An unexpected political earthquake shook national Republican party circles Friday night, when the party’s lone African American Congressman, William Hurd (R-TX), announced he is retiring after only three terms in the House of Representatives.
This is a huge loss for the Republican party, and an ominous sign about where it is headed. Notably, his only mention of the party comes in the closing line of his statement about leaving: “I will keep fighting to remind people why I love America: that we are neither Republican nor Democrat nor Independent; We are better than the sum of our parts.”
A former intelligence officer for the CIA, a soft-spoken gentleman, family man, and African American who represents Texas’s southernmost border, Hurd had been seen as someone who’s prospects in the party were limitless, potentially even including a future run at the presidency.
Now he is walking away from his hard-won seat as the president runs for reelection by using race and immigration to promote division in the electorate.
Hurd had been the only Republican on the House Intelligence Committee who actually asked questions during Robert Mueller’s testimony about the security of America’s elections, and the role Russia is actively playing in trying to undermine them. One of just four Republican House members to condemn, along with former Republican turned independent Justin Amash, President Donald Trump’s racist tweets and comments about the four Democratic congresswomen known as The Squad. And he had been an outspoken maverick about the need for the GOP to look more like America, particularly in Texas where Beto O’Rourke almost turned the red state blue in 2018.
With his exit, the party lost a key member of a new generation of black conservatives with appeal in swing districts in traditionally blue areas. Now, the Party’s hope for finally building a more diverse and female political leadership is fading quickly. Two of the House Republican’s 13 female members are retiring. When Hurd departs, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) will be the only black Republican in Congress.
The party has been here before, too many times. I worked on the Hill when Rep. J..C. Watts (R-OK) was the lone black Republican in Congress. I also remember Rep. Gary Franks (R-CT) when he was in the House. And, of course, Rep. Mia Love (R-UT) made history when she was elected to the House of Representatives in 2014 as the first black female Republican ever elected to the Congress, only to lose her seat in 2018 after splitting with Trump. This is not the way to build a “big-tent” party.
As a black female Republican who has been screaming into the wind for over 25 years for party leadership to shift and embrace America’s changing demographic landscape, the reign of Donald Trump is my worst nightmare come true.
This is not the party of Jack Kemp that I enthusiastically joined at age 20 in 1988. Does it not worry leaders at the NRCC and RSC that the Republican party is pretty much all white, all male, and over 55, with very few exceptions?
Hurd’s decision to depart came days after the release of a taped racist conversation between President Nixon and then California Gov. Ronald Reagan and as the Republican Party is getting more and more aligned with Trump’s nativism, and less aligned with the party’s once great legacy on racial equality, women’s rights, economic empowerment, and a strong national defense. It was Republican presidents who fought the evil Russian empire in the '80s and '90s. No more. President Trump has embraced dictators, tyrants, and murderous regimes so long as they will pay him false homage above all.
The Hurd exit, is I believe the first sign of a Republican exodus from the party. Not even long-time conservatives like Bill Kristol, George Will, Tom Nichols, and others can stomach the new Trump GOP. It is an openly racist, sexist, mean-spirited party, not of ideals, but of grievances, gripes, and personal grudges.
I am not sure the party can be turned around even after Trump is gone (whether that is in 2020 or 2024), but I think that patriots who love their country, like Rep. Justin Amash, Rep. Will Hurd, Rep. Fred Upton, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, Gov. John Kasich, Rep. Susan Brooks, Gov. Bill Weld, and many more will have to stand up to President Trump and fight to make once revered Republican values, like faith, family, morals, and American leadership great again.