Charlie Dent (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

Retiring GOP congressman: Donald Trump is the party's new litmus test

Still, the GOP's current problems have existed before Trump became president


Matthew Rozsa
September 12, 2017 11:49AM (UTC)

Republican Rep. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, who announced last week that he wouldn't seek reelection in 2018, elaborated to MSNBC's Chris Matthews on Monday about the role he believes President Donald Trump played in transforming the Republican Party for the worse.

"We had the purists versus the pragmatists," Dent said. "And the pragmatists were largely the governing wing of the party, of which I was a part. That was the battle, that was the litmus test."

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Dent added, "Now since Donald Trump has become president, the litmus test is more Trump loyalty — are you loyal enough. But we still have this underlying fight between the pragmatists and the ideologues. In many respects, the ideologues have the upper hand."

Despite his harsh criticisms of Trump, Dent emphasized that the problems he had with the modern Republican Party preceded the current president by several years.

"I've been thinking about this since September of 2013, since the government shutdown," Dent told Matthews. "It's not just the president. We were having challenges prior to Donald Trump. I mean, the simple basic task of governance — just funding the government through a continuing resolution or preventing a default — these shouldn't be very difficult things to do. But they became excruciatingly hard, just these really basic acts. I mean, we have some responsibilities, and we just can't get them done."

Dent's comments to Matthews were similar to remarks he made on Sunday in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

As he explained to friends, family and staff at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel, "The county's in a pretty tough spot right now. It's in a very difficult spot. I think there's a trend globally, which I won't get into, but I think we are where we are."

He added, "But I do believe this country is a center-right country, and I do think we need to give a stronger voice . . . the sensible center is being left behind in too many cases. And I intend to bring that voice outside of Congress, as well."

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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