The slow, sad acquiescence of the ‘Republican buts’

I have a lot of Republican friends who don’t support President Trump. I actually can’t think of one who does support him. Sure, they’ll rail against a whole host of things — unfairness around the Kavanaugh hearings, lax immigration laws, high taxes. But they’ll shake their heads and sigh at what they see as the unfortunate, out-sized eccentricities of our commander-in-chief. They’ll just say that the system seems broken, and there’s way too much rancor. But there’s nothing they can do. And they still support a lot of what (in their minds) the Republican Party stands for.

They’re “Republican buts.”

As in, “I vote Republican because I don’t trust the other party to do anything about my property taxes. But I don’t like how the administration is treating illegal immigrant families. It’s too bad there’s nothing I can do about it.”

Or, “The Republicans I support are reasonable people who are fiscally conservative. But I don’t think they all feel the same way about white supremacy that the administration does. If there were something my representatives could do, they would do it. Anyway, how about that economy. …”

Or even, “I know the Republicans I support have backed some unfortunate policies. But there’s no proof that voter ID laws are meant to suppress the black vote. Or that the Muslim ban was intended to target only Muslim immigrants. Or that Judge Kavanaugh was there at that party. It’s all just political muckraking from the Democrats.”

Here’s the thing: The era of the “Republican buts” is over.

If you’re Republican, you no longer get to stick your head in the sand. You no longer get the benefit of the doubt and the luxury of looking the other way with the flimsiest of justifications. You no longer get to disavow your role in the shape of things today and the place that things are heading. Even for those things you find dismaying or heartbreaking.

You should know better, and willful ignorance is no excuse. Now, more than ever, if you support any of it, you support all of it. If you vote Republican, you own all of the party’s actions. You are supporting every single one of your party’s shameful policies, including:

  • Separating brown families at the border and putting their children in cages.
  • Suppressing the voice of women and minorities.
  • Curtailing the voting power of those with whom you don’t agree.
  • Believing that white, male, Christian power is under attack and should be preserved by whatever means necessary — whether it’s through intimidation, or mob mentality, or twisted and strained interpretations of the law and constitutional precedent.
  • Welcoming foreign influence over elections.
  • Denying the opposition party’s right to be a full participant in the democratic process.
  • Gutting the independence of the judiciary and the role of congress as checks on expanding executive power and authoritarian rule.

Of course, this short list is just a small sample. The full set is depressingly endless, and it’s getting painfully longer with every passing executive action.

Look, I like a lot of these folks. They’re my friends, and I know they have the best of intentions. They’re conservatives in the honest and true sense of the word.

But the party has moved away from them. And unless they stand up and separate themselves from the party that has become one of white fear and cruelty, or fight to regain control from within, or simply care about more than their pocketbooks and pensions, then they’ll no longer get to call themselves Republican Buts. Because their Republic will be one in name only and will no longer exist anymore.

They’ll simply be Republicans. And they’ll be responsible for all of it.