republican primary voters, to say publicly what we all know privately: Trump has shown himself to be a thin-skinned megalomaniac, he is threatening the very fabric of our democracy, and we cannot afford four more years of him. 

In 2016, I wore the label “deplorable” like a badge of honor because I knew it reflected Clinton’s elitist preference for the political establishment over hardworking patriotic Americans. Trump has dubbed those of us who question him “human scum” because he knows we are not powerless to take our country back, and he fears his reign may be coming to an end. I’m proud to be called “human scum,” and as I continue to campaign around this great nation, I will wear that title as a badge of honor in my campaign for a better party and a better America.

Joe Walsh is a former Republican congressman, representing Illinois from 2011 to 2012. He is a Republican candidate for president in 2020. Follow him on Twitter: @WalshFreedom

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