I’ve often said that the normal rules for how we should approach politics don’t apply to this moment. That’s why, even though I’m much less partisan in my outlook than I was five years ago, I am more insistently opposed to the Republican Party in its current form. If you’re conservative in ideology, you obviously can’t support the Republican Party. If having a republican form of government is important to you, you obviously can’t support the Republican Party.
For a whole lot of reasons—partisan habit, lack of historical perspective, media echo chambers, policy concerns—a lot of people don’t realize that the rules have changed. They go on voting for the party of radicalism even though they think of themselves as conservatives. They go on supporting attacks on the bill of rights even though they think of themselves as lovers of the Constitution.
In short, this is a moment when normal partisan behavior crosses over into actively undermining what is best in the American tradition. Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes get it. They’re two independent-minded observers who have little love for the Democratic Party. But the normal political calculations no longer hold, as they write in the latest issue of the Atlantic. Trump has remade the GOP in his image, and his instincts are fundamentally anti-democratic and lawless. In this context, our normal policy debates are like arguing over the arrangement of the deck chairs on the Titanic. Rauch and Wittes write:
So we arrive at a syllogism:
(1) The GOP has become the party of Trumpism.
(2) Trumpism is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
(3) The Republican Party is a threat to democratic values and the rule of law.
If the syllogism holds, then the most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold.
The off-year elections in November showed that this is possible. Democrats flooded polling places, desperate to “resist.” Independents added their voice. Even some Republicans abandoned their party. One Virginia Republican, explaining why he had just voted for Democrats in every race, told The Washington Post, “I’ve been with the Republicans my whole life, but what the party has been doing is appalling.” Trump’s base stayed loyal but was overwhelmed by other voters. A few more spankings like that will give anti-Trump Republicans a fighting chance to regain influence within their party.
We understand why Republicans, even moderate ones, are reluctant to cross party lines. Party, today, is identity. But in the through-the-looking-glass era of Donald Trump, the best thing Republicans can do for their party is vote against it.
We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.
Read the whole thing. May their ranks increase.