Conservatives, It’s Time to Abandon the GOP
Conservatives need to decide whether they actually believe in their principles or whether they’re going to remain prisoners of the Trump cult.
For quite a while now, I’ve been musing — both here at Reluctant Moderation and to pretty much anyone who will listen — whether there is, in fact, a future for the GOP. Unlike a lot of other people on the left, I do actually believe in the necessity of a healthy conservative movement, one that can act as something of a brake on sweeping policy change. What today’s Republican Party offers is not that.
Every day brings new evidence that the Republican Party has lost its mind. A few — most notably Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney — have denounced Trump’s actions in no uncertain terms, with Cheney in particular coming out with guns blazing. Unfortunately, neither of them have earned many plaudits from those in their party: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy repeatedly demonstrates that he’s lost faith in Cheney, and Mitt Romney was vigorously booed at a meeting of state Republicans in Utah. In some ways, they are like castaways in their own part, desperately clinging onto a spar of conservative principle that has been largely swept away by the GOP’s swing toward far-right conspiracy thinking and truth-denialism. The Republican Party, as Dan Balz puts it, has lots its way.
Then there’s Trump himself. While, as of this writing, he remains banned from Facebook, there’s no doubt that he’s going to continue trying to make himself relevant. Republican politicians continue to make the trek to kiss his ring, and in some ways he’s like one of the Avignon popes: holding court and refusing to admit that the world has moved on without him. He continues to release his “statements” to the press, though they sound more like tweets than anything more official.
Most sinisterly, he continues to beat the drum of “The Big Lie.” In typical Trump fashion, he’s trying to spin this to his advantage, making it seem as if the lie in question is the whole election itself, rather than his bogus claims that it was somehow stolen from him by a nefarious plot by Democrats in big cities like Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Detroit. (Clearly, he thinks that he’ll be able to pull off the same Jedi-mind-trick that he did with the term “fake news”).
It would be easy to dismiss Trump’s continued blathering about a stolen election as the meanderings of a deranged mind, and they very well might be that. However, they are also very much in line with sinister polling that shows that a distressing number of Republican voters don’t believe that Joe Biden won the presidency legitimately. This, despite all evidence to the contrary. Not only has the GOP become a cult of personality devoted to Trump exclusively; it’s also turned a blind eye to objective reality.
We see this playing out all over the country. Republican-led states are leading the charge to restrict voting rights. Using the skewed and bastard logic of “well, people think there’s a problem with voting fraud, so we need to do something to address it,” they’ve implemented policies that they know quite well will have a disproportionate effect on Democratic constituencies. Rather than doing the honorable thing and telling their voters in no uncertain terms that no, there isn’t widespread voter fraud, they’ve decided to cave to political expediency and act as if it’s a problem.
Meanwhile, in Arizona a Republican-sponsored “recount” is underway, with the explicit intention of showing that the election was somehow stolen from Trump. Aside from the fact that company undertaking this effort has a truly ridiculous name, questions persist about their methodology and their reasoning. Given how far the Arizona GOP has gone in its effort to show its do-or-die loyalty to Trump and the MAGA crowd, is there any doubt that they’ll keep pushing this until they find the evidence of fraud that they have so assiduously sought? If they don’t, they’ll just make it up.
Once again, it’s worth pointing out that these shenanigans have real-world consequences. We’ve come a long way since a Republican operative flippantly asked what harm there could be in indulging Trump’s fantasy that the election had been stolen. Now we’ve seen in no uncertain terms what the harm might be, namely that a very large portion of the country doesn’t believe in the legitimacy of the current occupant of the White House. And, of course, there’s also the fact that Trump seems to believe that somehow the entire 2020 election will be overturned, and he will return to office. We’ve already seen the way that Trump’s delusions about the election can have catastrophic results — with the riot and sack of the Capitol a persistent stain on our national reputation. Does anyone doubt that he’s not going to be happy or content until he’s riled his supporters up into yet another violent froth?
What’s a conservative to do, you might ask? After all, we do still live in a country with two viable political parties. In the short term, though, it seems as if those who truly believe in the principles of conservatism should think about finding a home in the more moderate wing of the Democratic Party, the space that senators like Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema have occupied. Though they might earn the ire of many on the more progressive wing of the party, at this point it sure seems like the far right is beyond redemption. Yes, yes, I can hear you saying. “How dare you write off an entire segment of the population as irredeemable?” Well, maybe you, dear reader, have the ability and patience to continue trying to convince people who are dead set against believing in the truth, but I fear that such an effort is beyond me at this point. In May 2021, it seems that the GOP is nothing more than a shambling zombie of its former self, totally consumed the virus of fascism and white supremacy. Those conservatives who still value their principles would do well to start planning their exit, before the unstable elements of their party take them down, too.