Saturday, July 14, 2018

A History Lesson for the NeverTrump crowd

"I was educated a Democrat from my boyhood,” a Republican delegate confided to his colleagues at Iowa’s constitutional convention in 1857. “Faithfully, I did adhere to that party until I could no longer act with it. Many things did I condemn ere I left that party, for my love of party was strong. And when I did, at last, feel compelled to separate from my old Democratic friends, it was like tearing myself away from old home associations.”

 As often seems the case today, American politics in the 1850s were nearly all-consuming and stubbornly tribal. So it was hard—and bitterly so—for hundreds of thousands of Northern Democrats to abandon the political organization that had long formed the backbone of their civic identity. Yet they came over the course of a decade to believe that the Jacksonian Democratic Party had degenerated into something thoroughly autocratic and corrupt. It had fallen so deeply in the thrall of the Slave Power that it posed an existential threat to American democracy.

During the presidential campaign of 2016, and for the better part of the past two years, these Never Trumpers could plausibly speak of extracting their party from the grip of white nationalism and angry populism. Now, with midterm elections approaching—with broad majorities of the GOP electorate firmly in the president’s thrall and the Republican Congress all but fully acquiescent to the White House—such talk is fanciful.

Like that Iowa delegate in 1857, today’s Never Trumpers face a stark choice: passively acquiesce to the further ascent of Trumpism, or switch parties and play a vital part in stopping it.
If they do choose the latter, they might be surprised at the result: Like the GOP’s founding generation, in the process of leaving a party they once loved, today’s Never Trump Republicans might also free themselves from partisan dogmas that have lost relevance in the current age. At the same time, they might find Democrats demonstrating a new spirit of flexibility and accommodation—leading to a new unity that could cure the country of some of its worst ills."
-Joshua Zeitz, "NeverTrumpers will want to read this history lesson"

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