Politics, Uncategorized

Country Over Party?

It was perfectly reasonable, though disappointing, for pro-life, pro-corporate, anti-tax Republicans to support Trump as their nominee, despite recognizing all of the obvious and disturbing aspects of his character. There was no shortage of rational, non-bigoted Republicans who knowingly voted for a racist, stupid, misogynist who was wildly unfit and unprepared to become the most powerful person in the world, voting merely so that they could get the judges and tax rates that they wanted. It is the inevitable byproduct of the two-party system, choosing between the lesser of two evils. The American left would have probably done the same had the shoe been on the other foot.

Now, Donald Trump is president, and the West Wing is crawling with reactionary Republicans. Neil Gorsuch will reign supreme, and Paul Ryan will have at least two years to pass sweeping, conservative legislation. Nothing will change without action from Congressional Republicans. However, even the most reasonable, responsible congressional Republicans still refuse to push back against Donald Trump with respect to Russia, corruption, and civil rights. The left is correct to accuse GOP leaders of putting party before country. That is a refrain worth amplifying.

However, before the left turns the smug disdain up to 11, let’s test this accusation of ‘party before country’ for validity and hypocrisy…

If, for the sake of argument, all Republicans care about is abortion and tax policy, it’s in their best interest to stand by President Trump. They need the Republican White House to be politically strong for the sake of passing legislation and re-electing a Republican president. That’s what we mean by putting party before country. Single-issue voting may be effective, but it produces an immoral disregard for the complexity of federal policy and the number of issues that are critical to consider when stepping into the ballot box. Don’t be a single issue voter. Don’t do it.

Let’s consider hypocrisy. Would Democrats be willing to put country before party? Fortunately, we weren’t forced to vote for a Trump-of-the-left, but liberals will have the opportunity to show their true colors very soon. If Donald Trump truly represents an existential threat to the country, and if Donald Trump must be defeated for re-election at all costs, who should the Democratic Party nominate for president in 2020?

The Democrats may be able to defeat Donald Trump with a liberal like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. They may be able to elect an establishment pick like Tim Kaine or Corey Booker. However, there is risk in that kind of choice. Such a general election will be another polarized slug fest, pitting left v. right over a few million votes, an election that could turn on a dime and risks a full four more years of Donald Trump with his finger on the armageddon button.

The Democratic Party can make a patriotic choice to ensure victory in 2020, but it requires putting their money where there mouth on Donald Trump and putting country before party.

They could nominate a moderate Republican. It’s not a comfortable thought, but it would transcend the ideological divide to produce an election about character, fitness for office, and experience. After all, the presidency isn’t supposed to be ideological.

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Jon Huntsman, the only guy to look more presidential than Mitt

Jon Huntsman, who has advocated for a third-party since his presidential run in 2012 would be an ideal choice for me in this scenario. John Kasich, who was supposedly every Democrat’s favorite Republican in the 2016 primary, has to be on this list. However, his views about religion make him a nonstarter for me. Bill Weld is a highly qualified, former VP nominee of the 2016 Libertarian ticket and flirted with endorsing Hillary Clinton in 2016. Democrats could have a look at famous swing votes Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski from the Senate. Jim (RamboWebb is practically a Republican who probably voted for TrumpBob Dold is a youngish, socially liberalish, pro-choiceish Republican Congressman from Illinois who has been trading his job with Democrat Brad Schneider every 2 years. Colin Powell is too old, but perhaps a non-partisan administration official can come forward.

Would this work? Probably not. It would almost certainly elicit a third party left-wing revolt. However, consider that every problem with this scenario also applies to Republicans choosing to defy President Trump. How does the left’s characterization of Trump have any credibility while nominating someone from the left who forces rational, non-bigoted Republicans into the same choice they had to make in 2016?

Before you accuse Republicans of putting party before country, question if you would do the same. Put yourself in their shoes.

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Politics, Uncategorized

The Speech That Made Barack Obama President

I’ll never forget this moment. I was 17, and watched the speech on our basement TV because my dad was gone at a conference, and my sister was watching some other TV show upstairs. I was pretty psyched that someone from Illinois was giving the keynote, sitting on the floor because there was no couch in my dad’s basement office. I hadn’t followed the 2004 IL senate primary very closely until now, so this was the first I would hear from Barack Obama.

The 2004 primary had been pretty lame. An insurgent Howard Dean campaign excited the liberal base, but showed itself to be too immature to go the distance. After last nominating the soporific Al Gore four years prior, the party stayed sedate with John Kerry, a taller, war-hero version of Michael Dukakis, but ultimately no more politically talented. Democrats seemed to think that the old formula would work ok with just a few tweaks and a few more checked boxes.

In 2004, punditry and cable news were the dominant force and the internet was a fringe novelty. We were several years from facebook and smartphones. Media was becoming more partisan. The country was engaged in two of the longest wars of its history, incompetently waged under false pretenses. Eight years of Bush were marked, above all, by incompetency. Obama didn’t have a magic message that solved those problems; he simply refocussed our attention on the real point. The parallels to the Gettysburg Address are obvious to me, but probably too heretical to detail without greater historical distance. We have a habit of underestimating the relative importance of recent history while overselling the potential significance of our next achievement, but I digress…

Obama spoke about the reality of American life that had nothing to do with party identity. As he belittled the color-coding of states, punditry, and tired wedge issues without a trace of the smugness or elitism that hampered old liberals, my mouth dropped farther and farther at how perfectly he captured the political moment. In a desperate atmosphere, he showed us the triumph of what we already had. After that speech, I was convinced that he could be our next president. I rushed upstairs and told my mom, and she smirked at me. “That’s not how it works”, she told me. I might as well have said that Jon Stewart would be the next president.

Twelve years later, I believe we are setup for another such moment, perhaps even greater. Given the current partisan divide, someone who can articulate a bigger picture and a new national ambition could cut through. We are forced by events to be narrowly focused on process, on overcoming routine budget disasters threatened by an increasingly radical and obstructionist right wing. We live in a world where nativist bigot Donald Trump and “socialist” Bernie Sanders are serious contenders for their respective nominations, and there is significant overlap in their electorates. “Conventional wisdom” has become a joke about what probably won’t happen. We are gripped by fear of foreign violence with no rational basis, as if ISIS had the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal at its disposal. We are steeped in potential for a new leap forward in leadership. The key to the perfect voice for this political moment is not one we can predict, but we know it when we hear it.

That summer in 2004, I started as an intern at my local Democratic headquarters. I worked 30-40hrs per week organizing and campaigning for candidates I wasn’t old enough to vote for. George W. Bush taught me the consequences of politics, but I think it was Barack Obama who changed politics from a sport that I had long followed into a sport that I could play.

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