Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings I watched more TV combined than I have all year. I planted myself on the couch, determined to watch the Republican National Convention myself. With all the crazy news coverage about the platform, the speakers, and Trump’s plans, I thought: I need to see this personally, and make my own evaluation about the direction of the party I belong to, without filter.
On the one hand, I was right. Recaps on Slate and Vox, two sites I read almost daily, felt slanted and determined to present a predetermined viewpoint. But what I saw on the television was just as scary.
Other than tidbits scattered throughout Paul Ryan’s speech, the party advanced no ideas this week. We proposed no solutions. Most of the speeches (most terrifyingly, Chris Christie’s) said nothing of what we can do for America — they sought only to denigrate the other candidate. What happened to the GOP? The party convention confirmed the worst ideas about us: that we’re a group of angry, scared, nativist white people.
Chants of “lock her up,” and “build the wall” aren’t endearing. They’re base. I am no supporter of Ted Cruz, but I respect his willingness to hold an endorsement — he has more courage than Paul Ryan, Rubio or the others who have cowed to Trump. As Cruz battled the cacophony of the area to complete his remarks, I felt the divisions across our party laid bare. It shouldn’t be a surprise: people unite around action and ideas. Agreeing we all hate Hillary Clinton does not unite people around a solution to that problem.
What is clear after watching this week is that there is no longer a single Republican party, and that even those divisions are not ideological. To see evangelical Christians throwing their lot in with thrice-married bigot and unrepentant sinner Donald Trump can only be explained by the thesis that our party has failed as one of ideas, and exists now only to stoke anger against Hillary Clinton.
The end of a Republican party
I grew up in a liberal household (Massachusetts!) and felt a strong affinity towards the Democrats through college. What pushed me into the right half of the ideological spectrum were the ideas advocated by the Republicans. I believe in America’s leadership role in the world. I see freer markets and corporate innovation (driven by free trade and immigration!) as driver of what’s improved American lives since the second World War. I know a limited federal government, strong individual freedoms, and devolved power to local governments create stronger communities and families. So I abandoned the left. I continued to be progressive on social issues, and supported a slightly stronger safety net for the least fortunate, but rejected the idea that government can solve problems, or that more protectionist policy is good for America.
After this week, I’m not sure that’s the party I belong to anymore. The platform simultaneously embraced a militant, backwards platform in regards to social policy, and has veered into economic and security policies I don’t recognize. Rejecting NATO? Clamping down on trade? what is this? The party continues to sanctify Reagan, but he’s irrelevant to anyone under 55. We pivot away from positions that are mainstream and supportive, and reject the ideology that creates solutions for people and promises the better future that Reagan and Bushes rode into office. We won’t know until we see how the election goes, but I fear this year really is the end of the Republican Party. Where that leaves me, and other conservatives, going forward is not clear.
Who really wrote The Art of the Deal
Tony Schwartz is the ghostwriter Donald Trump hired to help him write The Art of the Deal. In this week’s New Yorker he shares his unique insight into the man, and it would be really interesting if he didn't stand such a good chance of becoming president. I actually found it unremarkable: I know a lot of real estate or medium-sized entrepreneurs who sound a lot like Trump. None of them, of course, are fit to be president.
The Closing of the American Mind
Charles Koch published this opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal, and I don’t think it can be read as an accident that it comes on the only business day in-between the two party conventions. He nails the situation that has brought our country to the point of nominating two despicable, unfit people for President perfectly. Our nation has been defined by an openness of ideas and debate that has allowed us to achieve more than anywhere else in the world. Open-mindedness has allowed us to integrate immigrants that fueled our economy, advance the limits of our social society, and critically debate the awesomeness of the role of the sole global superpower in a largely peaceful way. On both sides of the aisle, minds are closing. Liberals, to the idea that any dissent should be tolerated for fear of harming sensibilities or triggering negative feelings, and conservatives from the concept that diversity represents a point of strength for the country. I don’t know how to explain what’s happened any more than Mr. Koch can, but it certainly helps explain why we are here today — and why it’s unlikely to look much different in the near-term future.
How law encourages confrontation with police
Never support a law you are not willing to kill to enforce. That’s the guidance issued by Yale professor Stephen Carter in a viewpoint about the expanding over-criminalization. Carter argues that lost in the debates about race and violence in policing is the point that as our well-intentioned legislators pass more and more laws, each comes with it the opportunity for violent confrontation. Any time something is illegal, we charge the police with it. And every enforcement action has an opportunity for violent escalation. With so many laws on the books, it’s almost impossible for people to know what’s legal and what isn’t, and we’re entering an area where virtually anyone could be a criminal (70% of America, according to estimates). Carter’s guidance (which I agree with) is that less criminal offenses would be of significant benefit: it would focus enforcement on true societal harms and help reduce police violence through reducing the number of interventions we require police to make.