The Republicans Have Earned My Opposition

The Party of Donald Trump has left no sane choice but to vote straight Democrat.

The nomination of Donald Trump broke my streak of voting Republican for President, which began in 1984, the first election in which I was eligible to vote. His temperament, racism, misogyny and general unfitness for office left me no choice but vote for Hillary Clinton, easily my least favorite Democratic nominee in my lifetime. While I still disagree with the Democratic Party on many issues, the GOP’s staunch backing of Trump made me believe it was my duty to vote Democrat in Virginia’s 2017 statewide races and in today’s midterm elections.

National Review‘s David French, with whom I agree more often than not, disagrees with my assessment, arguing “The Democrats Have Not Earned Your Vote.”

Tens of millions of Americans have mailed in their ballots already. Tomorrow, tens of millions more will go to the polls. I’m not confident how they’ll vote, but I am absolutely certain of one thing: Not one of them will see the name “Donald Trump” on the ballot.

Instead, they will see different individuals with characters very different from Trump’s. They will see Republicans and Democrats with their own policy positions and their own rhetorical styles.

Yet now voices from the left, the center, and what can only be called the “former right” are calling on Republicans and conservatives to abandon any kind of individualized determination for the sake of opposing a man who isn’t on the ballot. They’re making that demand even as leading Democrats prove time and again that they will not moderate for the benefit of Republicans who change parties, will not compromise, and — crucially — will not even behave better than Trump himself.

In other words, they are asking for your political capitulation without earning your support.

Democrats claim that now is a critical time for public hygiene. It’s time to hold corrupt, self-aggrandizing politicians accountable. I agree.

Ask your Democratic candidate if he or she is willing to publicly condemn New Jersey senator Robert Menendez — tried for public corruption and admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for doing favors for a wealthy contributor in exchange for lavish gifts — the way that so many conservatives condemned (and ultimately rejected) Roy Moore.

Democrats claim that now is the time to reject the politics of personal destruction. They look at a president who calls people names, who spins out wild conspiracy theories (Ted Cruz’s father participated in the Kennedy assassination? Really?), and they demand better. I agree.

Look at your Democratic candidate’s actions regarding Brett Kavanaugh. Did they credit facially implausible gang-rape allegations? Did they presume his guilt and declare they “believed survivors” even without substantiation and in the face of contradictory evidence? Did they participate in a campaign to destroy a man’s life and career, only to drop the whole matter the instant he was confirmed?

Democrats decry Republican extremism and alarmism. They look at wild claims about the border caravan, wasteful troop deployments, and alarmist rhetoric about criminals and Middle Easterners. They condemn family separation. They decry Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric. They believe that Trump and his allies are dangerously raising tensions in the American body politic. I agree.

Ask where your Democratic candidate stands on Hillary Clinton’s rejection of civility, Cory Booker’s call for protesters to “get up in the face of some congresspeople,” Eric Holder’s declaration that “when they go low, we kick them,” or Maxine Waters’s ominous demand that “if you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

And while you’re at it, ask your Democratic candidates if the challenge of Donald Trump is so grave that they’re willing to moderate their positions on abortion, immigration, health care, gun rights, or religious liberty even in the slightest to win your support.

There are those who will read this piece and decry the “whataboutism” or the “both sides-ism,” but isn’t every single election an evaluation of both sides? Don’t we have to compare and contrast candidates?

I have a simple test for voting: I will vote for individuals of good character who share my political values. If both candidates meet that test (and they rarely do), then of course I vote for the person closest to my views. That means I evaluate the individual whose name is on the ballot, not the president who isn’t yet up for reelection.

Nor does the rejection of one candidate lead automatically to a vote for his opponent. Each candidate has to earn your vote, and if no one has, it is entirely acceptable to write in a name or go on strike — to stay home until the political parties can produce a candidate worth your support.< And I refuse to recommend that anyone vote against a good conservative, including good conservatives who could remain in office long after Trump is gone from politics, to "punish" the GOP. I especially cannot recommend punishing the GOP by voting for an unworthy opposition. The best form of accountability is candidate-by-candidate, not party-by-party. Make each person own his or her choices and actions. To sweep out a good man or woman --- and replace him or her with someone who doesn't share your values, or who doesn't have the character you seek in a politician --- isn't an act of moral reform but yet another sign of political decay.

First off, French’s own choice of contrasts undermines his argument. He agrees with me that the President of the United States is unfit for office. That he’s prone to wild conspiracy theories and racist demagoguery. That his treatment of immigrant children has been abominable. That his anti-First Amendment rhetoric has been outrageous and dangerous. And yet this is somehow offset by two former officials arguing that Democrats should stop meeting Trump’s lies, insults, and slurs with civility? A Representative known herself for provocative language telling supporters that they should exercise their right to protest public officials in a more obnoxious way than I’d prefer? That’s some awfully thin whataboutism.

Second, while I generally agree that people, like myself, who would like to see a return to a saner Republican Party ought vote for sane Republicans, we’re in a moment where the national party has to be restrained. While Donald Trump’s name doesn’t appear on the ballot, this election is indeed a referendum on his presidency. A vote for even a moderate Republican is a vote for a Republican Speaker of the House and a Republican Senate Majority Leader.  And that’s a vote to sweep the results of the Mueller investigation under the rug—if not a vote to fire Mueller outright. It’s a vote to embolden Trump to double down on the things that French admits he finds loathsome.

Frankly, neither U.S. Senator Tim Kaine nor U.S. Representative Don Beyer, both Democrats, are in much danger of losing today. In my Republican-leaning neighborhood, I haven’t seen a single sign for their Republican opponents amid a handful of signs for Kaine-Beyer. Indeed, driving around, I’ve seen almost as many signs for Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate likely to lose to Ted Cruz in Texas today, than I have for Republican Corey Stewart. Still, my vote to retain them in office is a vote to repudiate Trump and his enablers in the GOP.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. James Pearce says:

    I agree that the Dems haven’t earned your vote, but I think they deserve it anyway.

    I also think the Dems can benefit from a different kind of voter.

  2. More importantly, a vote against Corey Stewart is a vote against the pandering the alt-right that he engaged in both during his campaign for Governor last year and his campaign for the GOP nomination for Senate. He tried to move away from that after winning the nomination in June, but the record is there for everyone to see.

    It’s unfortunate that Stewart (and Trump) is likely to take down members of Congress like Barbara Comstock in the 10th District, who has in many respects continued the independent streak set by her predecessor Frank Wolf, but if it means that the Republican Party of Virginia learns a lesson then so be it.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Welcome to the resistance, James.

  4. Jake says:

    “With each step the “caravan of contradictions” takes toward our border, another progressive illusion slips away. Victor Davis Hanson considers this mob, and by extension the events surrounding it, a “paradox, a contradiction, and an irony.” He’s right.

    The “reasoning” of progressives that leads them to endorse opening our borders to a group of intransigent lawbreakers so that they may escape lawlessness, is logically unacceptable.”

  5. grumpy realist says:

    @Jake: Whataboutism at its finest. We’re talking about not voting Republican, idiot.

    (Also, considering the lack of respect for the truth that Trump and his enablers have demonstrated, commentary from any of the media on the right needs to be taken with a huge grain of salt approximating one solar mass. How long do you think it takes to walk the length of Mexico, you cretins?)

  6. Kathy says:

    I’m reminded of Robert Heinlein, who advised that even when there’s no candidate worth voting for, there surely is someone worth voting against. The GOP deserves the full Heinlein treatment this year.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    Democrats are quite often stupid, indecisive, riven by factions and obnoxiously smug. Republicans are racists, xenophobes, anti-gay bigots and misogynists. The Democrats are tiresome know-it-all college kids. The Republicans march under the Confederate flag and the swastika.

    The choice is clear: smug but hopeful is infinitely preferable to cruel and hateful.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    Well said, James.

  9. Jake says:

    Charlie Kirk

    Democrats 2018 platform:

    Bring back ISIS
    Keep North Korea Nuclear
    Raise your taxes
    War with Russia
    Let’s crash the stock market
    Get back on welfare
    Abolish ICE
    Sympathy for MS13
    All these new jobs need to go
    Illegals over citizens
    There are no genders

    Vote Republican

  10. OzarkHillbilly says:


    The “reasoning” of progressives that leads them to endorse opening our borders to a group of intransigent lawbreakers so that they may escape lawlessness, is logically unacceptable.”

    So much horseshit in one sentence, I’d be ashamed to repeat it. For starters, what progressives advocate open borders? Name them. I am certain they are out there, even tho I’ve never heard a progressive actually advocate for open borders, but I believe there are some out there simply because there are some pretty out there progressives. So I say again, please name them so that we may judge the seriousness of their statements and yours.

    2ndly, take a gander at this picture of one member of that group of intransigent lawbreakers.

    I know, absolutely terrifying, isn’t it? God help us if they reach our border! Whatever will we do?!?!?!?!?!??? OK, go change your pants now.

    ETA feeling the need to point out that those intransigent lawbreakers haven’t actually broken any laws yet that anybody knows of and that seeking asylum is very much legal in the US.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    There are no genders! Oh, no! Sweet Jesus save us from people of indistinct gender! There may even be some differently-gendered people in the MILLION MEXICAN CARAVAN of DEATH!

    Ruuuuuuun! Ruuuuuun! Transgender Messicans is comin’!

  12. Pylon says:

    If the people in the caravan were lawbreakers, you’d think they’d choose a different method to gain entry to the US, rather than publicly approaching and lawfully seeking asylum.

  13. reid says:

    @Jake: I know, troll and all….. That list is just further proof of how stupid and dishonest Republicans have become and why all decent people should vote D.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Jake: Thank you. I appreciate such a pure example of one of the classic conservative fallacies, that Democratic or liberal policies must be the mirror image of whatever you believe.
    As a corrective perhaps you could spend the afternoon looking for a national Democrat advocating we just open our borders to the “caravan”. As a further penance, research what happened when the last caravan arrived. (Hint: not much.)

  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Thanks for mindlessly reciting the State Media propaganda.

  16. Jen says:

    I had lunch with a good friend yesterday who is a staunch Republican. She told me she’ll be voting for all Democrats, except for one race on the ballot, this time around.

    Her reasoning is what I’ve heard from others, and have seen echoed in places like Max Boot’s column in WaPo.

    She thinks the Republican Party needs to be restructured and that both parties need a realignment, and that won’t come until there are large, painful losses.

    Anecdotes are not data, but I’ve heard this from enough friends that it’s at least a trend in my circles.

  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Kudos, James.
    I don’t know who David French is…but that opinion piece, in the body of this post, is little better than something J-enos or Bungie would have written.

  18. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    the Republican Party needs to be restructured and that both parties need a realignment

    I agree with the former; Conservatism has a lot to offer the nation. Today’s Republicans are not Conservatives.
    As for the later; I suspect it’s more a case of Republicans view of Democrats need to be re-aligned. Witness Jakes list of fictional Democratic positions. I mean, if Democrats really stood for those things, then yes…realignment would be due. But they don’t by any stretch.

  19. Not the IT Dept. says:

    For all the complaining about the perpetually disorganized and off-message Democrats, it’s the reason why a Trump figure will never arise in that party. Republicans should seriously contemplate their leader-uber-alles kneejerk-ism, their underground social media and its conspiracy theories, and ask themselves why it might be easy for a grifter like Trump to take over.

    And what internal cultural changes they will have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  20. Franklin says:

    Full agreement with Dr. Joyner here. Ever since halfway through GWB’s term one could consider me to be moderately liberal. And yet I still managed to vote some R’s, L’s, and G’s in every election, usually for local contests where I was simply more impressed with the given candidate than the Democratic offering.

    But yeah, straight D’s this time. It might have been different if I heard more than a couple outgoing senators weakly reject Trump’s “style,” but for now I consider all Republicans to be enablers. It’s much more about style than policy (though Trump is even too stupid to put forth a solid conservative policy).

  21. Guarneri says:

    “Republicans are racists, xenophobes, anti-gay bigots and misogynists. “

    James was invoking the notion of sanity………… Snicker.

  22. James Pearce says:

    @Jake: Honestly, “Abolish ICE” is the only one I’ve heard, and it’s spoken with one eye over their shoulder, ready to run at the first opportunity.

  23. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    “Republicans are racists, xenophobes, anti-gay bigots and misogynists. “

    Only if you judge by their policies.

  24. Michael Reynolds says:

    You vote for a racist, you’re a racist.

    You don’t like the label? Stop supporting racists. Simple.

  25. Stormy Dragon says:

    I must admit I don’t understand why David French is still considered a voice for Republican moderation given that he, as recently as 2003, wrote a SCOTUS amicus brief arguing that states have not only the power, but also a positive duty to violently repress their LGBT citizenry.

    He is part of the problem that got us to this place.

  26. Moosebreath says:

    Nice work, James.

  27. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I can’t say that I have an exhaustive knowledge of French’s policy preferences. I stopped reading NRO years ago but have stumbled on several of his pieces in the Trump era and he’s mostly in opposition to Trump’s excesses. Alas, he’s also in support of enabling them.

  28. mattbernius says:

    So are you going on record to say someone like Steve King isn’t a racist?

  29. Gustopher says:

    James, I am sorry that it came to this. I’m glad you’re able to hold your nose, and do the right thing here, but I’m sorry that you have to.

    I long for the day when there’s a reasonable Republican Party again, with independent voices who don’t put party above country (and blind support for Trump is definitely putting party above country). Until there is some major realignment and rebuilding within the party, however, they really have to be kept out of office.

    I hope that happens soon, as our two party system doesn’t really work well with one party being lock-step crazy.

  30. Not the IT Dept. says:

    David French’s One Big Issue is abortion, and he hasn’t figured out yet it’s not in the Republican Party’s interests to actually ban abortion because then the rubes would have one less issue to drive them to the polls. That Trump has been credibly accused of funding at least one abortion doesn’t seem to have penetrated yet.

  31. Jen says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I have a feeling it’s a longing for the days when both parties would set aside differences and get things done. “Realignment” in that sense means fewer hardliners, more centrists in both camps.

    The fact that few races out of the 435 up for election in the House are really competitive IS, IMHO, a problem. I’d like to see fewer safe seats, and more competitive races as I believe it would drive both parties away from the fringe elements. We have a working model of exactly that here in NH. We have two seats in the House; one leans slightly Dem, the other leans slightly Republican. It means BOTH have to actually listen to their constituents.

  32. mattbernius says:

    Hey @Jake, its great to see you participating here. I happened to notice you haven’t responded to my fact-filled rebuttals of some of your citing of polemicists on “birthright citizenship.” I’m sure that’s an oversight. Here are the two locations you can find them:

    On one of those you commented (before I provided rebuttals with links) that I was (and I quote) “Calling names no facts . Your’re a lefty”

    So tell me, is failing to respond (or turning tail and running) when someone posts experts who carefully pick apart the argument your polemicist of choice is pushing a sign of a “righty?”

    I’d hate to think that was the case.

  33. nitpicker says:

    So, according to French, voters should reject Democrats for:

    1) Refusing to jettison a senator who was tried and acquitted.
    2) Demanding that accusations against a person getting a lifetime appointment should be fully investigated?


  34. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    I have a feeling it’s a longing for the days when both parties would set aside differences and get things done.

    OK…but that’s hard to swallow when Democrats proposed a Republican Health care Plan and got zero Republican votes, or when Obama offered up entitlement reform for a Grand Budget Deal and Republicans denied him, or when Democrats come to an agreement with Dennison on Immigration Reform, only to have Tea Baggers scuttle the deal. Democrats are operating in the center. It’s just that Republicans are so far off the rails everyones persepctive is skewed.

  35. Kylopod says:


    There are no genders

    Then why aren’t you speaking Spanish rather than English?

  36. Stormy Dragon says:

    @James Joyner:
    In the early 2000s, David French was the senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, in which role he wrote some extremely homophobic (even by early 2000s standards) court briefs.

  37. Kylopod says:

    @Stormy Dragon: As late as 2014 he was still arguing that going into Iraq was a good idea.

  38. Jen says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Agreed, 100%.

    I’m just happy for the votes today.

  39. Tyrell says:

    Okay. I respect your views. I have never and will never vote a straight ticket. Even if there would be a Feel Good party.
    Straight tickets are too much like a unanimous vote: which are not wise.

  40. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m just about to go and vote. Not that it makes a great deal of difference here in Illinois. The only vote for federal office I have is for representative and I’ll vote to re-elect Mike Quigley. He’s a decent enough guy as Chicago Democratic Congressional representatives go and he’s only served a couple of terms.

    At the state level I’ll split my ballot. Some of the Democrats running are decent; Some of the Republicans are decent.

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: Wikipedia informs me that he was one of the “not-Trumps” that was run up the flagpole prior to the GOP convention, so being “against” Trump is natural enough.

    On the other hand, I see his point. If, in fact, Trump is the objectionable element–that is, one is okay with the bigotry, misogyny, gay bashing, fear, xenophobia, double standards about government spending and budget, dangerous foreign policy, wars to “plant democracy,” maintaining a permanent working poor cohort and denying those in it social and economic mobility, voter suppression, and all the other things that the GOP represents and is proud of representing as well, then the logical choice is to stay the course because Trump will be gone in 6 years, max (two if Republicans are smart–but they’re not), but the need to “keep making America great” will still be here and the candidates will go back to the dog whistling that guys like French (and probably many if not most NRO readers) would prefer (but are unnecessary to guys like Drew, Eric, Jake, and whatever sock puppet name Jay Tea is going by currently).

    Those crosses on people’s lawns are not going to light themselves nor is the wall going to build itself, ya know! And taxes are still too high–the ad for my district’s GOP Congress person was telling me that just yesterday.

    ETA: Darn! I left out abortion. I knew I’d forgotten something.

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    So tell me, is failing to respond (or turning tail and running) when someone posts experts who carefully pick apart the argument your polemicist of choice is pushing a sign of a “righty?”

    I’d hate to think that was the case.

    We all have our crosses to bear; if this one is too heavy for you alone, I’m sure someone here will help you with it.

  43. Blue Galangal says:

    Thank you, James. I’ve always respected your intellectual integrity even when I’ve disagreed with your conclusions. This time we’re in happy concordance.

  44. the Q says:

    Just for kicks, I sometimes will go on red state blogs and and deny anything true that a Trump supporter will state. For example, they will say the stock market reached an all time high under Trump which is true, but I will reply that is simply FAKE NEWS that Bloomberg and the other Jews who control Wall Street want them to believe. Of course they will link a FOX or Wall Street Journal story proving their point and I will say “FAKE NEWS, this is all coming from a lame street media company owned by a Jew”…And when they point out the low unemployment rate I reply, “Those government numbers are from the deep state and they are the same figures used by the liar Obama to falsely claim the economy was recovering when we all know he almost destroyed America.”

    Of course, they get totally apoplectic at my dismissal of their points and go on and on about the “facts” and the legitimacy of their claims, as I insist all their information is FAKE since they use government issued metrics and media articles to “prove” they’re right.

    So, at the end of their exasperation at my willful ignorance and denial of their “facts”, I then let them in on the joke that now they “know how liberals feel everyday having to endure the massive, daily stream of lies spewed by Trump and his followers” and when a liberal tries to correct them, liberals are accused of trump hatred.

    I highly advise doing this if you want to semi torture a wingnut if you have some downtime.

  45. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Democrats are quite often stupid, indecisive, riven by factions and obnoxiously smug. ”

    If you can’t distinguish the serious philosophical differences separating the Judean Peoples Front and the Peoples Front of Judea, there’s just no point in talking politics with you. Splitter.

  46. Jen says:

    @wr: I am continually impressed by the quality of (most of the) commenters on this blog, particularly those with a penchant for Monty Python references–which I see regularly. Well done.

  47. Gustopher says:

    @the Q: I used to go onto the Fox News website and correct the spelling and grammar of offensively racist posts. Not disagree with them, just try to teach grammar.

    It was fun until I got banned.

  48. Bokonon says:

    French is just being an apologist. And he trying to give his conservative readers intellectual permission for voting for the GOP … in spite of everything that’s right up front of their nose. Because … Bob Menendez?

    And yeah … like French even admits … this is classic “whattaboutism”. Just a sophisticated version of it that lacks the usual emojis and “DumboKKKraps SUCK!” memes.

    He should be goddamned ashamed of himself.

  49. the Q says:

    Gustopher, Oh, I love it when they tell me they are going to flag me to the moderator, my reply is “geez, are you going to squeal on me you “flipper”? Are you going to be a “rat” and tell the moderator your “wittle feelings are hurt wa wa wa wa”, wingnut snowflakes on here can give but not take, typical Trump bullies…can hurl the stupid but then run when it is flung back…so go ahead, flag my comment, make my day, but just remember you’re a rat fink stoolie.” Then I sit back for the crazy……

  50. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @the Q: My hat is off to you Sir, or Madam. I doubt I have the fortitude.

  51. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: Monty Python is the measure of all.

  52. wr says:

    @Jen: Thanks! Was just listening to Eric Idle’s memoirs, so it was in my head. (Pro tip: Idle is amusing, but far too much starry name-dropping. If you’re only going to do one Python memoir, John Cleese’s is the way to go. On audio — I’m sure it’s great in print, but hysterical in his own voice.)

  53. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @One American: Oh ye of little brain….

  54. Tyrell says:

    @One American: There is indeed too much shouting and hollering. It is in both parties, audiences, and on the main line news networks. I have gone to alternative news sources that are factual, educational, and positive. No hollering at guests like we see on the networks.
    I feel a lot better.
    Watch Walter Conkrite’s interview with President Johnson about Vietnam. No shouting, berating, or accusations. I would say most people these days would be surprised if they watched it.

  55. Jax says:

    @the Q: that sounds like a brilliant way to waste some winter time, I’m going to try that!

  56. mattbernius says:

    Sorry I didn’t get back to this sooner. I think the subtly that James is missing (as if there is one) in terms of voter suppression is that in the case of statewide offices, it’s an issue of death by 1000 cuts.

    For example, I’m sure based on previous behavior, James will defend as “normal” the relocation of polling areas inside of affluent gated communities — which has become increasingly common in Florida. In James mind, there is no suppression issue here. The rest of us might have different mileage on that one.

  57. MattBernius says:

    Just to be clear, that wasn’t directed at our host.