Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Why I Stick With The GOP

It's a crazy time in politics, and it's depressing to see Trump allies throwing up all sorts of conspiracy theories in support of the idea that the election was "stolen".  A few principled Republicans with very safe seats (Sasse, Romney, etc.) are not going along with this, but many in the party are taking the approach of not arguing publicly with a set of claims which is appealing to a base feeling the strong pangs of disappointment after an election night when on the surface it looked like Trump might have pulled off another upset win.  We've actually seen this kind of hesitance to condemn bad behavior before.  Last fall I read Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge: the Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan, both by Rick Perlstein.  They're far from perfect books.  Perlstein basically seems to read a ton of newspapers from the period and write his books as a synthesis of everything that was in the news at the time.  It's a good way to be reminded of just how crazy some of the recent history of our country is, but he's not digging into primary sources and interviews the way that Robert Caro did with his magisterial biographies of LBJ.  And Perlstein is clearly a solid man of left who dislikes Reagan at least as much as he dislikes Nixon.  Still, one of the things that really struck me is that in general the GOP voters mostly stuck by Nixon throughout his fall.  And because they didn't want to upset GOP voters, GOP politicians stuck with him too.  Indeed, Reagan was one of the more persistent defenders of Nixon even after Nixon resigned.


I think at root, voters really hate to hear that someone they supported is not a good politician or is not a good person.  This happens on both sides.  Look at how the Democrats sheltered people like Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy years and years after it was clear what terrible people they were.  And Reagan was someone who had a very good instinct for what voters wanted.  They didn't want a repeat of the Nixon years, with their cheating and negativity, but they also didn't want to be told that they'd picked someone who was bad.  So Reagan studiously avoided rubbing their noses in having picked Nixon, he even defended Nixon (and thus their choice as voters.)  And yet he also gave them a very different kind of politics.

Still, it's depressing to see a party lining up to protect a politician who at this point is pretty clearly trying to cast doubt on an election that he simply lost, however narrowly.  And given that, I've been asked at times why it is that I still talk about being a Republican.  If Trump hasn't driven me out already, what would it take to have me stop identifying with the GOP?  Here's my answer.

At the end of the day: We currently have two viable parties in this country. There is no path to the Democrats ever being a party that I would identify with. Their core platform is one I disagree with on nearly every point, and some of their most passionately held beliefs are ones I consider deeply evil. The intellectual core of the party at this point seems to be rootless urban millennials who think socialism would be a good thing to try. Perhaps the only thing I agree with the Dems on much at all is immigration, and even there they seem more interested in having a tame voting block than actually helping people legally and culturally integrate into our country. So what's clear to me is that wherever I'm going to cast my lot, I'll never be a Democrat. I respect that there are people who are deeply devoted to a much more expansive state while still having Christian moral beliefs, and that some of those people choose to devote themselves to efforts like Democrats For Life, but I don't share their political beliefs that keep them attached to that party, so there's zero reason for me to attempt a similar compromise. I've voted for Democrats on occasion, but only as a strategic choice to try to eliminate a particular lower level GOP office holder and see a better one get run by the GOP next time. I don't ever see that changing.

So that leaves me with either being fiercely non-aligned or sticking it out with the GOP. As it happens, I do agree with most of what the GOP stood for during the period from 5-30 years ago. There are current GOP senators and governors that I'd very much like to see president. There is conscious willingness within the GOP to give space to and even support moral beliefs that I hold to be true and foundational to society.

Further, most of the conservative/GOP writers that I respected before the Trump era have hung tough against Trump. I find nothing to wince at in reading a Ramesh Ponnuru or Jonah Goldberg or Kevin Williamson or David French column. Whereas I didn't like Fox News in the first place, so I'm hardly surprised to see their low rent demagoguery which was bad in 2012 and 2008 and 2004 and 2000 remain bad in 2016 and 2020. On the positive side, we've even seen some great new venues get started as a result of the fall of the mainstream right. The Dispatch is an absolutely outstanding venue and group of writers/editors and has jumped to be one of the biggest substack venues in just a year.

For someone as naturally partisan as myself, being semi-attached to a party and voting in its primaries is far more attractive than being non-aligned. And the simple fact is, for all the problems which Trump has made clear (and it's no surprise that there are a lot of gullible, stupid, and even wicked people in any coalition which makes up roughly half the country) there are half a dozen prominent Republicans I would be happy to see in the White House and there is not a single Democrat I would be entirely happy to see there, though there are perhaps one or two (John Bel Edwards, perhaps?) I could reconcile to with relative equanimity.

So my question is not so much "Why would I remain aligned with the GOP?" but rather "Why would I not?"


Paul Zummo said...

Agreed on all counts. Though technically I am not actually registered with the GOP (for now), but I certainly more closely identify with them for the reasons you outline. Though the last few days have made that pretty tough.

Darwin said...

Yeah, it's been depressing to watch the GOP matching and exceeding the stupid behavior for which it rightly condemned the Democrats in years past.

Anonymous said...

What do you take to be the Democratic party's core platform (at least, what are the points you disagree with) and which of their passionately held beliefs do you take to be deeply evil?

Asking as someone who is *not* naturally partisan and isn't attached to a party. In fact, I'm just not very political. My personal echo chamber does run a bit blue, and I'll admit I've had an increasingly hard time understanding what's so loathsome about the Democratic party's platform (to the extent that I understand it, which frankly is only a little.) Oh, and while I mostly share your assessment about the intellectual core of the Democratic party, I have to confess I don't think much more highly about the representatives Republicans that cross my path. But that's about as strong as my political opinions get. Anyway, this is too much explanation--I'm just trying to convey where I'm coming from so that you know my question is genuine, not some kind of trap. :)

Darwin said...

Legal abortion would obviously be one of my key moral issues with the Democratic party, and also the determination to make religious institutions and individuals go along with providing abortion and birth control. Throw in the euthanasia and eugenic angles of life issues, such as "curing" genetic conditions by late term abortion.

I also have huge issues with the current approach to trans issues, with people being so defensive of trans people in general that they're pushing the idea even very young people should be helped/pushed into transitioning. It strikes me the Rowlings of the world are right to be skeptical of this.
I continue to have issues with gay marriage, but thought this clearly came to us via the Democratic Party, it's probably unfair to consider it a partisan issue at this point because no one is going to try to roll it back in the foreseeable future. Indeed, though I think it was wrong to recognize marriage as being possible between people of the same sex, there would also be an injustice in wiping out marriages that people had contracted, so we're kind of stuck for now, but I continue to resent the Democrats for it, in particular what looks to me like the obvious cynicism of Obama's don't believe / do believe flip flop.

It seems to me that there's a certain amount of interest on at least the far left to deny platform and in more extreme instances employment or even more basic civil rights to people who disagree with the above issues, but with a few flashy examples there haven't actually been big moves in this direction, so I guess I can't really put repression that hasn't happened yet on my list of evils. But I do think that both the right and left versions of cancel culture tend towards viciousness.

What I would distinctly NOT list as evil, though I disagree with it, is the much wider range of Democratic policy positions that I still disagree with on issues ranging from unions and taxes to guns and the right way to move off putting out so much CO2. Those strike me as issues on which people can disagree about methods or human nature or what the good life looks like without labeling anyone as evil.

DP said...

Another policy I would label as evil is the Democratic strategy of appeasement of China and Iran. The former is especially worrisome, as it is an existential economic threat--anyone who threatens to plunge you into a sea of plague is an adversary. Biden appears to be happy to play the chump, which is infuriating. So much for the Democrats' identification with the working class.

And speaking of which, that's why I have no time for the business wing of the GOP, too much of which is all to happy to look the other way as long as the yuan sloshes in.

Finally, I am willing to still read Ponnuru, but the gustibus. The other three have tics in their writing which make them a hard pass.

John Farrell said...

Great post, Brendan.