“Donald Trump is unfit to be President. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears.”
— Meg Whitman
Whatever you might think of Meg Whitman, you have to give it to her for summing up in 18 words the single undeniable truth of the 2016 political season.
Yet knowing this – as we all do – it is disappointing to watch not just Chris Christie, but a growing file of GOP figures, including the candidates, saying that they would vote for him if he were the Republican nominee.
To me this is a reflection of an increasingly manifest truths, that party politics undermines the democratic process by throwing a barrier between the voter and the candidate. The entire last three decades of the twentieth century were about a rebellion against the old “machine politics” imperative to vote the “party line.” The candidate was the thing, and partisanship was a matter of the past. Thus there were Democrats who voted for Reagan and Republicans who voted for Bill Clinton. The rejection even extended to Congress, as a new generation of upstarts in the 1970s threw off the established traditions of the old guard.
We rejected partisanship as voters for a good reason: political parties tend to place their own benefit and longevity ahead of the country’s best interests. That was no surprise to our nation’s founders, or to our first president, who wrote:
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.”
In the face of such a truth, it is terrifying to watch leaders on one side or the other reject their own consciences in favor of party unity. Such a disconnect appears in the eyes of the electorate as aught more than rank hypocrisy. History has proven that while the American people have a high tolerance for political expediency, they have little stomach for craven submission or opportunism.