Rabid GOP now feeding on their own

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

If they held a local competition for “off the rails” in politics, Chester County Republican Chair Gordon Eck would win by a landslide. 

His — I won’t dignify it by calling it an Op/Ed — recently published screed attacking a fellow Republican and local Board of Education president over the fake issue of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in our county’s schools was factually challenged (okay, it was completely bogus), violated Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican” and frankly was just looney tunes.

Chris McCune is the president of the West Chester Area Board of Education and he has become the target of Eck’s false claims about CRT in the school district. He is a Republican and has served two terms on the board and is seeking a third in November. Eck is calling for a write in campaign against the official GOP nominee — which seems unlikely to do much beyond making it easier for a Democrat to win the seat.

I was able to speak with McCune this week and he came across as a shockingly normal, moderate person — not unlike dozens of other board of education members I’ve known over the last couple of decades in Chester County. The kids, their families, the staff and the schools are the top priority for people like McCune, while trying to keep budgets in check to respect local property owners. It’s likely there are issues we disagree on, but at least you can have a conversation with the guy — he’s willing to listen and engage.

That last part describes almost every school board member I know in either party, by the way. For these folks today with the challenges in education, it is often about making the least bad choice when presented with no good ones. They get no pay, it is an amazing time commitment (don’t forget about committee meetings, in addition to the two or more regular meetings held monthly). And in the best of times, they get a lot of grief.

It is not the best of times.

Right now? While McCune is in the spotlight, the same kind of crap is going on all over Chester County with a bunch of brainwashed lunatics screaming over something that just doesn’t exist. For reference, these are some of the same people who claim COVID doesn’t exist and masks don’t work. 

No school in Chester County is teaching CRT. None.

Are there schools working on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts to better serve a growingly diverse community? Yes. Are those notoriously left-leaning Fortune 500 companies doing the same thing for their work forces? Yes. 

McCune said he has tried to explain this to Eck and some of the others on the committee that the DEI efforts are not just about race, but about better inclusion for special needs students and those of varying social-economic groups, but that the message just doesn’t get through.

In a county where only a few years back, entitled white students at one high school started chanting “mow my lawn” to the students of a school with a higher latino population during a football game, I’m pretty DEI isn’t just a nice idea, it is kind of warranted.

But, you know, those are just pesky facts.

Let’s be honest, truth and reality have been slipping away from Chester County Republicans for more than a decade, since the Tea Party started taking over county committee slots, running out the old moderates.

According to McCune and others I’ve spoken with of late, there are four unbreakable “truths” one must agree to if you wish to run for office as Republican in Chester County:

  1. The 2020 election was stolen. (It was not and Donald Trump lost Pennsylvania by 80,000 votes — and Chester County by more than 17%.)
  2. Jan. 6 was little more than exuberant tourists. (It was a full on insurrection and an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden won the presidency. More than 600 face criminal charges. Five people died. More than a hundred, including police officers, were injured.)
  3. COVID-19 is fake (or little more than the flu). 650,000 Americans have died from COVID since March 2020, including more than 1,500 per day recently. It is the worst pandemic since the 1918 flu. Experts say that denial of the very effective COVID vaccines have cost more than 100,000 lives in the U.S. since January.
  4. Critical Race Theory is being taught in public schools in Chester County. (It is not. Conflating a complicated law school theory about how minorities face higher barriers in our legal system — and the data overwhelmingly supports this fact — with schools working to improve DEI is disingenuous at best, at worst, part of a highly coordinated national plan to gin up anger over a non-issue).

This is entirely out of step with the people of Chester County, of course, and leading a once dominant party into becoming a very small minority party of screaming extremists. It also keeps a lot of good people who might do well in the public arena, but consider themselves too conservative to be Democrats, from running for office.

I’ve taken much heat in the last three years for suggesting that you cannot vote for any Republican — as unfair as it is to folks like McCune and others who are part of sane minority in the party.

It was my thought that without utter and total repudiation — and one would think that losing every row office and control of the County Commissioners, not to mention the county’s Congressional seat might have been a wake up call — the Republican Party would not reset, reassess and return to its old center-right conservative roots.

But thanks to a never-ending media machine driving these lies, I’m not sure there is any hope for this party to be reformed.

In the long run, it might be best for the GOP to be retired and replaced with a less crazed center right party that can start from scratch. Like it or not, we need two parties dedicated to democracy — so we don’t find ourselves running to extremes. The Republican Party no longer embraces anything beyond a naked grab for power and autocracy.

It’s a tragic truth and maybe one you do not want to hear: Gordon Eck is today’s GOP, not Dick Thornburgh or Tom Ridge. 

And we are all the poorer for it.  

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  1. Robin Kaliner says:

    It sounds like you are writing this from the perspective of a Democrat, but even as a Republican I have to agree with you wholeheartedly:

    1.Gordon Eck is leading the Chesco R party so far to the right that it does not feel like a good fit for anyone except those who agree with the “truths” you note above.

    2.Not only is Chris McCune Eck’s fellow Republican, he was endorsed by the R leadership in the Chesco townships that comprise WCASD Region 3 for the Primary, and after winning that Primary, is listed as 1 of the 2 R candidates on November’s ballot. But Eck is now abandoning McCune as his candidate (and basically spitting in the face of Republicans like myself who voted for Chris in the Primary–apparently our votes mean nothing to him).

    3.The WCASD-area-affiliated Republicans seem hell bent on ensuring the Dems win Region 3. What do they expect to happen when they throw one of their candidates under the bus and go on a PR tirade to disparage his reputation, not to mention provide such extremists as their favored candidates? The school board will be one more Chesco elected body that gets turned over to Democrats because Republican leadership can’t tolerate a moderate perspective.

    4. You are correct that Chris McCune is a “shockingly normal, moderate person” whose priority is “the kids, their families, the staff and the schools”, but who also ensures the district is being as fiscally conservative as possible to keep taxes low. I’ve known Chris as a fellow board member, and as a friend. He is extremely down to earth, open minded, and skilled at bringing people with disparate views to consensus. And as the parent of 5 WCASD students, he has a lot of skin in the game. The personal attacks and threats that have been made against him over the last several months are disgusting, and we should consider ourselves lucky that even in the face of all that ugliness, Chris is willing to sign up for another 4 years.

    The one area where I both hope and suspect you may be wrong is your characterization of Chris McCune and those like him as “part of a sane minority in the party”. People currently in leadership positions in the Chesco R party are extremists, but I don’t believe the majority of Chesco R voters are. I believe that if people take the time to educate themselves on the candidates rather than simply voting according to party affiliation/sample ballot, that Chris will be elected for another term.

  2. Mamie T says:

    Thank you for interviewing the school board member (McCune), who seems to not only have a serious volunteer job to do, but also to have to put up with misguided attacks. I’m worried that our volunteer poll workers will likely dwindle in number (if they haven’t already) for fear of being similarly attacked. Traditionally, these positions have been filled by people whose motivations were altruistic– whether conservative or liberal. I fear altruism has become passe and hatred is becoming the new motivating force in tomorrow’s GOP, when the McCunes and retirees that used to work the polls will have fled for their own personal safety.

  3. Lainey Smithers says:

    Rubbish. Another bs column by a fake news reporter. Maybe talk abou the disaster that is the Biden Administration and the Democrats who support this lunacy.

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