A GOP insider is fed up with Trump enablers
PUBLISHED ON MEDIUM POLITICS
It used to be said that many Democratic voters, especially in the South, would choose a “yellow dog” before casting a ballot for a Republican. The term originated in the late 1800s. It didn’t matter who the candidate was or what they actually sought to achieve in office. They only thing that mattered was they were a Democrat and not a godforsaken Republican. I suppose that describes me now.
That’s not a small thing to say.
Supporting Democrats goes against my political DNA. I’ve advised and directed hundreds of Republican legislative, congressional, statewide campaigns — including presidential campaigns. I was the executive director of the Michigan Republican Party for many years and operated at the highest levels of the Republican National Committee. Yet after 30 years earning my living in Republican politics, a Democratic candidate needs to demonstrate just one thing to win my vote — a pulse.
I realized this last November while watching returns in the Louisiana governor’s race, hoping that Democrat John Bel Edwards would win re-election. I had the same desire for the gubernatorial election in Kentucky and the battle for control of the Virginia Legislature earlier in November. I never would have considered voting for a Democrat before Donald Trump descended the elevator to declare his candidacy and gave rise to MAGAnization of the GOP. He was ‘nails on a chalkboard’ to me from the get-go.
Like most, I didn’t take Trump seriously until he had already essentially captured the nomination. Even then I couldn’t foresee any path to victory for him, let alone one that ran through Michigan. I was one of more than 75,000 Michigan voters who showed up to vote in November 2016 but did not vote for any candidate for president (and Trump won the state by less than 11,000 votes) because I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Hillary Clinton.
It’s not that I’m particularly noble, brave, or woke. But I am unwilling to jettison the ideals that made me a Republican or abjectly debase myself to win elections, cling to power, or appease those who expect fealty to an individual above all else. As a young man, I was drawn to politics and public service because ideals mattered to me. Somewhere along the way winning became more important. Trump’s candidacy and election clarified my conscience. My values and ideology hadn’t changed, but what I was willing to tolerate to further them had; and I could never again put any person or party above standing for what is right and combatting what is wrong. There was no way I was going to accept or vote for someone I considered to be an incompetent, ignorant, cruel, corrupt, vainglorious, dotard simply because he called himself a Republican and happened to emerge the victor in the nomination battle. Nor would I be willing to support those who enabled him. Very few in the GOP can say the same.
Republicans have abandoned the ideological underpinnings that bolstered four decades of conservative dominance in American governance. The party that espoused the Balanced Budget Amendment has presided over the largest explosion of the federal deficit and debt in our history. The party of Reagan and George HW Bush that presided over the disappearance of the Soviet Union and won the Cold War now cozies up to anti-American despots and favors retrenchment in world affairs. The party that ran on a mantra of personal responsibility and “character counts” now says that the ends justify any means.
If these past four years have demonstrated anything, it’s that Republicans will accept staggering levels of ineptitude, malfeasance, corruption, and buffoonery, provided the offender belongs to the GOP. Rule of law and the restraints of Constitutional boundaries be damned. On top of the fiscal irresponsibility of deficits and debt, the Republican-controlled Congress fecklessly ceded Trump the power to launch trade wars that have cost American consumers billions and led to a spike in farm bankruptcies. They’re allowing Trump to siphon millions from the U.S. Treasury and from foreign interests directly into his personal businesses. They’ve become willing accomplices who’ve aided and abetted Trump’s direct assault on the rule-of-law, disdain for Congressional power and oversight mandated by the Constitution and legitimized his impeachable extortion of a foreign ally and the subsequent cover-up.
Then came the COVID-19 Pandemic. No President could have stopped it. Any President, other than Trump, would have reacted more quickly and demonstrated more competence. Tens of thousands of American lives could have been saved, along with millions of jobs and small businesses.
Now Trump is stoking dangerous seeds of discontent among Americans frustrated with stay-at-home orders and temporary business closures. We’ve seen ill-advised rallies where attendees ignorantly gambled exposure to the coronavirus. Worse, they’ve then recklessly risked carrying the virus to communities and people previously unaffected by this plague.
Elected Republicans and party leaders share as much blame for Trump’s abuses of power as he does himself. He couldn’t do it without them. They could have held him accountable at any time, on any offense — but they haven’t. Their ideals are fungible. They are craven and servile. They are also foolish and naïve. They fear a mean tweet more than the consequences of today or the judgment of history.
You’d think self-preservation, if not a sense of principle, honor, or duty, might motivate party elites to restrain Trump’s vice and perversion of the office he holds. Yet they’ve illogically ignored that as well, losing staggering numbers of GOP officeholders in elections since 2016. They’re immune to common sense. Inoculated against reality. Impervious to facts.
They know better. They’ve thrown all-in for a vainglorious dotard whose incompetence and ham-fisted greed and dishonesty pose an existential threat to the American system, not merely the Republican Party. The contempt I hold for them is far greater than my loathing of Trump. He never was better, but they once were.
I have not become a Democrat. I do not support them on significant policy matters. I don’t think they’re particularly courageous or virtuous, or that federal, state, or local governments would necessarily operate better if they were in charge. I think many of them would act as dishonorably and ridiculously partisan-hypocritical as the Republicans have if the shoe were on the other foot. But for now, Democrats do not support Donald Trump, and that makes us temporary allies, issue disagreements notwithstanding.
Our system presents a binary choice: Trump and today’s altered version of Republicans, or the Democrats. So, I will support any Democrat — even a yellow dog — against any Republican who supports Trump. No argument to the contrary matters.
Higher taxes? Don’t care
Drunken sailor spending? Already underway
Appointment of liberal judges? Don’t care
Lax immigration policy? Don’t care
Medicare for all? Don’t care
Gun grabbing? Don’t care
You get the point…Don’t waste your breath
I still do care about conservative ideals, just not the bastardized form of what passes for conservatism these days. Politics is like nature; It abhors a vacuum. Our system begs for factions on the center-left and center-right who compete in the arena of policy and politics, not whatever the hell we have today. I’m willing to re-engage in that battle eventually, hopefully to build a new party actually based on American conservatism, once the mutations caused by this faux version are eradicated. In the meantime, bring on 2020 — and bring on victory by the Democrats, even the yellow dogs.
Jeff Timmer is a political consultant and strategist. He was Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party and is now an erstwhile GOPer. Follow him on Twitter @jefftimmer