What Happens Tuesday

Why I think Republicans need to lose in the Midterms.

Like many Never Trump Republicans, I will be voting for the most part for Democrats on Tuesday. However, nothing will change in the GOP because of my actions. In fact, I think things might get worse.

Some people, like former conservative Max Boot, are voting out of anger. Boot wants to burn the whole thing down and from what I’m noticing on Facebook feeds, to the delight of liberals:

If you’re sick and tired, too, here is what you can do. Vote for Democrats on Tuesday. For every office. Regardless of who they are. And I say that as a former Republican. Some Republicans in suburban districts may claim they aren’t for Trump. Don’t believe them. Whatever their private qualms, no Republicans have consistently held Trump to account. They are too scared that doing so will hurt their chances of reelection. If you’re as sick and tired as I am of being sick and tired about what’s going on, vote against all Republicans. Every single one. That’s the only message they will understand.

I can understand some of his anger. I am bothered that the GOP in Congress hasn’t been an effective check on Trump. But there is a problem with the tactic that Boot and others are following: It tends to throw the baby out with the bathwater, if not the bathtub as well. It buys into the belief that many on the left tend to think about Republicans — that the whole pack of them are rotten.

When it does seem like everyone has joined the Trump train, in reality people deal with Trump in various degrees. Some folks, like many in the House Freedom Caucus, have drunk the Kool-Aid completely. Others, like Marco Rubio, work with Trump on some issues, but are willing to call him out on other issues. There are a few like Florida congressman Carlos Curbelo, who has been a very consistent Trump critic over the last two years.

I’m not saying that you need to vote for these Republicans. If you don’t want to, then don’t. I am saying that Boot’s willingness to deem the whole movement that he once belonged totally corrupt is not correct. Of course, I’m not where Boot is, in that I haven’t rejected the conservative movement in total. But I do wonder if it makes sense to basically wipe the dust off your feet of the entire kit and kaboodle.

The second way of voting against the Republicans is one that I’m closer to. Benjamin Wittes and Jonathan Rauch believe that people need to vote against the GOP in order to save it:

This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to do as Toren Beasley did: vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).

Compared to Boot, this idea has merit. The belief is that the loss of the House and/or Senate will be both a rebuke of Trump and a signal that the party needs to change.

The downside of this approach is that it is not a sure thing that a political party will “learn” after a loss. Part of this is that a loss might make party leaders think that the party wasn’t “pure” enough. That was the case after the 2008 loss of the presidency to Democrat Barack Obama. Among a number of conservatives, there was a belief that the GOP lost because of the freewheeling spending of President George W. Bush. Instead of moderating, we saw the rise of the Tea Party movement, which pushed fiscal discipline.

If the GOP loses in a big way Tuesday, such a loss will make it less likely that they will change from their Trumpy ways. Most of the seats that could go will be in swing districts, especially those that voted for Clinton. These were the people probably most open to change and the ones that were the more skeptical of Trump. What would be left behind especially in the House are folk who come from deep red districts that will be even more Trumpy than before. So a loss will not give us a chastened party, but maybe a purer party in the House.

The reason that I’m voting mostly for Democrats is for one simple reason: to provide a needed check on the President.

That is something that is hard to do when the Congress and President are of the same party. People who expect that the GOP would just start opposing the president of the same party are not being realistic. A Congress ruled by the same party that’s in the White House is going to do everything it can to support that president.

Since it is hard for the Republicans to provide that needed check, in a two party system there is only one alternative: vote for the other party. The Democrats have an incentive to block Trump and using the investigative power of Congress — they can be a watchdog against Trump’s corrupt and anti-constitutional practices.

I’m voting more in sorrow than in anger (though there is some anger). I believe some good Republicans in Congress will fall on Tuesday. But I feel it must be done, and not because I hate Republicans and not in the faint hope that the party leadership will change it’s ways. No, it has to be done in order to stop the President from doing more damage to the Republic.

Voting out of anger might feel good, but I think that’s bad for democracy over all.

We already have a very polarized atmosphere as it is, this option will only deepen it as people continue to see the other side as the embodiment of evil. Voting for change is better, but real change comes from working to change hearts and minds at the ground level, not in elections. If we are going to vote blue, it has to be about something greater, something like the fate of this nation and its system of government. If we don’t want to become another Hungary or Poland or Turkey, then we need to keep Trump in check. Because at the end of the day what is at stake is our nation’s very soul.

Originally published at obsidiantory.wordpress.com on November 5, 2018.