Who among us thought that the Ken Buck we’ve known for so many years would apparently end his political career by calling out the Republican Party for its, well, fecklessness – my word, not his – and doing it on MSNBC?
Seriously. Raise your hands. I’ll wait.
OK, still waiting.
It wasn’t a shock that Buck said he wouldn’t run for reelection in 2024. It wasn’t a shock that Buck once again called out the absurdity of GOP election denial despite the fact that 70% of Republicans still won’t say that Joe Biden’s election was legitimate.
It wasn’t a shock that in a tweeted video – yes, I’m staying with “tweeted” – announcing that he wouldn’t run again, Buck said, “Too many Republican leaders are lying to America.”
Of course they are. But Buck could have come out against Trump at any time. He could have called out election deniers at any time.
You must remember the old Ken Buck. The one who blew up his 2010 Senate run against Michael Bennet by comparing gays to alcoholics in a nationally televised late-campaign debate. And now he’s the conscience of the Republican Party?
The one who was a Tea Party candidate back in the day before the Tea Party gave way to MAGA Trumpism.
And, yes, the one who said he wouldn’t vote for Jim Jordan for speaker because Jordan was an election denier and then voted for Mike Johnson, who is not only a denier but who helped draw up the House plan to refuse legitimate electors on Jan. 6.
My bad. That wasn’t the old Ken Buck. That was last month’s Ken Buck.
Did Buck suddenly get, uh, religion? Or is it part-time religion? Or does he really want to give up politics and go where the money is – as a TV talking head?
Or is he afraid that now, despite his status as a longtime member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, he’d be stuck with the dreaded RINO label and face a serious primary challenge next year if he ran again?
I don’t know. I’m confused. But it’s a good confusion for now – or at least until the heavily Republican Fourth Congressional District, which Buck has represented for more than a decade, picks someone to succeed him.
I don’t know who that would be. The only thing we know for sure is that the primary will be, as someone once said, wild. But it’s fair to note that among the leading candidates is state Rep. Richard Holtorf. Do I need to say more?
Buck was definitely going to be primaried. You don’t move to the anti-Trumpist camp, where Buck has taken up residence, even going so far as to say he wasn’t sure what he’d do in case of a Trump-Biden rematch, and not face a primary in the most Republican district in the state.
That doesn’t mean he would necessarily lose, but Buck wouldn’t necessarily win, either.
I mean, let’s look at Buck’s last vote, which was to table a Marjorie Taylor Greene resolution to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat who is the first Palestinian-American to serve in Congress, for her criticism of Israel in its war against Hamas. Greene didn’t stop there. She also accused Tlaib of fomenting an “insurrection.”
I wish Tlaib had accused Greene of failing to understand irony. You see, the only person apparently allowed to criticize Israel, in Greene’s view, is her pal, Donald Trump, who also added for good measure that Hezbollah was “very smart.”
Still, Buck was one of 23 Republicans to vote against Greene’s resolution, which was enough to sink it. And Greene, of course, went ballistic, or should that word be reserved for Lauren “Get Your Guns” Boebert?
So Greene called Buck a “CNN wannabe” for his vote. Of course, Greene also lashed out at “vaping, groping” Boebert, who actually voted with her. You also might have heard they’re not so friendly anymore.
It’s that kind of comity that the House GOP has embraced. And Buck is ready to give all that up?
He’s not the only one. I don’t know what the over-under will be on the number of retiring Republicans or the even greater number of Republicans who will face a primary, but both numbers will be significant.
And of course over in the Senate, there’s Mitt Romney, who announced he’s not running again, but only after telling author McKay Coppins what he actually thinks of his GOP colleagues in Coppins’ new bestseller, “The Reckoning.”
Romney called Newt Gingrich “smarmy” and “smug.” He called Ted Cruz “scary” and a “demagogue.” He said that Pence, in his loyalty to Trump, was “more willing to ascribe God’s will to things that were ungodly.”
Of Ron DeSantis’ primary challenge to Trump, he asked, “Do you want an authoritarian who’s smart or one who’s not smart.”
The question being asked about Romney is whether, at this late stage, he’s trying to save his soul.
And Buck? Whatever his reasons for leaving the House, he must know this: He’s got a better chance of trying to save his soul than saving the Republican Party.
Mike Littwin writes Opinion columns for The Colorado Sun, a nonpartisan news organization based in Denver.