When the leader of your own political party goes off the rails, what’s a local Republican to do? Nothing, apparently.
I’m not a joiner. Example: I quit the Cub Scouts when I was in second grade because I found them too authoritarian.
So the call to join a political party — to pick a team in America’s great democratic tug of war — never resonated with me. The parties always seemed less about concepts I admire, such as community, entrepreneurship or ideas, and more about the pursuit of power.
Obviously then I may not be the best person to ask this question. But how can anyone be in the Republican Party right now?
I’m not questioning the holding of conservative ideals. But seriously: the leader of your party, the president, just went overseas and attacked our own institutions while glorifying the leader of a hostile power. You’re still a member of that club?
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A local GOP official in Ohio decided he couldn’t take it anymore. He made national headlines by resigning his post. What stands out, though, is that he was the only one. Even he predicted that in today’s GOP, nobody would follow his lead: “There’s too many fearful of going against the president in the Republican Party.”
GOP, are you a party, or a cult?
Here in our state, Republican Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, both critiqued the president’s betrayals in bland fashion. But neither recommended doing anything about it. (At the least, Congress could hold oversight hearings.)
No other GOP elected official here made so much as a peep.
Remember when former Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott went to Iraq and questioned whether there really were weapons of mass destruction? Republicans called him a traitor and worse, even though he turned out to be right. Isn’t this far worse — to have the president do it, and also to be wrong?
Of all the Republicans in the state, basically just one — former state GOP chairman Chris Vance — has ever challenged the party about Trump. Are more thinking about it? I asked Alex Hays, a Republican political consultant in Tacoma who is no fan of the president.
“My guess is ‘no,’ ” Hays said. Of the GOPers who feel Trump is out of control, “I’d say most are still shellshocked right now.”
Hays said it’s OK to be in the club and focus on local issues, while also being opposed to what’s happening at the national level. There’s often tension like this between a party’s rank and file and its leaders. Witness the upheaval going on among Democrats.
“So my view is: This too shall pass,” Hays said. “If we leave the Republican Party, all we do is opt out of governance in the state. It would just empower the Kshama Sawants of the state to take over.”
Vance came to a different conclusion: That his former party is cultlike, and, worse, it’s in thrall to an obvious fraud. Witness Trump’s 90 percent approval rating among Republicans.
“Make no mistake, Trump is an accurate reflection of today’s Republican Party. This is what Republican voters want,” Vance tweeted. He linked to a head-shaking poll showing that despite all of Russia’s bad actions in recent years — like invading other countries and hacking our elections — Republican voters are increasingly supportive of Russia, simply because Trump is.
“This is why we need a new centrist party,” Vance added.
Or maybe we just need a few of the “concerned” Republicans to join with Democrats in the U.S. Senate to shut the joint down in a real protest of the maniac at the wheel.
Vance, with former Democratic Congressman Brian Baird, of Olympia, recently formed the group Washington Independents. It isn’t a party but a political committee to back candidates who aren’t of either major party. So far it has endorsed three for the state Legislature — including one, Ann Diamond, of Eastern Washington’s 12th District, who has outraised all the Republicans and Democrats in her race and may be threatening to become the first independent elected to the state capital in a century.
But probably not. There’s a reason it hasn’t happened in a hundred years. We’re tribal to the core.
It was science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury, whose books warned of the perils of mass political movements, who said that “anyone that belongs to a party stops thinking.”
I used to think that was a funny barb, and not to be taken literally. It sounds more ominous today.
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