Gonzalez’s decision isn’t necessarily a warning sign for the nine other Republicans who voted to impeach; they knew at the time that they would be making politically difficult votes, and did so anyway. Along with potential primary opponents, redistricting will also be a factor in their elections, meaning that observers—and incumbents themselves—won’t really know the shape of their races until congressional district lines are redrawn. Of the nine, two represent districts in Washington, one in California, and one in New York—all states with Democratic-controlled legislatures that could redraw their districts in ways that disadvantage Republicans anyway.
In the days of yore, such as after Mitt Romney’s presidential loss in 2012, Gonzalez would have seemed like the ideal Republican candidate for a party searching for restoration and fresh blood. He is the son and grandson of Cuban immigrants and played football for Ohio State and in the NFL before earning his business degree at Stanford.
But the modern Republican Party has largely taken a different path. Now, in the House of Representatives, a Republican member’s most important quality is their loyalty to Trump. That truism will only harden as Republicans like Gonzalez depart. Some Republicans have left the party altogether, most notably Representatives Justin Amash and Paul Mitchell, who retired at the end of their terms in 2020. Mitchell left the Republican Party in December specifically due to his anger over Trump’s lies about the election and the willingness of many in his party to accommodate or promote them. (Mitchell died of cancer in August.)
Recent Republican turnover in the Congress has continued the party’s rightward drive. An April analysis by FiveThirtyEight found that 59 percent of Republicans who hold seats vacated by fellow Republicans are more conservative than their predecessors. If other more moderate Republicans follow Gonzalez to the exits, this trend will, in all likelihood, only become more entrenched.