Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Not Sour Grapes, Rather a Matter of Principle

I wrote a long while ago an essay about why I was a Republican ("Why I am a Republican"), and at the time I thought it was the right position for me. And, in all honesty, the Republicans still seemed to me, until this morning, the best choice to achieve real change. And on a local level they may still be. But, as a matter of principle, I cannot remain in the party.

As I see it, being in a party is both a privilege and an obligation. By joining, you get the right to have a voice in the nomination of those running (which is why I so detest open primaries -- see "One Bad Idea"), but, in exchange for that privilege, you have the obligation to close ranks after the primaries and support the nominee. And I did so over and over. I had no  love for McCain (as my old posts make obvious -- "82%? So What?" and "And on the Other Side", though after the nomination I also wrote "At Last", "Winning By Losing? Not A Chance!", "Learning Too Much From History", "Abandoning the Party", "Selling Out", "A Difficult Decision" and "What I Want in a President"), but I supported him. Nor did I want Romney, but there too I threw my weight behind him. It was the right thing to do, it was the obligation part of party membership, a matter of principle, a point of honor.

But I find I cannot do it this election. I held out as long as I could, hoping people were not that stupid, not that mindlessly angry that they would accept Trump's sudden change of heart and empty words and snake oil salesman traveling show. But they did buy it, at least enough that, combined with whatever crossover voting sabotage took place, Trump was clearly going to win the nomination as of last night. And so, were I to remain a Republican, I would be required to not only vote for him, but give him active support. And I find I just cannot.

It is not sour grapes, nor is it the problem I mentioned in "Single Issue Voting", "Principled Voting or Suicide?", "Jacob Frank and Hillary Clinton", "The Need for Realism", "A Problem With Certain Conservatives","The Inability to Compromise" and "The All or Nothing Mistake", voters refusing to vote for anything less than perfection. As I said, I supported McCain and Romney,  even George W (of "compassionate conservatism" [see "Why I Reject Compassionate Conservatism"]), despite lacking any fondness for them. And I would have supported even what I would consider really bad choices in this election. Even if they had nominated someone I detest, such as Huckabee, I would have backed him. But I cannot do it for Trump. He simply is not a Republican, not anything close to conservative, and I honestly believe he will possibly rule left of Hillary, or, if not, will certainly try to institute measures I find abhorrent due to their anti-freedom bent. It is not a matter of political disagreement, for once I honestly think my party (or now former party) is running the greater of two evils this time.

Thus, I must reluctantly remove myself from the Republican party.

This does not mean I will not vote Republican, I still support their candidates in local elections, and may in the future even support a presidential candidate. But for now I cannot belong to the party, as I cannot in good conscience fulfill my obligations.

I will not be voting for Hillary. Possibly I will abstain, voting only in local elections, as it is no longer completely futile in Maryland (just mostly futile), and leaving president blank. Or, perhaps I will throw in behind a Libertarian or Constitutional candidate, provide they adopt positions not too far into the fringe. I won't be joining either party (see "Why I Am Not A Libertarian"), but they may get my presidential vote this year.

I am not sure how many other Republicans feel this way. I know some comments I have read suggest many will be voting as I am, and some even leaving the party for the same reasons. Sadly, I am concerned that Trump's win, despite the predictions of his faithful, will not "energize" the party, and bring in "Reagan Democrats", but rather will shatter the party, accelerating the rate at which disillusioned conservatives and other abandon it and seek third party alternatives.

And that may be a good thing in the long run, the Republicans, because of an accident of history, tried for too long to embrace the conflicting identities represented by the libertarian/neocon/modern conservative wing (see "A True Conservative Platform", "The Case for Small Government" and "Minimal Reforms" for my take on the beliefs of this segment, the one to which I belong) and the mercantilist/protectionist/19th century Republican/paleocon wing. (Among other divisions.) Perhaps by driving us away, and eventually raising one of the third parties to prominence, this confused identity will be resolved. (Cf "Why Republicans Lose, We Eat Our Own", "Confucius, Aedes Aegypti, Pluto, Sub-Species, Conservatives and Republicans" and "Conservatives and the "Big Picture"".)

The downside being that, for a number to years, as this process works itself out, the Democrats will have unprecedented access to government office. But we will survive. If we could survive four terms of FDR -- or one of Carter -- we will survive this. And, in the end, we will probably be better for it.

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