26 May 2018

A Proposal for the Reasonable Republicans Who Still Walk Among Us

Under Trump, Republicans are not just pursuing bad policy but bad strategy. As they frantically pursue policies that veer further and further right, these neo-Republicans may be driving Democrats further left.

Hitler would have never risen to power without communists. Communists had real power in Europe (they'd seized control of Russia shortly before Hitler emerged as a political figure) and Hitler was able to use legitimate fear of communists to win support. The way he credibly framed himself to many Germans was that he wasn't an extremist; he was only taking extreme measures to protect Germany.

A similar thing could happen in the wake of Trump. McConnell and Ryan are frantically running around, dismantling every reasonable compromise they can find. They've created a tax cut that will drive annual deficits north of a trillion a year. (That alone would have - just a few years ago much less a few decades ago - dominated media coverage.) They've rolled back regulations requiring banks demonstrate the ability to suffer a downturn without igniting a recession. (Before banking regulations of consequence, from 1900 to 1933, the US was in a recession 48% of the time. Since then it has been in recession only 14% of the time.) They are slashing funding for healthcare, even for children. They're so frightened of immigrants that they are breaking up families and losing the children of people who cross the border. They've gone after free trade, protection of national parks, gutted healthcare for the poor and are making abortion, birth control and healthcare for new mothers difficult to get, following the lead of Texas where maternal mortality is 10X higher than it is in countries like Italy or Japan. Yes. You read that right. New mothers in Texas die at double the rate they did just a few years ago, and at 10X the rate of mothers in other countries. This after policies similar to those advocated by Trump Republicans were put in place.

Now let's imagine that none of that offends or disturbs you. That is, let's imagine that you are a Republican who still supports Trump. So why should my friends and relatives who are so proud of their party find this disturbing? Because everyone else does and one of the many consequences of this is that you've just given extremists on the left what is equivalent to what the communists gave Hitler: an obviously evil and dangerous foe who justifies extremist countermeasures.

You want to roll back reasonable banking regulations? This is not just stupid in its own right; it is stupid because it could give more power to the folks on the left who have never liked banks or stock markets. You don't just raise the risk of a bad recession; you raise the risk that you could lose what has created so much wealth in this country.

You can believe that your system doesn't owe anything to the poor but even if you aren't moved by compassion, you should be moved by greed. If a growing percentage of people see no benefit in the system you defend, they will vote for it to go away. In your greed to get the next 5% of after tax income you could easily lose 50%.

I think that it is true in politics that for every action there is a reaction. The day that Obama was sworn in the country rejoiced at the end of racism .... and the enrollment level at neo-Nazi and white supremacist sites was 10X its normal rate. This reactions to actions dynamic suggests that anyone thinking a move ahead will take care not to take radical actions that will provoke a radical reaction. As Republicans continue to defend a man as reprehensible as Donald Trump, their support among people who can't get the senior discount at Denny's has steadily dropped. The GOP is the party of old white guys and those guys (us guys) are steadily dying.  If the next election were held only among those 35 and younger, Republicans would fare about as well as the Whig Party and in a few decades the "next" election will be among those 35 and younger.

I'm an old guy. I should be yelling at the Bernie Sanders kids to get off my lawn. I should be the conservative voice in American politics. Given the excesses of the Republican Party, I'm instead a flaming liberal. I believe that our financial system is wonderful and getting rich is great; and that markets should be regulated and that crooks (think Bernie Madoff) are as likely to show up on Wall Street as the back streets of poor neighbors and the rest of us need to be protected from them by smart policing and good regulations that looks as skeptically at bankers in suits as teenagers in hoodies. I think that a city of two million, half of whom are immigrants and a city of two million, all of whom are native born, will have the same number of jobs and consumers and the idea that immigrants steal jobs is absurd. I think that the corporation is one of the great inventions of modern times, and that CEOs have too much unchecked power and that there should be more opportunities for employees to make as much or more than their CEOs, that the pay of CEOs ought not to be 350X that of their typical employee. I believe that for-profit pharmaceuticals and healthcare provider companies have made us healthier and that the profit-motives has driven innovation that steadily make us healthier in ways that just saving money by emphasizing low costs would not; and yet I also believe that healthcare should be a right. I believe that we do need troops ready to intervene around the world and yet I believe that this should be done sparingly and we need far, far more humility about imposing ourselves onto other people. I believe that a person who wants to treat a sperm and egg at the moment of conception no differently than a baby has that right but cannot impose such a belief onto other reasonable and decent people who think that this zygote that cannot be seen won't be anything equivalent to a person for months. I think that societies should do all they can to encourage two-parent households but that single-mothers and their children should be generously supported so that both feel appreciated and loved by the community and that kids of single parents have more opportunity. I believe only most people - not everyone - should own a gun and that no one - not even special people - should own weapons like nuclear bombs or automatic weapons specifically designed to kill dozens or millions of people.

None of this is controversial. Unless you're a Trump supporting Republican. And given that these Republicans have decided that reasonable compromise represents an abandonment of principles, they are running full tilt into a set of policies that future generation will find baffling and offensive. This alone is enough to criticize them for but there is more; their excesses could easily provoke excesses in the other direction.

So, friends and family who have historically voted Republican but consider yourself reasonable, I have a proposal. Stop voting for candidates who support Trump. Instead, vote for Democrats who are reasonable rather than ideological. Make sure that the blue wave - which may come in months or years - brings in candidates who are moderates like me rather than the flaming liberals you like to pretend we all are.

One last thing. If you feel like you have to vote Republican regardless of how extremist the policies have become, you are are not reasonable. You are an ideologue. Your first filter should be to vote only for reasonable, intelligent, competent and decent human beings; once you have your choice of two or more such candidates, then it's great to choose based on ideological preference. If instead you filter only by ideology and then between good and reasonable people when they're available, you are reasonable only as a last resort. That's not reasonable.

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