Sunday, August 14, 2016

It Is Not The Job of Democrats To Babysit Republicans

Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President. This has caused a giant crisis of confidence among Republicans who are committed to denying that Trump represents the Party which voted, by overwhelming margins, for him to be their standard-bearer (as Scott Lemieux observes, the best part of this narrative is when it claims that folks like John McCain and Lindsey Graham are "leading Republicans", as opposed to, say, Donald Trump). And that has created a small cottage industry of figuring out how to blame Democrats for Trump's rise. They cried wolf, Jonah Goldberg wails! Indeed they did, says David Graham. How could Republicans take the charge that Trump was a sui generis threat to American's democratic character, when Democrats always are calling Republican politicians terrible, horrible, no good very bad candidates for higher office?

If this complaint strikes you as pathetic, that's because it is. Obviously, Democrats are generally not going to like Republican nominees for higher office (if we did, either we'd be Republicans or they'd be Democrats). Republicans are responsible for their own nominee, if their nominee reflects poorly upon them, that says nothing more than that they are who we thought they were.

But the real question is why Republicans are supposedly entitled to rely on Democrats to keep them in check? We are not their keeper, after all. Why didn't their own self-generated political principles put the breaks on Trump? The answer seems to be that Republicans at this point, by their own admission, lack any self-generated political principles. As one commentator astutely put it at the end of Obama's first term: "[T]oday’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today: updated daily." The entire conservative movement today is one large exercise in ressentiment against urban coastal multicultural liberal elites, entirely reactive, creating nothing of its own. Of course it relied on Democrats to behave in such a way as to not "create a Trump"; Democrats -- indirectly -- create everything the contemporary Republican Party "stands" for.

Theirs is, as Nietzsche would put it, a Party beset by sickness. And while it's not the case that only a Party that sick could produce a Trump, it is the case that only a Party that sick could blame its opposition for forcing them into it.


Doug Workman said...

I don't know that I agree with that. The GOP could not coalesce around a non-Trump alternative. A confluence of factors led to his nomination. The rational side of the party could not agree on an alternative, so they focused a great deal of energy fighting amongst themselves. By the time they figured out that Trump was a serious contender for the nomination, it was too late. The Democrats had an irrational alternative in Bernie Sanders, just not enough candidates to fight among the rational choice. Read the Slate article about a hypothetical choice between Sean Pean and Ted Cruz/Rick Santorum. Could you end up voting for Cruz? That is the choice I will be facing in November and I have decided that I will vote for Mrs. Clinton.

David Schraub said...

The clown car effect clearly had something to do with it, but it was overstated. Trump was dominant in the primaries. And in general, Republicans who have tussled with him have seen their net popularity fall among Republicans (Ted Cruz's favorables among GOP voters plummeted after his Convention stunt, for example).

I actually wrote and then deleted a paragraph about GOP voters perceptions of Hillary, with reference to that Slate article. I can understand the dilemma (there's no way I could bring myself to vote for Jeremy Corbyn, for example). But the problem is that Clinton is not a Democratic Ted Cruz. Maybe Bernie Sanders is, but Clinton isn't. She's something more akin to a John Kasich -- a definitively liberal/conservative but nonetheless perfectly mainstream politician given the outlooks of their respective parties.

Now, I recognize that Republicans perceive Clinton as an anathema, and so I understand that it's difficult for them to pull the lever for her. But this is really a self-inflicted wound -- they spent much of the last few decades painting this wild apocalyptic caricature of Hillary Clinton as a extremist criminal sociopath, and so yeah, now it's hard for them to accept her as a viable alternative. But the problem there was the ludicrous caricature; one that mostly derived from the same ressentiment politics I outlined in the post.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that the Republican Party has veered so wildly to the Right that Kasich, himself barely acceptable to mainstream America in terms of policy and platform, was the most moderate choice in the election and he could do nothing. The only two candidates that seemed competitive were Cruz and Trump and both are completely out of step with the country. And that trend will only become more dramatic as a. the Republican party continues to move to the right and b. the country as a whole continues to move to the left.