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.
To everyone who is considering leaving America because of the election result:
We need you. This is a wounded, damaged country, but if you love it – if you have a shred of patriotism left in you, you owe it to yourself, your children, your loved ones, and this nation to stay and help the rest of us rebuild.
Stay. And let’s create an America for the 21st Century.
The point of America was to make a place for all people who need and love liberty, not just the people we like. To love America is to love all who seek its shelter and would guard her treasures.
Let us ever repeat the words of Emma Lazarus engraved on the foundation of the Statue of Liberty. But let us not hesitate to remind the tempest-tossed that the price of freedom is a commitment to defend the freedom of others – even those with whom you disagree.
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.
I tend to use caution with trial balloons from CATO scholars because I see the organization as a front for corporate interests. Nonetheless, Doug Bandow raises a valid question: why are the Europeans still dependent on the U.S. for their security.
The answer that you are unlikely to find in a CATO publication is this: Europe is dependent upon us because we wanted the Europeans dependent upon us – especially our large military contractors – and the Europeans were happy to have their defense subsidized by the US taxpayers in exchange for the occasional purchase of a few dozen fighter planes.
But that is not really what Bandow is asking. The real question is why are we still permitting the Europeans to depend upon us? Is it not time that we at last put the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to rest, to send Europe an unequivocal message that the subsidy is over? After 70 years in Europe, America is finally coming home. The Cold War, the raison d’etre of NATO’s existence, has now ended, and it is time to close the books on that august, well-intended, but outdated institution.
And it is time for us to reassess, in the view of a very different geopolitical environment and domestic political economy than those we faced when the NATO alliance was at its height, our needs for collective security and the limits of our ability to contribute to the defense of any region beyond our shores.
The process must be conducted with wisdom. We cannot simply abruptly disavow our obligations and go home. Rather, we need to view this as a process, beginning with informing the leaders of Europe that we are on this course, and that Europe must be prepared to step in and take up the burden of its own defense.
We also need to recognize that the process of re-framing our defense relationship with Europe must be conducted in a way that addresses both our legal and moral obligations under the treaty structure that gave rise to NATO. If our friends are to remain our friends, we must leave (or retire) NATO in a way that observes the diplomatic forms, and that gives the nations of Europe a reasonable amount of time to build the forces and doctrine to step into whatever breach we decide to leave.
Because that process is long, it must begin as soon as possible. The process is unlikely to be driven by an administration with a scant year left in office, but it should be at the top of the foreign policy to-do list for the next occupant of the White House. We can make that happen by starting the public discussion ourselves, right now.
First sign of the Apocalypse: I agree with something Glenn Greenwald wrote:
For as long as I’ll live, I’ll never understand how people want to vest in the Government the power to criminalize particular viewpoints it dislikes, will never understand the view that it’s better to try to suppress adverse beliefs than to air them, and will especially never understand people’s failure to realize that endorsing this power will, one day, very likely result in their own views being criminalized when their political enemies (rather than allies) are empowered.
In the United States, babies are more likely to die and high schoolers are less likely to learn than their counterparts in other affluent countries. Politicians may look far and wide for evidence of American exceptionalism, but they won’t find it in the numbers, where it matters.