'Pandora’s box is open': Retiring Blue Dog congressman calls out far-right MAGA extremism

'Pandora’s box is open': Retiring Blue Dog congressman calls out far-right MAGA extremism
Image via Creative Commons.

One of the underreported bombshells of the 2022 midterms was the victory of progressive Democrat Summer Lee in Western Pennsylvania. Lee, an ally of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is replacing Rep. Mike Doyle — a very centrist Blue Dog Democrat who was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994 and, at 69, is retiring.

To make matters confusing, the Republican who Lee defeated on Tuesday, November 8 in Western Pennsylvania is also named Mike Doyle, and he is unrelated to the 69-year-old Blue Dog Democrat who is retiring. Lee, who has been serving in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, enjoyed a double-digit victory in the 2022 midterms and defeated the Republican Doyle by 11 percent.

In the past, Democrat Doyle — not the Republican who lost to Lee — had a reputation for being decidedly bipartisan and going out of his way to work with Republicans, including former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (a pro-choice conservative who is now a Never Trumper). But during a Q&A interview with Roll Call published on November 9, Democrat Doyle was critical of the Republican Party’s far-right direction.

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Roll Call’s Jim Saska explains, “In the end, Mike Doyle couldn’t replace Mike Doyle in the hearts of Pittsburgh voters. The son and grandson of Mike Doyles — Mikes Doyle? — and father of another Mike Doyle, Rep. Mike Doyle is a Democrat who is retiring after representing Yinzers for the last 28 years. Fellow Democrat Summer Lee won the race to succeed him on Tuesday, defeating a Republican businessman named — you guessed it, Mike Doyle.”

Saska adds, “Names aside, it’ll be a big shift for the district in terms of legislating style. Doyle is an old-school, Irish Catholic moderate who works behind the scenes to win over colleagues; Lee is a Millennial and the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress, and she will likely join ‘The Squad,’ a headline-generating group of progressives.”

During the interview, Roll Call asked Democrat Doyle, “What did you make of another Mike Doyle running to replace you?” And he responded, “Mike Doyle is a pretty common name in Pittsburgh. My grandfather was Mike Doyle. My father was Mike Doyle. I’m Mike Doyle, and my son’s Mike Doyle. My cousin’s Mike Doyle. And that’s just the Mike Doyles I’m related to. If you pick up a Pittsburgh phonebook and look up Doyle, there’s a whole bunch of us, because the Irish all came over from County Mayo and got jobs in the steel mills.”

The retiring Democratic congressman added, “I think the Republicans knew they really didn’t have a chance to win this district, so they played a little confusion game — and they found a local councilman who just happened to have the same name as me. I guess they thought that was a smart play.”

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Although Democrat Doyle represents the Blue Dog wing of his party, he didn’t mince words when calling out the extremism of the far right, from QAnon to Pizzagate. The congressman told Roll Call, “Pandora’s box is open, and we can’t seem to put it back…. the Tree of Life shooting (suspect) was on something called Gab. This is the rabbit hole we’re down in — this takes over the way they think, and we see the results of it.”

Doyle was also critical of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, saying, “I never liked how Gingrich centralized all the power in the speaker’s office. Every speaker since then thought it was a great idea, but it emasculated all the committee chairs.”

Although Doyle and Lee represent different wings of the Democratic Party, the outgoing congressman is wishing Lee well and has been offering the congresswoman-elect advice — policy differences and all.

Doyle told Roll Call, “The (Democratic) Party is going through this process where the next generation is stepping up, and I think that’s a good thing, by the way. Summer Lee lives in my hometown, and she went to the same high school that my kids went to. I think she graduated a year ahead of my daughter. I encouraged her to meet with groups that nobody thinks she would meet with — not because you’re going to necessarily carry their water for them, but just to reach out. I told her, ‘I don’t always vote with the Chamber of Commerce, but they know they can come sit with me and talk about their concerns.’”

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