Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What Should Republicans Do Now?

What can the Republican Party do to redeem itself from the racism, sexism, and xenophobia of Donald Trump? In a discussion on 538 entitled "Is This What It Looks Like When a Party Falls Apart," Nate Silver said,  "This isn't just a crisis of party leadership. It's a crisis of the party's voters." Trump is enthusiastically supported by about 40% of Republicans. Republican voters nominated Trump because of his racism, sexism, and xenophobia. He rose to political prominence by loudly proclaiming that Barack Obama is not a citizen and launched his presidential campaign by rudely calling undocumented Mexican immigrants "rapists." The vicious misogyny of Trump recently displayed on tape has been obvious throughout the campaign ("Blood coming out of her ... wherever."). Most Republicans are appalled by him, but what can they do? I have six suggestions for what they can do as individuals, but I'm not at all sure they can salvage the Republican Party.

If you are a Republican who hates what Trump stands for, here is what you can do.

1. Turn off the right-wing propaganda machine. Stop listening to Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, Bill O'Reilly, and other hate-mongers. Fiscal conservatives and limited-government Republicans looked the other way while these demagogues spewed their poison; now the followers of these ministers of hate constitute a plurality of the party. The propagandists paved the way and laid the foundation for Trump to take over the Republican Party. To take back the party decent Republicans will have to denounce and dislodge them, and Republicans must

2. Turn away from insults and characterizations. For far too long my Republican friends have cheerfully relied on ad hominem attacks to advance their agenda. They sneer when they use the word "liberal." A person who supports women's rights is a "Feminazi." Anyone who believes in climate change is an "alarmist." They even refuse to use the correct name of the political party to which I proudly belong. (Hint - it's the "Democratic Party," not the "Democrat Party.") If you cannot muster a modicum of respect for persons with whom you disagree, then dialog is impossible and compromise is unthinkable. Instead of trumpian demagoguery, in formulating public policy Republicans must

3. Embrace science and economics. Public policy must be placed upon a sound foundation. We cannot develop sound fiscal, monetary, regulatory or foreign policy without the assistance of experts who generate models and predictions based on research that is both sound and reliable. For example, the Affordable Care Act was designed by experts in economics and public health. The proponents of the Act based their support on those models and predictions, while the opponents of the Act invoked ideology and simplistic generalizations ("government bad - private enterprise good!"). Nor is religion a sound guide to public policy; Republicans must

4. Confine religion to its proper role. A political party that rejects the theory of evolution, upon which all of the biological sciences rest, cannot rationally develop an environmental and energy policy that will protect life on Earth. Instead such a party is easy prey for billionaires who greedily seek to protect the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Religion has nothing to offer in terms of describing the world as it is or as it will be if certain policies are adopted. Religion isn't science, and it isn't economics. This is not to say that religion has nothing to offer; quite the contrary. In its proper sphere religion is a boon. Religion is a great comfort to most of the world's population. It gives people a sense of belonging and strengthens communities. Universal religious beliefs - that all persons are worthy and valuable in the sight of God - promote kindness, tolerance, and empathy. I only wish that Republicans would invoke those universal concepts to

5. End the crusade against "political correctness." To return to my original point, the Republican Party's criticism of "political correctness" is now exposed for what it has always been -- a campaign of misogyny and white nationalism. My Republican friends have often accused me of engaging in "identity politics." Hello! The Republican Party is 95% white, and 90% of its elected officials at the federal level are males. The Democratic Party has Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, straights, gays, transgender people, Christians, Jews, Muslims -- everyone is welcome, and 33% of its federal elected officials are women. Just which political party do you think is engaging in "identity politics"? What are Republicans willing to do to attract African-Americans to the Republican Party? What are Republicans willing to do to make Latinos feel welcome in the Republican Party? What are Republicans willing to do to encourage women to vote Republican, and to elect Republican women to office? Here's a hint -- stop screaming about how disgusted you are at "political correctness." That attitude has brought you Donald Trump. If you hate "political correctness" then you must love Trump because he sure isn't politically correct!

It may be too late for the Republican Party. Too many members of the Party are infected with hatred, bigotry, and ignorance, and Donald Trump has done his best to push them further down this dark road. Decent Republicans have rejected Trump but they have nowhere to go. But there is something they can do. When Hillary Clinton assumes the office of the Presidency, Republicans should

6. Act the part of the loyal opposition. For the last eight years the Republican Party has opposed the President at every turn. In 2008 its congressional leaders made a conscious decision to act as if Barack Obama were not the President, or even to treat him with minimal respect. They have made no effort to compromise with Democrats -- e.g., the "Hastert Rule," in effect meaning that Republican members of Congress would not even speak to their Democratic colleagues -- nor was there any effort to govern for the good of the country. Instead the Republicans' only agenda was to thwart the President at every turn. As a result, the Republican Party abandoned both principle and policy, and it has destroyed itself, and that's a shame. The two-party system is necessary to good government. When our elected leaders prove to be venal or incompetent it is the turn of the loyal opposition to replace them. If the Republican Party had acted like the loyal opposition - if it had confirmed public officials and judges in a timely manner, if it had compromised on the budget and responded appropriately to foreign emergencies -- then it would be in a position to assume the reins of power once again.

Earlier this year the Republican Party succumbed to Donald Trump. The Democratic Party is now on the verge of defeating Trump. Will the Republican Party rise again as the great political institution that it has been for 150 years, or will it continue to sink into a morass of ignorance and hatred? Democrats like me are powerless to do anything about this. It is up to the many millions of decent Republicans to restore their party to goodness and greatness.

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