I’m positive that not one reader knows the name Lou Wolfe, an obscure state legislator from Plattsburgh. Lou was a great roommate for our group of freshman legislators from Long Island back in the 1960s. Although he came from a very conservative area of the state, he managed to get elected because he campaigned as an independent.
In 1968, then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller proposed the original version of what would become Medicaid. It was a bold move, but in the view of conservatives, this was a government giveaway. On the night of the big vote, we warned Lou that if he voted “yes,” he probably wouldn’t get re-elected. But he told us that the leadership wanted it, and he would go along and back them. Because Lou was one of the deciding votes on the passage of the bill, he was soundly defeated eight months later when he ran for re-election.
The reason I tell this story is because I watch the daily activities of the Republican Party in Washington and wonder if they understand the political climate in 2018 and the perils they face because of their rigid, unquestioned support of President Trump. The party has a long history of being in lockstep with its president, but there are millions of voters who consider themselves independent, and therein lies the danger for the Republicans.
Any elected official who represents a congressional district that changes support from election to election should be concerned about slavishly supporting a president who continues to confuse the world and his country about what he will do or say the next time he opens his mouth. The Helsinki meeting, which has been described by many elected officials in both parties as a disaster, should make some legislators think twice about continuing to follow their president at any cost.
If you take an objective look at developments around the country, there are a number of movements leaning toward supporting Democratic candidates in the upcoming election. The female voters of this country are more energized than at any time in history, and their passion can’t be ignored. The pending confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who is expected to support an attack on Roe v. Wade is stirring up enormous concern among voters in both major parties.
America’s relationship with its European allies has been badly fractured by continuous verbal attacks by the president. His insistence that those countries put up more money for defense is fair, but when he won his argument, there was no reason to keep shaming the alliance. His specific attack on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in an attempt to stir up anger against her in her country, is outrageous.
As for his assaults on NATO, how do you criticize an organization that gave America enormous support in the aftermath of 9/11? In fact, to date the United States is the only major NATO member that has ever invoked the organization’s agreement to provide support for any member that suffers a national tragedy. Not every American voter is focused on foreign affairs, but the voting public isn’t stupid, and knows that any democratic nation needs all the help it can get in times of trouble.
The president’s love affair with Russian President Vladimir Putin should worry every Republican elected official in Washington. For my entire life, the Republicans as a party have considered Russia our enemy. It has consistently tried to undermine our democratic institutions, and the idea that it is time to make peace ignores the fact that the country will always be our enemy. Most Republican officials are mute on the issue of the hacking of the Democratic National Committee because they think it was good for their party.
Republican members of Congress who I know tell me that the administration’s tax cuts and the cutting of regulations are the “light at the end of the tunnel” that will carry them to victory in November. Like my friend Lou Wolfe learned, the light in that tunnel is really a train coming from the opposite direction. Embracing a president who is out of control is the party’s potential November trainwreck.
Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.