Arlen Specter. Dick Thornburgh. Tom Ridge. John Heinz. Richard Schweiker. Charlie Dent. And, to some extent, Pat Toomey. They were all moderate Republicans. Now a significant chunk of the commonwealth’s GOP is lining-up firmly behind Donald Trump. Scott Perry, who represents my district in the House of Representatives, helped Trump overturn the presidential election in Georgia and introduced him to pro-Trump Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. Doug Mastriano, a GOP state senator with ambition (also from my neck of the woods here in south-central Pennsylvania), led the voter fraud efforts in the commonwealth. Lou Barletta, the anti-immigration former mayor of Hazelton, may run for governor.
Over at Politico, Holly Otterbein unpacks this story. Here is a taste:
Political insiders in Pennsylvania attribute the shift rightward in the state’s Republican Party to a combination of familiar factors: Trump’s presidency, the role of gerrymandering in creating highly partisan districts, the polarization fed by cable TV, and social media.
“Low-turnout primary elections reinforced in districts drawn by gerrymander not surprisingly makes it easier for extreme candidates to do well,” said David Thornburgh, president of the good government group Committee of Seventy and son of the late centrist governor. “My dad’s wing of the party was the moderate-to-liberal northeastern Republican. You got to look awfully hard to find anybody that’s left in that category.”
The collapse of the GOP in and around Philadelphia’s collar counties has also played a role. As the suburbs have become more liberal and the party has grown more socially conservative, moderate Republican lawmakers such as Ryan Costello and Charlie Dent have been succeeded by Democrats, a process that was hastened by the state Supreme Court’s redrawing of congressional district maps in 2018.