If you’re a long-time Republican voter, you’ve likely by now heard the growing and insistent and highly concerned media refrain: Republicans who truly care about America will vote for Democrats this fall.
In RealClearPolitics last month, columnist Froma Harrop addressed the woes of Republicans in the age of Trump, offering her take on the only honorable options for this fall: “You can follow the lead of GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, conservative columnist George Will and others who have fled the party. Or you can stay in and help a Democratic sweep of Congress, with the aim of regrouping afterward. Sending good but spineless Republicans to Washington would only extend the nation’s agony.”
In the end, she argues, “the anti-Trump Republicans’ only hope at the moment is a massive repudiation of Trumpism at the polls.”
Many smart people have made this point, and will likely continue to do so as we edge closer to November. But as someone who has voted for Republicans her entire life — with the exception of our current president — I have a few questions. First of all, what about sending good Republicans with spines to Washington? There are plenty of them on the ballot all across the country. Also, is the nation really in constant “agony,” or does that state of mind apply just to a particular swath of journalists? Further, it seems rather odd that I would vote for people who have explicitly promised me they will energetically oppose most of my policy preferences. I may not have voted for Trump in 2016, but I sure as heck didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either.
But ah, the specter of “Trumpism.” It is a mysterious and powerful thing! I see endless commentary about it online, but I don’t see a lot of it in real life. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who are absolutely 100 percent all-in bananas about Donald Trump. I do know a whole lot of people who are convinced that the political Left — a movement that recently inspired former president Jimmy Carter to warn against hard-core progressive overreach — is far worse. Weirdly, instead of acting like reasonable moderates, Democrats across the board seem to be doing their best to convince people that this is so.
Take the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. If you watched the hearings, I’m sure you were impressed by the show of sober thinking, judicious inquiry, and complete lack of unhinged panic. Just kidding! Democrats turned the confirmations into such a circus that even left-wing hero Ruth Bader Ginsburg labeled it a “highly partisan show.”
Senator Kamala Harris, often portrayed as a bright young star of the Democratic party, launched an online panic with an edited video suggesting that Kavanaugh was deviously planning on “going after birth control,” which sounds very radical indeed. It is here is where I should probably point out that it has been largely Republicans, not Democrats, who have pushed to move birth control to more accessible over-the-counter status, but never mind. That’s not exciting. What is exciting, apparently, is to tell America that it’s The Handmaid’s Tale all the way down.
Next, somewhat hilariously, our old friend Hillary Clinton picked up Harris’s tale of terror, but only after it had already been factually shot down by both PolitiFact and the Washington Post. Kavanaugh, she tweeted, “made it clear that safe and legal abortion isn’t the only fundamental reproductive right at grave risk if he is confirmed. Access to birth control is, too.”
Despite being corrected and challenged about these untrue statements approximately one million times online, at press time both Harris’s and Clinton’s tweets are still up there on the World Wide Web, the very definition of fake news, for all the universe to see. How can this be? I’ve been told that only Trump does that! Democrats, you must stop this wild erosion of our nation’s storied and dignified D.C. norms — feel free to snort derisively here — and vote for a full slate of Republicans in the fall!
You can see how this is getting a little silly.
The final argument you’ll see for voting for Democrats in November is what I’ll call the “adults in the room” thesis. Under this argument, if Democrats take the House — please read the rest of this sentence in a serious and imposing professor voice — the current “chaos” in Washington, D.C., will fade, a mature “check” on the executive will emerge, and a new sense of calm will prevail. I don’t really have much to say about this except to refer you to watch the video of the Kavanaugh hearings again, which might make you laugh until you cry.
Or take a look at the cynical cloak-and-dagger tactics displayed this week by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sat on a letter from an anonymous woman accusing Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in high school, refused to address it fairly during the confirmation hearings, and then leaked it to the media after turning it in to the FBI, promptly setting the Internet on fire. “We couldn’t understand what their rationale is for not briefing members on this,” a congressional source told The New Yorker. “This is all very weird.” Indeed. But hey, at least it’s been handled in a completely mature and straightforward and judicious manner, right? (Insert a very jaded narrator voice here: It has not.)
Anyway, things are what they are. It’s still a free country, despite one thousand breathless headlines implying otherwise, and you can vote how you want. (As you can probably guess, I will most decidedly not be swinging left this year.) I’ll add one final note against the great “vote for Democrats to save the Republicans” trope: It presumes that people actually learn things quickly in politics. If that were true, a huge and growing swath of Americans would be voting relentlessly to get government — and those “storied D.C. norms” — less involved in our lives. Amazingly, we’re not quite yet there