Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin demonstrates how Republicanism works in one awful stroke


If Andrew Wheeler had been Trump’s EPA director and simply done a good job, or even a mediocre job, he he wouldn’t be getting a post in Virginia. It’s because he was relentlessly terrible in every possible way that he’s getting a reward. Being the worst possible person for the job is literally what makes Wheeler the obvious choice in a Republican administration.

Wheeler’s appointment doesn’t only serve to underscore how the Republican system is designed to reward extremism. Like seeing Dick Cheney at the “good” end of the dial, it perfectly illustrates that there is no such thing as a moderate Republican in 2022.

This wasn’t an appointment made by Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott. This is coming from Youngkin, the guy who was supposed to be the example of a Republican who doesn’t worship at the altar of Trump. But here Youngkin is, proudly signaling to the guys holding the purse strings that he is in the club. That he understands the game. That the worst is what’s best for Virginia.

And the worst is what they got. One more time: Andrew Wheeler is the guy who, in March 2020, responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by using it as an excuse to stop tracking pollution. As The New York Times reported then, “The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution.” From then through the end of his time at the EPA, Wheeler refused to fine companies for violating environmental regulations, and stopped requiring “routine compliance monitoring [of pollution], integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a special Top 10 List for the worst of Andrew Wheeler—a list that includes refusing to release reports that had been complete for over a year, showing that formaldehyde caused leukemia along with nose and throat cancer. Wheeler simply lied about those reports to keep them under wraps until he was gone. That’s who this guy is.

Oh, and he’s also now the secretary of natural resources for the state of Virginia.

He’ll always have a job. As long as he’s awful. Because that’s how Republicanism works.

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