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.