It's the political version of the butterfly effect: The retirement of a single member of Congress in Orange County, announced this week, has the potential to not only contribute to upheaval in this fall's midterm elections but to also accelerate a significant diminution of the United States' role in global affairs.
As a rank-and-file member of the House and then as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Royce devoted his career to stewardship of the United States' international responsibilities. He has trained his attention on the threats posed by Iran, North Korea and Russia, has looked for opportunities to strengthen U.S. relationships in Asia and Africa, and has been a stalwart supporter of Israel as well as an advocate for peace in the Middle East.
He may no longer recognize the party that now embraces
For a generation of voters who supported GOP candidates because of their commitment to stand against fascism, communism and terrorism, this is one of the most bitter pills that the Trump era has forced us to swallow.
But it's not just Republicans who are in retreat. The Democrats' fervent espousal for immigration reform has masked their reluctance to engage internationally, as grassroots progressives have become increasingly vocal in their antipathy toward trade agreements, military and security commitments and the role of multinational businesses. It seems the wall builders are winning in both parties.
Even if Royce is replaced by someone who shares his international outlook, he or she will be swimming against the tide.
As for the domestic situation, Royce's decision is just one in an ongoing series of retirement announcements from Republican congressional incumbents. (His Orange County colleague
The GOP will be defending more than 30 open House seats in November, which suggests a lack of motivation and enthusiasm among the party's traditionalists.
As the vacancies in Republican districts continue to grow, the likelihood of the GOP maintaining control of Congress will continue to shrink.
Republicans' coming difficulty in Southern California is not limited to replacing Royce and Issa: They were two of four GOP incumbents reelected in Orange County districts won by
In 2016, these voters supported familiar incumbents like Royce even while turning to Clinton at the top of the ballot, but it will be much harder for a less recognizable Republican to maintain their loyalties this fall. Midterm elections are usually decided less by persuading independent voters than by inspiring committed partisans to vote.
The likely partisan changeover in Washington is of less long-term significance than the worldwide ramifications of the continued U.S. withdrawal from our global responsibilities. Since Trump's election, competitors such as China and Russia have become increasingly assertive in their respective regions and beyond. As a result of the president's unpredictability and volatility, our historic allies in Europe, Asia and Latin America now look elsewhere for guidance, reassurance and support. Congressional majorities can switch back and forth every two years. But reliable long-term relationships with world leaders are cultivated and strengthened over much longer periods of time. The loss of trust that can result from a broken promise is not automatically restored after the next election.
A generation of American leaders including former Vice President Joe Biden, Arizona Sen.
Dan Schnur worked on the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and John McCain. In 2011, he reregistered as a No Party Preference voter.