Thursday, June 25, 2020

Firing Line: Rising Stars & Newcomers

One way or another, 2020 will be the last year Republican candidates get to/are stuck campaigning with Donald Trump at the top of the ballot. How does the party build on and/or repair his legacy? That is an unspoken but ever-present question throughout two special episodes of Firing Line, hosted by Margaret Hoover. “Rising Stars,” featuring two of the surviving Republican Women U.S. House members premiering tomorrow on most PBS stations, with “Newcomers,” interviewing three highly touted GOP women House candidates soon following on Tuesday.

Hoover is a great interviewer, as Michael Bloomberg learned the hard way. Clips of the former mayor trying to explain “Xi Jinping is not a dictator,” who is accountable to the people and actually quite the environmentalist, because he is starting to move China’s emissions-belching coal plants to more isolated areas, were widely circulated online during the brief surge of his presidential campaign. So much for that. She is not as dogged in these interviews, but she still asks the obvious tough questions regarding, the pandemic, the George Floyd killing, and Trump in general, which everyone expects and is ready for.

Of course, the dirty secret explaining why there are so GOP women in congress is the ruthless efficiency of liberal PACs picking them off. Somehow, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler survived. Candidates would be well-advised to listen to her soundbites in “Rising Stars.” Rather than wrapping herself in Trump, she more-or-less refers to him as a fact-of-life, whom she must work with—just as she did with Obama. In contrast, Rep. Elise Stefanik is much more inclined to identify with the president.

During “Newcomers,” Young Kim (CA-39), Ashley Hinson (IA-1), and Lisa Scheller (PA-7) all sound like they are positioning themselves more like Herrera Beutler, to varying degrees, which is probably wise in the long run. Kim and Scheller have particularly compelling stories. The former is a Korean immigrant who won her district on election night in 2018, only to lose it in the following weeks as a flood of absentee ballots magically erased her margin of victory. In her case, Scheller is a recovering addict and successful entrepreneur, who can personally relate to her district’s high rate of opioid addiction and economic challenges.

We obviously need a change from Trump’s crass populism and the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialist extremists. Most of the candidates profiled in these Firing Line specials sound like they could help the country chart a course towards future sanity. To do it, they probably need to stay in the GOP. As a case study, several years ago I thought I’d really picked a winner by contributing to Beth Fukumoto, who flipped a seat in the Hawaiian State House and soon became the Minority Leader. Frustratingly, she switched parties because of Trump and lost a crowded congressional primary. Currently, she does not hold elective office. It is reasonable to think she would have had more influence staying and fighting (again, Herrera Beutler seems like a good model here). Recommended for voters looking for change, “Rising Stars” airs this Friday (6/26) and “Newcomers” airs Tuesday (6/30), on most PBS outlets.