The Party of a Lifetime
I like and admire the Republican conservative analysts who have come forward and so harshly criticized today's Republican Party, especially those who have gone to the lengths of actually leaving the party, like Steve Schmidt and Max Boot, both of whose work I've liked for several years. Just yesterday, Boot even wrote a scathing piece about how people should vote a straight-ticket Democrats in order to burn the Republican Party to the ground. Also, George Will -- whose work I can't stand, even when he writes about baseball and his love of the Chicago Cubs, all of which I find pedantic and self-serving, including his criticism of today's GOP -- but I still admire and like that he left the party and is critical of it.
And I like and admire Jennifer Rubin and Nicole Wallace who haven't left the party and whose previous work I thought was not nearly as thoughtful as Schmidt and Boot, but who are so viscerally critical of the Trump administration and so much of the GOP. There are even people whose politics I don't remotely like but who nonetheless have admirably been so outspokenly-critical of the Republican Party today, such as David Frum and BIll Kristol.
I admire them all for being so critical of their own party. Some I admire more, others much less -- like the Wills, Kristols and Frums, of the world whose criticism strikes me more as a reaction to hurting their brand than for what's best for the country -- but still, their outspokenness is notable and beneficial. It is not easy to be so bluntly and deeply critical of your own party that you've supported through your life, although Trump and today's Republicans do make it far-easier than it should ever be. And especially those who have actually taken the huge step to leave the party, to be clear that this isn't who they are or what they stand for.
That said --
I think it's important to recognize that as much as a person says, "This is not my Republican Party" -- it is. Though some of these people previously focused more on the better aspects of the GOP, none were especially critical of it. None of them saw the hatred of immigrants and demeaning of women and racism and the eight years of birtherism and having Mitch McConnell say on the day of President Obama's inauguration that Job One was to ensure he not get reelected and the Republican Senate blocking Merrick Garland without even a vote for a year and the attacks on "activist judges" and criticism of the "Liberal Main Stream Media" and making the reversal of Roe v. Wade a foundational issue and fealty to the NRA and making the Religious Right of the "Family Values" litmus test to patriotism and more and far more and ever stood up and said, "This is not my Republican Party." They may have thoughtfully pushed economic issues and foreign policy programs and domestic policies as why they were Republicans and conservatives. And they may have avoided the most-base of the party base -- or uncomfortably accepted it as helpful in supporting election wins. And they may even have been critical of a Republican action here and there. But...it was their Republican Party. And has been for the past decade, if not longer, dating back at the very least to today's party godfather Ronald Reagan doing his best to divide America with his ridicule of "The L Word," those damn liberals. Actually, it goes back even longer, to Richard Nixon and the racist "Southern Strategy," though Reagan turned this division into an art form.
(Though at the very least the sainted Reagan called Russia the Evil Empire, rather than courted it with loving, open arms.)
This was their Republican Party, and it was the foundation that left the the door open and prepared the way to welcome a Trump. And they never proclaimed how the party was moving in the wrong direction and appealing to the worst of us and that they abhorred the divisiveness and thought it was against the principals of the Constitution to rely on the Bible as the guiding document for America. Nor do most, if any of them say in their criticism today that this was also the Republican Party of the past 10, or even 30 years, and that what we see now is not the changing of the party, but rather the result of that change.
This is not to say that there are not any Republican conservatives who have acknowledged the adjacent past. But they are negligible. However some, like Tom Nichols, an author and professor at the Naval War College, expressed this very point properly when he wrote yesterday -- "I think the problem is that the GOP, like any party, is a coalition, and people like Max and me didn't want to look too closely at some of the people sharing that tent. We wanted to believe their attraction to the GOP was rooted in the same ideals we believed in."
To be clear, as I said, over recent years I liked many of these people I've mentioned here. And others. And most, though not all, were not divisive and pandering to the worst of America. A microscopically rare few, like David Gergen, have even long been open-eyed, even-handed and outspoken for decades. And when I say "these people," I don't just mean public figures, but the multitudes of the party who never pandered to the baser instincts but just had different political views from others who weren't Republicans and conservatives. And I really, truly do like and admire that they are now so vocal and outraged at what they finally have acknowledged the GOP has become, some to the degree of actually leaving it.
But this is their Republican Party. And it has been for a long time. And I look forward to them acknowledging that, too.
This is about the Republican Party.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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