Editor’s Note: This article was first published by us three years ago. In it, Brian explains how moderate Republicans were supporting and empowering a party that could destroy America and whose base was “bat-shit crazy.” With Trump’s win in Indiana this week, and no one standing between him and the Republican nomination, Brian insisted we republish it to show what’s at the root of the Trump phenomena and that the signs something like this might happen have been clear as day for years. He also said, “It’s one thing for moderates not to have listened to me the first time this was published, but they can’t ignore me this time. Politics is not a sport; we aren’t cheering on teams here. America’s future is on the line and in the hands of moderate Republicans.”
Not too long ago, in a private conversation between me and some of the other NSB staff, Paul Lee, a self-proclaimed moderate-conservative, correctly called me out for speaking disrespectfully about conservatism. At first I felt bad about this, but after thinking about it for a while, I came to realize I can no longer speak respectfully of a party that has been overrun by people who appear to be mentally unstable, willfully ignorant and outwardly hateful, all while being stuck in a 1950’s worldview. And, quite frankly, this government shutdown in which the Republican-lead House is attempting to change the constitutional order of how laws are made, all while threatening the US’s weak economic recovery, has finally pushed me over the edge, and I’m hoping the same can be said for moderate-conservatives, as well. However, polling and Paul’s editor’s notes on this article suggests it hasn’t.
Normally in an argument, this is where I would make a concession and say I’m not talking about all conservatives and mention the fact that I know plenty who are intelligent and socially liberal, and who believe in science, don’t hate the poor, minorities, women, gays or immigrants. I would even mention that there are some conservatives in office now who I admire and respect and that conservatives are right on some issues like over-regulation interfering with free-markets and competition and free trade being good forces in an economy overall. I would also normally talk about how some are patriots who would never in a million years do anything they thought would harm the country.
However, I’m not going to do that this time because of the sportification of politics whereby even moderate-conservatives, like the ones I just described, only agree with Republicans on a tiny handful of issues but remain fully devoted fans and want their team to win simply because it’s their team, regardless of how out of step their team is with them on some big issues or how destructive their team’s politics and tactics have become. These same moderate-conservatives are both directly and indirectly supporting the worst elements of the Republican Party, even if they don’t agree with them. Elements who have enough power and control over our government to hold our country and progress hostage.
Officially speaking, I’m a political Independent, but I’m admittedly deeply liberal and have only voted for Democrats and Independents. However, I consider myself an Independent because I don’t view politics as a sport and don’t root for “my team” to win at any cost. Politics is much too consequential for that kind of simplistic thinking. There are too many issues and too many approaches to any single issue for any political party or politician to have all the right answers. I understand that in our two-party system everyone is likely to disagree with someone they voted for on a few things. However, I think with moderate-conservatives the Republicans have reached a tipping point where moderates are voting for more bad than good and are empowering and emboldening the crazies that have no interest in governing and only want to, let’s face it, destroy President Obama, even if that means hurting the country in the process.
As near as I can tell, at the heart of most moderate-conservatives’ belief system is that lower taxes are good, government spending is bad, the free market can fix just about everything and smaller government is great. A lot of other issues they can take it or leave it. In other words, while many may lean socially conservative, they are by no means extremists – some are even ideologically consistent and believe part of what small government means is that government should stay out of people’s personal lives. The things moderate-conservatives tend to care the most about are economic issues. So let’s look at all the issues they are willing to overlook to get a marginal tax rate they find more agreeable.
Gay Rights and Women’s Rights: I have conservative friends, some of whom are gay and a few of whom are women, who support issues like gay rights and even a woman’s right to choose and see both as human and civil rights issues, but will still vote Republican, no matter what. So here’s my question to them: What size tax break is it that outweighs human rights issues for you? I can assure you, as a black man, even if I was promised a 100% tax break, I wouldn’t vote for a candidate who supports denying another group of people their human rights.
Women’s Issues (Issues of Equality): I have to mention women here again because the Republicans have just been so crazy on this issue lately with talk of “legitimate rape,” fighting to give government contractors legal immunity if their employees rape someone on overseas military bases, freaking out about the number of women being the breadwinners in the household (this video is worth seeing), blaming working mothers for the decline in student achievement, forcing women to undergo unnecessary medical procedures in an attempt to keep them from seeking abortions and fighting against fair pay for women in the work place.
Immigrants: It’s no secret the base of the Republican Party has taken a very hardline on immigration, because, you know, it’s not like we’re a country of immigrants or anything. The last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, called Arizona’s ‘papers please’ law that treats brown skinned people like second-class citizens a model for the country. He also said his idea of immigration reform was to make life so miserable for immigrants that they would want to “self-deport.”
The Bush Years: Moderates say they like fiscal responsibility, but twice voted for Bush, who took us through two expensive wars while lowering taxes, introduced Medicare part D and didn’t pay for it, and significantly contributed to the Great Recession just because he was on their team. Sure, now they might say they hated what Bush was doing, but try to find one who would say that back then. You couldn’t because the first rule of being a fan is don’t talk bad about your own team.
Science & Religion: Again, plenty of moderate-conservatives believe in science, even global warming, and don’t want anything to do with religion, but they vote for the party that’s 100% the opposite and wants to impose religion on the US and teach it in place of science in schools. But this science one goes way deeper because the base of the Republican Party has declared war on it. They won’t listen to scientists, want to stop stem-cell research and want to ignore history and economics, both of which shows cutting spending in a recession is a terrible idea. And then there’s that great source of information many moderate-conservatives have, Fox News, whose viewers know less about the news than people who say they don’t watch the news at all. Fox is so biased that it actually refers to the government shutdown on its website as the “government slim down,” in an obvious attempt to make it seem beneficial and harmless.
The Sarah Palins: After spending the majority of the ‘08 campaign talking about how inexperienced Obama was, John McCain named, perhaps, the least qualified and unintelligent person to ever be on a presidential ticket (I think The Donald might have just trumped her on that one). What did most Republicans do when McCain undermined his whole argument against an Obama presidency? They kept cheering for their team. And Palin is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bat-shit-crazy Republicans who are in office or who have a large following with base supporters.
Race and Voter Suppression: Seventy plus percent of every minority group in the country voted against the Republicans in 2010. Either every minority group in the country is too dumb to know what’s in their own best interest, as some Republicans argue, or the Republican Party has a race problem. (It has a race problem.) Instead of dealing with this problem, the party leadership has decided to try to suppress the vote of minorities and young people, who also voted heavily against them, by changing voting laws in ways that just so happen to disproportionately affect the groups who overwhelmingly vote against them. They claim it’s to protect against voter fraud; however, that’s not really an issue (0.00004% of votes cast during Bush’s administration were found to be fraudulent or 86 out of 196,000,000). Still, moderate-conservatives defend their party and support these solutions-looking-for-a-problem and ignore the fact that in this modern age every solution their party comes up with to ‘secure the vote’ either reduces the amount of time people have to vote or makes it harder for them to vote.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point. Moderate-conservatives will try to say Democrats have the same issues on their side of the aisle (that false equivalency bullshit), but they don’t. Dems have never shut down the government, or used the debt ceiling as leverage in a negotiation to change settled law. And, relatively speaking, they worked very well with President Bush when he was in office. No one can seriously say they were trying to destroy or harm the country even when they controlled the House and Senate under one of the most unpopular presidents of all time. As for my moderate-conservative friends, look at what the Republican Party is causing you to defend and explain: “I’m not anti-gay or racist, and I don’t hate women, I just voted for the anti-gay, racist, woman-hater candidate because he’ll lower my taxes.” “I think uncertainty in government policy is bad for business, but I keep voting for the party that campaigns on shutting the government down any chance they get.” These aren’t issues liberals are dealing with. Even if they could dig up a few major nut jobs on the scale of a Sarah Palin or a Ted Cruz on the liberal side, they aren’t in control of and respected by the party like they are on the right.
So yeah, if you want some respect from me, stop being fans of fanatics, and start realizing that some of these wins at the polls are actually representing huge losses for issues that you care about. You might have to vote for a third party, or the guy you don’t think can win the general election, but you have to stop seeing any win for your team as a good win if your brand of conservatism is ever going to have a chance of regaining control of your party and shutting the lunatics up.
Sidebar: So far, the only good thing about the shutdown is that it is showing that party cohesion on the Republican side does have some limits. The far-Right might have finally gone too far for a few Republicans who are now actively calling them out. Personally, I would love to see a more moderate Republican party that actually plays the role of loyal opposition instead of tantrum throwing crybabies.