Rory, you know how much esteem I hold you in. That has only deepened as I’ve watched you become a leader in the NeverTrump movement. I know you are a principled conservative and these last few months have been heartbreaking and enraging at the same time. I love being a Democrat as much as you love being a Republican. I remember how despondent I watching Howard Dean run out to a 40 point lead three weeks ahead of the Iowa caucus and what his nomination, and the ascendancy of some in his coalition, would have meant to this dyed in wool Bill Clinton-John Dingell-Harry Truman Democrat.
All that being said, what I see now for the future of your party and conservatism as a political philosophy, is either 1) an updating of an ideology that never considered the actual needs of your voters; 2) a recognition that some of your coalition is probably better off tying themselves to the future of urban America than to the desires of rural, secular America; 3) a painful rending of racism, nativism, and xenophobic bigotry from your party.
Like an intervention, this is tough to hear, but from my perspective and many others on the Center-Left, we’ve watched how business interests married their corporate policy interests with those of people who didn’t much like what they saw as government handouts to people who didn’t look or talk like them. That worked for a while, until those people got overwhelmed and the promised rewards of things like a 0% estate tax never flowed down to them. For all of his sunny optimism, Ronald Reagan (a Californian) launched his Presidential campaign in Philadelphia, MS, the site of a civil rights era lynching. It wasn’t just the site, but the message. He literally called for states-rights just 18 years after those heroes were found at the bottom of a swamp a couple miles from Reagan’s podium. That’s pure dog-whistle.
The party gave space for the cancer to grow. It festered into birtherism and made any claim of compromise into kowtowing to an “un-American” president. It created an RNC that literally allowed a white supremacist to tweet messages onto the Jumbotron of the Quicken Loans Arena. A Republican party that has any future needs to reckon with, and cleave off, its post-Johnson Era record on civil rights in order to compete for the votes of anyone under the age of 40.
I wish I had the wherewithal to go into the space created for the likes of Palin, Carson, and Bachmann, the politico-entertainment of Fox News and the stoking of an unrealistic vision of what government can do (imagine that from the party of small government), but you get the picture. The next few years will be painful, but I’m starting to see Trump like an enema, which should enable principled, modern conservative like yourself, to get the poison out of your system. Unfortunately, like Andy Dufrense, you’re going to have to crawl through a river of shit to get to the paradise on the other side.