A struggle in the age of a Trump Republican Party is the constant rage, disgust, and despair that can be directed to so many different things at once. It is hard to write, for myself especially, about the wrongs of this political moment when it is impossible to decide where to begin in a single piece. There will come a time for retrospection from historians, commentators, and writers to catalog the horrors of this political era and hopefully prevent the same from happening in the future. But in the present, it’s important to use the rage and energy to convince those capable of critical thought to make a change in our elected officials that is so desperately needed, and above all else, to avoid feelings of helplessness. Forward is the only answer.
In 2016 I could understand how an incredibly naive person could think Trump wasn’t bad enough, that voting third-party was okay, or that not voting at all was an option. But in 2018 and 2020, it is unconscionable, immoral even, to vote in support of today’s Trump groveling Republican Party, with rare exception. An informed person can no longer claim to be free of guilt for complicity in the rampant corruption, blatant racism, and decay of any vestige of good will governance that the Party once claimed a mantle to. Those untapped by the Trump Kool-Aid and professing to adhere to the bedrock values of this country must understand that those values and high ideals are under attack. We all have a duty to exercise a meaningful choice that reaffirms those values we’ve taken for granted, and vote for the only party that promises to put a check on bad government gone amok–the Democratic Party.
A party that does not lose will not reform. Our constitution is built in a way almost impossible to amend without near universal consensus. It gives out-sized political power to small, more rural states and skews presidential races with an ancient electoral college system. Things like the filibuster prevent the reforms and policies that this country desperately needs unless there are 60 votes, a truly enormous margin in the Senate. Add to this a conservative media apparatus hell-bent on supporting right-wing politicians with misinformation regardless of quality or character, and we have ourselves an impasse capable of grinding any government to a halt. The Republican Party can sustain substantial losses at the ballot box and retain majorities or filibuster wielding opposition in many states and at the federal level. If conservative voters continue to vote for the Republican Party regardless of how awful and corrupt it is just because of a vague ideological affiliation, then no conservative government will truly be held accountable.
The most credible critiques of Hillary Clinton’s influence and ethics have paled to the magnitude of mind numbing corruption exhibited by the current administration. The concerns of every congressman and Trump voter about the supposedly rank corruption of Hillary Clinton are exposed as the obviously fraudulent concerns they were. The silence of these sycophantic cynics in face of the corruption, immorality, and at times downright traitorous presidency of Donald J. Trump rings deafeningly loud. The bad faith hypocrisy of conservatives in this era knows no bounds.
James Madison wrote of the dangers of factionalism in his famous Federalist No. 10 essay.
“By faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”
The solution for today’s woes is simple, and obvious, but always uncertain in a country with weak civic engagement.
“If faction consists of less than majority, relief is supplied by the Republic principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote,” Hamilton wrote.
Madison’s concern of “faction” is just a fancier way of alluding to our modern concern of “tribalism” or hyper partisanship today. The modern Republican Party is a minority faction which the public regularly and routinely rejects their “sinister views” of in raw numbers. A clear majority of the American population wants a single payer healthcare system. The same goes for higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, free college tuition at public universities, aggressive action on climate change and environmental protection. Even the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” the dreaded destruction of liberty that Republicans warned their voters for years, is now overwhelmingly popular. On issue after issue, liberal Democratic proposals are incredibly popular across the board.
The Republican Party does not represent the average American, and knows its ideas are outdated and disproportionately help the wealthy, and specifically white wealthy people. Republicans, for example, have won the presidential election popular vote only once in the past 30 years– after 1988. Rather than updating their terrible policy positions, the Republican Party has maintained broad power by appealing to “cultural” conservatives–with great help from the conservative media apparatus, which appeal to the politics of fear and resentment. Fox News and its ilk love to show their audience menacing images of colored people having the audacity to seek asylum in the U.S., displaying stats of “government waste” on the poor, and trying to explain the decline of the middle class and white america through the lens of xenophobia and uninformed rhetoric. All the while, as President Obama recently said, the Republican Party is robbing us blind.
This country cannot survive if the norms, rules, and laws that have sustained it suffer the continued machinations of the Republican Party or politicians of the breed of Trump. We are in a period of unprecedented corruption and inequality in political and economic terms–a true second gilded age. Democracies are on the decline and authoritarianism on the rise; we need to reassert our values with leadership interested in rebuilding the country so that it works for everyone, rather than just the few.
The founder of the Republican Party, Abraham Lincoln, presided over a civil war which nearly broke the union. In his Ghettysburg Address, he stated that the war was a test of “whether any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” The hacking at the foundations of our fragile constitutional order bode ill for the continued viability of democratic rule here and abroad. If the United States, the world power heralded for so long as a defender of good in the world, fails, it yields the high ground to players like China who promise prosperity and order at the expense of liberal values we hold dear. What hope do budding nations and young democracies have if we fail to find a way?
Our uncorrected trajectory in the status quo is failure. Democrats are by no means immune to the constitutional hardball and institutional sabotage the Republican Party has played over the last decade. The only thing keeping us from the brink at the federal level is a Democratic Party unwilling to sink the fortunes of the country for the sake of crass political goals, like their partisan counterparts have done. But if Democrats start acting with the same impunity and scorched earth politics, the deadlock, decay, and effectiveness of our governing bodies will only get worse, if that’s imaginable.
Fanciful ideation with small government conservatism is an outdated and unusable philosophy in the real world outside of academia and local government. My favorite quote about libertarianism is “I used to be libertarian, but then I grew up and saw how the world actually works.” We are the only developed economy with a conservative party that disdains the idea of the welfare state, recoils at the role of government in economic management, and relishes in the dangers of unleashed laissez-faire capitalism. We no longer live in a world in which a truly small government is feasible. We have 300 million people, longer life expectancies, and a host of new economic, environmental, and social problems that the founding fathers, nor even a politician a hundred years ago, could not have dreamed of. The biggest challenges in this world are now only solvable at the national level with government help.
Dogmatic conservative policy at the federal level is a consistent threat not just to the well-being of the country, but to the existence of a livable planet for the human species. Republicans ignore the threat of climate change and pretend science itself is biased. They scoff at concerns of unregulated financial markets or skyrocketing income inequality they help create. The Party has proven to have no solutions for this country’s existential problems other than tax cuts and dismantling government, and doesn’t even stand for the good faith conservatism and small government it preaches, and hasn’t for quite some time. It merely has a different priority for the bloat of government, particularly in subsidizing corporations and sustaining an imperial sized military.
Replacing today’s Republican Party isn’t a silver bullet to ushering in utopian Democratic rule. Rather, its to force the conservative establishment to abandon its radicalized course of unpopular policies and obstructionist tendencies, and alter its platform to appeal to a broader cross-section of the country, instead of exclusively catering to the wealthy and the white.
Donald Trump is a monstrous human being, a criminal fraud, a petulant, serial liar, and immoral con-artist, hauntingly and obviously unfit for the presidency from the start, and becoming more so everyday. Anyone not blindly steeped in his pathology has always known this. But Donald Trump is a clear and obvious course for the Republican Party of the past decade. He could only rise because of the intellectual and moral rot of the Party thats been festering for a generation. So while it is important to rid the country of Trump, the real problem is a conservative political establishment gone off the rails in state and federal government. A party that is unwilling to check its own malfeasance is inherently unfit for elected office at every level. A party that panders to the politics of fear and bigotry is unfit. A party that preaches fiscal responsibility when out of power, and then disregards it entirely when in power, is unfit. A party that shamelessly and regularly lies about its own policy positions is embarrassingly unbecoming of this nation, and represents a dangerously deep corrosion of American politics.
There is only one way to force the change we need. Defeat the miscreants, liars, and frauds at the ballot box. Vote out the Party responsible for grossly usurping the public good. Text friends and family, knock doors, make calls. Do whatever you can to assure your government represents something you can be proud of.
For the sake of the Republic, the Republican Party must be abandoned and replaced in its entirety with any politician not beholden to it. In its demise, a conservative party needs to be built tethered to reality, science, and facts. Build this party in devotion to truth in good government, less hellbent on serving the interests of the few, and that does not cater a fetish to voodoo economics and contradicting archaic notions of small government unfit for the twenty first century. If not in name, then in substance, build this new party in a modernity that can at least pretend to be interested in making the world better and restoring faith in our governing institutions. America could use a right of center party that wants to solve the serious problems this country faces. That party would be a rousing success if it turned out to be only half the disgrace its predecessor has become.