Dear Republican Friends:
I am not a member of your party, but I am a fellow citizen of our country. I am talking to you because your country needs you right now. We are in deep trouble. Yours is the governing party and you hold all the cards. If the destructive course set for the nation by Donald Trump is to change, you need to lead the way.
I am not talking to those of you who are still true believers in Donald Trump. That, I have learned, is a lost cause. No, I am speaking to those of you Republicans who know deep down in your heart of hearts that your party is off the rails and not by a little bit. I am talking to those of you who still believe in everything your party used to stand for. I am talking to those of you who still believe that the way to economic prosperity and social progress for all lies in open borders, fee markets, individual freedom and its essential corollary, personal responsibility. I am talking to those of you who believe that fiscal restraint and responsible spending are key to ensuring the future health of our nation; that a strong military sparingly used by an America taking the lead among its democratic allies in addressing global issues is the key to national security. I am talking to those of you who understand that, for every job lost as a result of international trade agreements, more and better jobs are created. I am talking to those of you who still believe that honesty, transparency and integrity are essential to representative government.
I cannot believe for a single minute that you don’t see just how far your party has fallen from the aforementioned principles. Who would ever have thought that a president from the party of Ronald Regan would one day snub, disrespect and insult our closest democratic allies while falling all over himself to ingratiate a Russian autocrat and give legitimacy to an outlaw regime that rules its people through starvation and terror? Who could have predicted that a Republican president would one day be closing borders, stifling trade and manipulating markets with punitive tariffs against our closest allies to preserve inefficient companies and outdated technologies? Who would ever have imagined that a Republican congress egged on by its president would wind up passing legislation that increases the national debt by a cool $2.3 trillion? And who can fathom how the party of “Honest Abe” came to tolerate the tsunami of falsehoods that spew out of the White House nonstop? You have thrown away all of your guiding principles in the service of Donald J. Trump. Admittedly, that got you the White House and more, but I have to ask you, was it worth it? Are you proud of what your party has become? Is your president and his supporters building the kind of America you want to leave to your children?
You and I both know how you got to this point. It all started with the “southern strategy.” Sure, deny it if you want to. If it makes you feel better, scream self-righteously that you’re not a racist, that I’m playing the race card, some of your best friends are black and that this whole southern strategy thing is a media hoax cooked up by liberal snowflakes like me. Say whatever you like, but it’s an indisputable fact (remember, I’m only talking to those of you who still believe in such things) that, whether strategically engineered or by plain dumb luck, your party inherited the angry white southerners still bitter over losing their fight against segregation, the white evangelicals whose perverse religion has a long history of sanctifying racism and other deeply bigoted white voters that once were the backbone of white supremacy. Their emigration to the GOP is perhaps the biggest factor in your electoral success over the last five decades. Of course, you never took these idiots seriously. You didn’t really believe that abortion should be criminalized, that borders should be closed, that science is an atheistic conspiracy, that Barak Obama was born in Kenya or any of the rest of that conspiracy crap espoused by your witless new base. But you welcomed their votes just the same and you were willing to pay lip service to their nuttiness to get them, at least during the primaries. Then you moderated your rhetoric to pick up the additional votes you needed to be competitive in the general election. You know exactly what I am talking about. It’s what Mitt Romney’s handlers called the “etch a sketch” maneuver back in the election of 2012.
That seemed to work for you-until it didn’t. You probably thought the members of your newly acquired base were too stupid to realize they were being played. You figured you could go on taking their votes for granted as long as you kept throwing out the kind of mindless red meat that warms the cockles of an angry white man’s heart, like “family values” and “traditional marriage.” You knew that you didn’t have to use the “N word” to win the hearts of bigots if only you expressed such racist sentiments in thinly veiled suggestive memes, such as the Willy Horton narrative and terms like “welfare queens.” You assumed that it was enough to spew anti-abortion and anti-LGBT proposals that you knew very well would never materialize as legislation capable of withstanding judicial review. You knew you could advance any dead end law the crazies wanted and blame the activist judiciary, the liberal media and the Democratic majority for their failure. I have to admit, you had a pretty good run of it for a lot of years. But now your base of crazies has gotten away from you and the inmates are running that asylum once known as the Grand Old Party.
You were right about one thing. Your base of angry white folk is pretty stupid. Bigots, bullies and abusers usually are. But they are pretty good at recognizing the putrid stench of their own kind. When Donald Trump came along and took their craziness front and center, they knew that he was the real deal. Here was a guy who really would kick all those dark skinned illegals out of the country and build a wall along the entire Mexican border to make sure they don’t come back. Here was a guy who wasn’t afraid to call those femmie nazis, those uppity women who think they can wear pants to a man, pigs, dogs and a good many other things I can’t print. Here was man who cut through all that “political correctness crap” and made it OK to be racist, cool to be KKK, and just good clean fun to ridicule special needs kids. In Donald Trump, your base found an advocate for all the imagined grievances of the poor, forgotten white man who sees his power, privilege and delusions of supremacy slipping away from him. Donald Trump was the one man among the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates in 2016 who promised to make America great (read white) again and really meant it. The rest of the crowd employed the old “etch a sketch” strategy of keeping one foot in crazyville and the other in the real world. Trump, with both feet firmly planted in crazyville, knocked them off balance and sent them reeling every time.
I had hoped that Donald Trump’s primary victories would wake up the old Republican party; that enough of you would have said to yourselves, “My God! What have we done? We need to end this no matter what the backlash, no matter what the effect on this election cycle. We cannot allow ourselves to become the party of Trump.” But that moment never came. I thought that it might have come during the Republican National Convention after Donald Trump defamed and abused a gold star family whose son gave his life in Iraq. I thought the moment might have come when Donald Trump mimicked, mocked and ridiculed a disabled reporter on national television while his adoring audience laughed and clapped while the drool ran down their imbecilic faces. I thought that when the Access Hollywood tape came out, in which Donald Trump boasted of molesting women in terms too vulgar to repeat, this would surely be the end of his campaign. At first, it seemed it was. A lot of Republicans not only denounced Trump’s remarks, but even called for him to drop out of the race-until it became clear that his base-your base-didn’t care. Then these briefly incensed Republicans all came back like whipped pups with their tails between their legs to lick their master’s boots.
Your slavish devotion and/or grudging tolerance of Donald Trump demonstrates a frightening sickness in your souls. Bad enough that you tolerate his ridicule and abuse of women, people of color and those with disabilities. What is truly pathetic is the way you let him walk all over you. Trump insulted the wife of Senator Ted Cruz and accused his father of engineering the assassination of President Kennedy. Though endorsing Trump at the Republican National Convention was a little too much for even Mr. Cruz to stomach, he eventually came prancing back to Trump, just like the faithful hound that returns to his owner no matter how badly he’s been mistreated. The same with Jeff Sessions who meekly responds to his master’s regular abuse and criticism with nothing but adoration and praise. And who can forget how the much maligned and berated Mitch McConnell meekly followed the Donald like a little lamb on a leash into the Rose Garden to announce the billionaires’ tax break and deficit bomb-the one legislative victory to which your party can point. It appears that you have as little respect for yourselves as you do any constituents outside of your beloved base. Donald Trump once said that his followers were so blindly loyal that he could shoot an innocent bystander on Fifth Avenue and they would still love him. That was perhaps the only true statement he ever made.
Harnessing the energy of racist, xenophobic, homophobic and misogynist paranoia has been a winning strategy for you. It’s gotten you the White House, both houses of congress and a good crack at stacking the Supreme Court. Congratulations! But, oh, my friends, what a price you have had to pay! How much you have had to sacrifice! As each day brings out more sordid details about Mr. Trump’s and his associates’ political, financial and sexual misdeeds; as the most extreme representatives of racial hate become ever more emboldened in his shadow to spew their vile rhetoric and engage in acts of violence, all under your party’s brand; as the strategic alliances that have kept the peace in Europe and defended democracy around the globe for six decades crumble under the weight of Donald Trump’s gigantic ego; as all of this goes on day after day I keep asking myself, how much more of this can your consciences endure? Your leaders have jeopardized the security of our country, thrown their own families under the bus, compromised their careers and sacrificed their integrity on the altar of this pathetic little man baby and his delusions of grandeur. How much of your party’s soul is left to sell? What will it take to tickle your gag reflex? How far will this man go before you finally say “Enough!”
You know all of this to be true whether you are willing to admit it or not. So why do I waste my breath telling you what you already know? Because I still have a faint hope that there are enough Republicans of conscience like you left to bring the GOP back to life. I still hope against hope that you will finally recognize that you own this mess and it’s yours to clean up. I still cling to the possibility that you love your country enough to put its well-being ahead of your party’s unprincipled lust for raw power and that you will find the courage to act on what used to be your convictions. My question to you is this: can your country count on you to be who you always said you were?