I believe that many of them are deeply conflicted. That in the leather chairs of Capitol Hill at the end of each of these long Spring days, there is no shortage of Republican legislators sitting alone in their offices or committee rooms, drinking scotch, and cogitating on their futures.
I suspect that there may be a few who have taken campaign coin from Trump or his supporters who are wondering exactly how long they need to “stay bought” before they can begin responding to the popular cry.
And, in the end, I think most will need irrefutable, impeachment-quality evidence to shift their support.
No, Mr. Frum. This is no longer about the President, or even Congress. It is now about the facts.
The future of President Donald Trump, of the Republican Party, and possibly the nation, now lies in the hands of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and relies upon the moral fortitude of a small handful of men and women at the Department of Justice, and their ability to ascertain the facts in the face of a President who seems determined to hide them.
In the wake of one of the most outspoken political campaigns in American history, the most inspiring political address that I have heard in a decade did not come from an American leader, but an English one.
Not everyone will agree with all of what British Prime Minister Theresa May says. Yet even her opponents must concede that hers was the most coherent expression of a right-centrist approach to the world order that we have heard in America in a very long time. It was positively Churchillian.
Her speech was to me as much a silent pointed finger at the intellectual bankruptcy of the American right as it was a foreign policy manifesto for the American center. It pandered to neither left nor right. It was liberal internationalism tempered by realpolitik, a recognition that whole-cloth globalism must be amalgamated with a respect for the nation-state as the best servant of the people, and a focus on the well-being of all people, not just oligarchs and corporations.
She covered a great deal of ground, and I’ll be excerpting over her speech over next few weeks.
On the global stage Trump’s populism and nationalism makes him very much a man of his times, with parallels to figures as diverse as Marine Le Pen, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and of course Vladimir Putin. But in the American context he is like nothing we have seen before — a shatterer of all norms and conventional assumptions, a man more likely to fail catastrophically than other presidents, more constitutionally dangerous than other presidents, but also more likely to carry us into a different political era, a post-neoliberal, post-end-of-history politics, than any other imaginable president.
This is not the time to give up, tune out, and go back to The Way We Lived Before. The Trump Era demands a new kind of American Citizenship, one that is constantly informed, regularly engaged, and frequently activist.
This president and the Congress are going to need to hear from us, and we’re going to need to be more visible, more thoughtful, and more persuasive than ever to get our points across.
Those who have been reading this blog for some time will notice that we have, once again, undergone a facelift. This time it is for more that aesthetic reasons: it is meant to signal a change.
For a long time, this site and my political activities have been devoted to the fruitless effort to rescue the wagon that is the Republican Party from its accelerating slide down the steep slope to the right. After five years, I have come to terms with the fact that this is a hopeless quest. Long before Donald Trump reared his bilious physiognomy above the political parapet, it was clear that the party was in deep need of change, and that far too few Republicans either acknowledged this or had the faintest inkling of what that change might look like.
But the past few months, culminating with Trump’s nomination at the most shameful political gathering since the last Reichsparteitag in Nuremburg in 1938, have provided sufficient evidence that the GOP is incapable of meaningful, deep reform, even in the face of its most severe existential crisis in a century. The party’s lurch beyond conservatism points our republic toward a dark and terrifying future. We can either get off the wagon and do something, or we will by inaction consign the nation to the darkness.
And while I consider myself to be a conservative, I have found that the term has become so abused as to be almost meaningless, and that I have as little in common with the vast majority of conservative pundits and politicians as I do with those of the left.
Political conservatism to me is a dedication to two things: first, the principles that motivated the Founding Fathers as embodied in their writings and in the Charters of Freedom (The United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights); and second, the proposition that even the best system of governance is infinitely perfectible and thus dynamic. Conservatism should not throw itself athwart the road to change, but should embody ongoing reform informed by a wise balance of caution and progress.
Sadly, the most vocal proponents of conservatism seek to twist it into something far more regressive, robbing it of its balance in the name of dogmatic orthodoxy or more nefarious motives. When slavish devotion to free markets leads conservative thinkers like Thomas Sowell to inveigh against Teddy Roosevelt, the right no longer stands for reform but for a backslide into the cauldron of laissez-faire capitalism, robber barons, corporate monopolies, corruption, and vast income inequalities. The future promised by this sort of conservatism is not America: it is decline and dissolution. Christian conservatism would see America declare itself a Christian nation, and impose Christian values in the classroom, the bedroom, and the examination room. A theocracy dominated by plutocrats is the promise, enough nearly to rename the GOP the Banana Republican party.
Either we consign the GOP to the past, or we consign ourselves to the dystopia it promises.
In an effort to be a part of a better future, one informed by a conservatism that captures the promise of the 21st Century while holding true to the enlightened vision forged in the 18th, I am today leaving the Republican Party. I do so with a heavy heart and great reluctance. But to paraphrase my wife when she speaks of her own roots, I love the Republican Party, but the GOP that I love does not exist anymore.
But I also do so with a belief that such changes are good for the country, if for no other reason than they compel us to cast off the fetters of short-termism and special interests and enable us to engage in a more visionary and constructive conversation. This is what motivated Ronald Reagan in 1980, Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the men and women who put everything on the line 240 years ago to craft a new nation.
I will share more about where the Bull Moose is headed in the coming weeks.
We can argue about whether America has the wherewithal to contain Chinese irredentism, but the responsibility to contain China’s territorial ambitions begins with the states in the region. It is past time for the leaders of Southeast Asia to accept that they cannot canoodle with China via ASEAN and bilateral trade, and then expect America to guard them against Chinese adventurism. Responsibility for regional security begins in region, must be led in region, and the United States should only step in when the maximum concerted efforts of the region’s nations have proven incapable of stopping China. And even then, we should do so as a part of a clear, united front, not as the sole bearer of burdens.
In particular, it is difficult to conjure much sympathy for the Philippines. The late Corazon Aquino called U.S. bases on Philippine soil “an affront to national sovereignty.” We can argue about whether she was right, but what is clear is that once she managed to summarily eject the U.S. Navy from Subic Bay and the Air Force from Clark Air Base, she – and her successors – utterly failed to replace the shield the US military had provided. The Philippine armed forces are a bad joke, first tossing their professionalism to the wind in a series of domestic political interventions, then intentionally weakened by sequential administrations who (not without reason) feared the specter of a military coup.
Such is the lot of a bored military with no external threats. But times have changed, and China’s actions are enabled in no small part by their unvarnished assessment of the Philippine military as being aught more than toy soldiers.
The Philippines is overdue to create an armed force capable of defending the nation. Until they at least begin such an effort in earnest, the US should live by the letter of its treaty obligations, and no more.