On Friday, former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) surprised everyone by reminding them that he has been trying to run for president this whole time. Appearing on CNN — where else? — the former tea party congressman-turned Trump sycophant-turned Never-Trump moralizer admitted that he just couldn’t launch a viable campaign because the Republican Party has become a Trump “cult.”
“I am ending my candidacy for president of the United States. Look, I got into this because I thought it was really important that there was a Republican, a Republican out there every day calling out this president for how unfit he is,” Walsh told CNN’s John Berman. “I want to stop Trump, I believe he is a threat to this country. He can’t be stopped in the Republican Party. Nobody can beat him. It’s Trump’s party, John.”
“It’s not a party, it’s a cult. He can’t be beat in the Republican primary, so there’s no reason for me or any candidate, really, to be in there. The party has become a cult,” Walsh insisted.
Berman asked what changed between the former congressman’s entry into the race late last year and his decision to drop out now. “I didn’t see how cult-like the party was,” Walsh said. “I mean, ten states around the country canceled their primaries and caucuses. The state parties are beholden to Trump. The conservative media world, Fox News and all the rest… they bow down in front of their king.” He recalled speaking to Republicans in Iowa and said, “I just became convinced that these folks have been fed nothing but lies and mistruths about President Trump.”
Joe Walsh calls the GOP a "cult": "(Trump's) a threat to this country. He can't be stopped within the Republican party. … The conservative media world, Fox News and all the rest wouldn't give me the time of day. … They bow down in front of their king" https://t.co/ff5IuwAZzg pic.twitter.com/5EkjDcSokm
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) February 7, 2020
Walsh’s campaign against Trump had more to do with the president’s character than his policies. The former tea partier slammed the president as “unqualified,” “unfit,” “a child,” “reckless,” “erratic,” and “a narcissist.”
Yet in October 2016, he threatened revolution if this “unqualified unfit child narcissist” didn’t win the election.
“On November 8th, I’m voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket. You in?” Walsh tweeted.
On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump.
On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket.
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) October 26, 2016
He went further than Trump in his populist rhetoric, defending the president’s most controversial statements and condemning “bipartisanship” because “the country is at war with itself. Choose your side and choose it now. Grab your musket and get ready.”
If anyone lacks the credibility to condemn the Republican Party as a Trump “cult,” it is Joe Walsh. Oh, and Walsh also got duped by Borat into endorsing a fictitious firearms for tots program.
When Iowa Republicans refused to buy what Walsh was selling, the former congressman dismissed them as a “cult.” Perhaps he should take the time to consider exactly why they like Trump. I think he’ll find it has less to do with offensive tweets — of which Walsh himself is far from innocent — and more to do with actual policies. Just a thought.
WATCH: Joe Walsh Gets Destroyed and Fails in Iowa Caucus Speech pic.twitter.com/yK5JJ1aMnb
— Matt Couch 🎙 (@RealMattCouch) February 4, 2020
In any case, Walsh’s departure leaves only one more challenger in the Republican primary — Bill Weld. Weld has called for the death penalty for Trump, saying he is guilty of treason. Weld ran for vice president on the Libertarian ticket with Gary Johnson in 2016. That year, he “vouched” for Hillary Clinton — his ostensible opponent — because he preferred her to the Republican candidate. Weld also joined 370 former prosectors in urging obstruction of justice charges against Trump, for Russiagate.
Of all the candidates quixotically running against Trump, only former Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) had anything resembling a snowball’s chance in Hell. He ran against the president’s failure to curb government spending, which (along with the failure to repeal Obamacare) may be Trump’s only real weakness among Republicans.
Trump will be the GOP nominee, and there was never really any hope for a challenger. Mark Sanford understood that back in November, and now even Joe Walsh gets it. As for Bill Weld, he’s likely too far gone to care.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.