Commentary: Reflections on a turbulent summer and election season


When U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler narrowly lost to Joe Kent in the top-two primary election, I was disappointed but not surprised.

A lot of former president Donald Trump’s fans in the 3rd Congressional District fought hard to defeat the five-term congresswoman who voted to impeach Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Even if Herrera Beutler had won the primary, she likely would have been defeated in the general election because many Trump supporters would have refused to cast a ballot for the Republican congresswoman even though she served our district well for a decade.

What stands out to me, though, is how gracious she was in conceding the election when Kent surpassed her totals by more than 900 votes.

“Though my campaign came up short this time, I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished together,” she said. “I always told the truth, stuck to my principles, and did what I knew to be best for our country.”

Had the reverse been true, if Kent had trailed behind Herrera Beutler, I have no doubt we would have heard harangues about a stolen election. It’s what Trump Republicans do nowadays if they lose as they pattern themselves after the sore-loser-in-chief.

Although she lost her re-election bid, Herrera Beutler stood on the right side of history by opposing an attack on the very fabric of our democracy, an attempt to overthrow a legitimate election on the say-so of a delusional man who couldn’t stand to lose.

And, just as people who supported Kent likely would have refused to vote for Herrera Beutler, they shouldn’t be surprised if some of her Republican supporters refuseed to vote in the general election’s 3rd District race or cast ballots for the Democrat, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez.

It will be interesting to see whether Kent, if he trails and loses in the final election count, concedes gracefully as Herrera Beutler did. But perhaps he’ll win, and we’ll never know.


In July 2004, when I learned that Sandy Burger, who had served as national security adviser under President Bill Clinton, stuffed classified papers into his socks and pants and removed them from the National Archives, I was furious. Those papers belong to the United States citizens. Government officials work for us. Their documents belong to us. He had no right to steal anything — especially classified material — from the National Archives.

Burger was preparing to testify before the 9/11 Commission, which was looking into the Clinton administration’s handling of unsuccessful terrorist activities in 2000 that preceded the devastating Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Burger pleaded guilty in April 2005 to a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material from the National Archives. He was fined $50,000 and sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service. He also lost his security clearance for three years and relinquished his law license.

Why would he take the documents unless he was trying to hide something? Democrats excused his behavior at the time as absentmindedness. Hogwash.

Most of my Republican colleagues echoed my outrage.

A decade later, we learned that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have used her personal email for classified work and failed to retain copies of those emails as required under the Public Records Act. The FBI investigated and referred the case to the Department of Justice to decide whether any prosecution was warranted.

Again, at the time, I found it infuriating that our U.S. Secretary of State would possibly compromise the safety of our nation by irresponsibly exposing classified information in an easily-hacked private email system. According to former FBI Director James Comey, who investigated Clinton’s email debacle and reported his findings in July 2016, it’s “a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way” and a misdemeanor “to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.”

The investigation showed 110 of the 30,000 emails Clinton turned over to investigators contained classified information. Eight contained top secret information, 36 had secret information and eight contained confidential information. They also found several thousand additional emails that were not in those Clinton turned over, including three classified, one secret and two confidential documents.

Comey didn’t recommend criminal charges to the U.S. Justice Department, concluding: “Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

Again, like me, most of my Republican colleagues were outraged.

But fast forward six years, when the FBI obtained a warrant from a federal judge and searched Trump’s Florida estate at Mar-a-Lago Aug. 8. Agents discovered boxes of classified, top secret and secret papers taken from the White House by our former president without any apparent regard for our nation’s security if those papers wound up in the wrong hands. Inside the boxes were at least five folders labeled “classified” with no papers inside. What happened to them?

In a 36-page court filing later, the Justice Department outlined what the search discovered — three classified documents in desks, including in Trump’s office at Mar-a-Lago, and more than a hundred top secret and restricted documents in 13 boxes. That was after the former president’s lawyers said they had turned over all classified documents.

The government is accountable to the people. Those papers belong to the people and should be stored in the National Archives, not a former president’s private residence.

But where was the Republican outrage? It was mostly directed at the FBI, not the person who mishandled classified documents.

It’s a cult of personality.

Hypocrisy reigns.


But Republican hypocrisy isn’t new.

I’ve always been ardently pro-life, believing in my heart that unborn children deserve protection and that only God should determine when life begins and ends. I’ve also been against the death penalty, although violent criminals should do hard time up to life in prison rather than receive coddling during incarceration.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. People were asked to wear masks to protect those vulnerable to the devastating effects of the new coronavirus strain — the elderly or people living with compromised immune systems who were more likely to die if they contracted COVID-19.

Yet many of my “pro-life” friends refused. Rather than deferring to respected epidemiologists who studied diseases for decades, many suddenly became experts after reading something on Facebook or seeing some random doctor or nurse oppose the use of masks.

What’s more, they used the same words pro-choice people have spoken to defend their rights to abortion: “my body, my choice.”

Conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned what even Justice Ruth Bader-Ginsberg described as a constitutionally wrong decision in Roe v. Wade. The court returned authority over regulation of abortions to the states, sparking intense debate about the rights of women to end unwanted pregnancies.

In the five decades since Roe was decided in 1973, women have gained far more access to birth control. Options abound to prevent conception — patches, pills, hormonal implants, IUDs, diaphragms, cervical caps, condoms, etc. Most insurance companies cover the cost of birth control too.

Women who don’t want children have many options today to prevent pregnancy.

Abortion should not be used as birth control. It should be rare, at most used only in extreme cases, such as rape, incest and protecting the life of the mother. It seems like Democrats should agree, but I know many won’t. Neither will Republicans who oppose any exceptions.

Lewis County Republicans

Last summer, I watched the meetings of the Lewis County Republicans with interest as the old-guard Republicans tried to regain control over what they saw as uncivil, contemptuous and disrespectful behavior by Winlock Mayor Brandon Svenson, the party’s chair. He was accused of name-calling and showing favoritism to certain Republican candidates over others. The old guard lost Aug. 1 when a majority of precinct committee officers, 24-22, backed retention of Svenson as the party’s leader.

I’m not surprised. The time for Republicans to call out uncivil, disrespectful and contemptuous bullying was in 2016, when Donald Trump engaged in such behavior during the Republican primary.

Instead, they silently applauded him and a large majority of them elected Trump as their standard bearer and eventually president of the United States.

That’s when I left the Republican Party, which is no longer a “big tent” party. Longstanding Republicans who believe the 2020 election results are valid are no longer welcome. Neither are those who supported Herrera Beutler or Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming — or anyone who dared to criticize the actions of the party’s demigod, Trump.

I’m not a RINO — a Republican in Name Only. I want nothing to do with a party that endorses or enables bullying, nastiness and despicable behavior and puts party, power and policy above good character and preserving our democratic system.

Now, even here, we see that the adage holds true: You reap what you sow.

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Julie McDonald, a personal historian from Toledo, may be reached at