Politics / April 4, 2024

The Next Item on the Republican Agenda Is Naming an Airport After Trump

A House bill proposes renaming Washington Dulles “Donald J. Trump International Airport.” It perfectly sums up the GOP’s approach to governing.

Chris Lehmann
(Gabby Barucci)

Congress has been in recess these past two weeks, though you’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference. That’s because the feckless, spectacle-driven GOP House majority has stripped down the exercise of legislative power to a set of content-free directives that run more or less on autopilot. Exhibit A would be a bill filed last Friday to rename one of the Washington area’s major airports. In 1998, GOP lawmakers rechristened the anodyne National Airport in honor of Ronald Reagan—the man who broke the air traffic controllers’ union. Today’s MAGAfied Republican Congress has put forward the proposal to rename Dulles Airport after Donald Trump—the man who, just days after his inauguration, transformed the nation’s airports into theaters of bigoted anti-Muslim persecution, and promptly bankrupted his own eponymous airline back in the 1990s. Indeed, the only remotely plausible case to name Dulles for Trump is that the facility’s sweeping Eero Saarinen terminal design recalls the 45th president’s hairline.

You’d be forgiven for concluding that hatred of air travel has been a central plank of the Republican platform over the past generation, but in reality the legislation is simply the 118th Congress’s latest foray into transforming the people’s business into MAGA-branded trolling. Deputy House whip Guy Reschenthaler proudly announced his sponsorship of the bill on Twitter, with this burst of Great Leader adulation: “Freedom. Prosperity. Strength. That’s what America stood for under the leadership of Donald J. Trump—the greatest president of my lifetime. And that’s why I’m introducing legislation to rename Dulles the Donald J. Trump International Airport.” Rechenthaler neglected to add that his stunt bill would be dead on arrival in a Democratic-led Senate—and that, even if it should by some unimaginable feat of legerdemain survive that gauntlet, it would never be signed into law by President Joe Biden, who is after all, Trump’s general-election opponent this November. Meanwhile, Democratic representatives from Virginia, where Dulles is located, have done some gleeful trolling of their own. “Donald Trump is facing 91 felony charges,” Representative Gerry Connolly drily noted. “If Republicans want to name something after him, I suggest they find a federal prison.”

But none of that matters to today’s congressional GOP. For a party obsessed with the alleged trespasses of woke virtue signaling, the Republicans have nonetheless commandeered all phases of the legislative process to telegraph their own insular devotion to the Trump cult. In that sense, the Dulles bill is entirely in line with the House’s pending post-recess agenda, which as Politico reporter Jennifer Haberkorn notes, will be overrun with investigations to supplant the chamber’s comically doomed 18-month effort to force a vote on Biden’s impeachment.

“The search for a fresh line of attack has a scattershot feel to it,” Haberkorn writes diplomatically, as she surveys a rich mosaic of Biden-baiting inquiries that have so far produced 50 oversight requests to various executive-branch agencies. Subjects for post-impeachment probes cover everything from the origins of Covid-19 (even though said origins date from Trump’s presidency) to the administration’s allegedly dilatory drawdowns of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (even though Biden’s White House has conducted such drawdowns at historic new highs). A prime focus in this throw-shit-against-the-wall investigative offensive will be administration’s supposed posture of China appeasement (even though Biden has aggressively countered market-throttling Chinese tech initiatives and trade putsches in a way that Trump never did).

But again, never mind: The China inquiries will tightly align House gavel activity with a key theme in Trump’s election campaign, while unleashing no end of neo-McCarthyite grandstanding on the right. “You look at the Biden administration, there’s no question in my mind that they’ve had a soft-on-China policy,” House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) said during a recent podcast interview. The net result of the White House’s invertebrate stance, he explained, was to “put China first and America last.”

One awkward obstacle for this jingoist messaging is that the sitting head of the House Select Subcommittee on Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party is Republican Representative Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin—who announced just before the House’s last recess that he’d be leaving Congress by the end of this month. Yet such considerations won’t long detain Comer and other MAGA inquisitors on the Hill: Gallagher’s committee was mostly a wonkish policy outfit, and the chair’s interest in cobbling together workable policy frameworks is plainly out of step with the corps of Inspector Javerts charged with setting the House’s agenda. Who needs to bother with all the messy work of governing, after all, when you can charter one MAGA flight of fancy after another through the House hearings calendar? There already is a Donald J. Trump International Airport, and it’s the US House of Representatives.

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Chris Lehmann

Chris Lehmann is the D.C. Bureau chief for The Nation and a contributing editor at The Baffler. He was formerly editor of The Baffler and The New Republic, and is the author, most recently, of The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and the Unmaking of the American Dream (Melville House, 2016).

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