Mike, Me, and the Death of the Republican Party
I like Mike Gallagher. Not past-tense, but present-tense; I think he’s a great guy, and while I’ve had my disagreements with him in the past–and said so on this blog once or twice, and at least once, pre-Facebook days, he responded here–I’ve been a long-time listener. He loves Uber; I hope I pick him up in my car one day, because I think it’d be fun. But I’ve sensed for some time that my days as a listener were drawing to a close, and the final day was yesterday. Here’s what I wrote on Mike’s Facebook wall:
10:07 on 3/16/15, the last minute I ever plan to listen to Mike Gallagher. I am a LONG-time listener, but I’ve been seething that, unlike colleagues Dennis Prager and Michael Medved, you’ve been “neutral” toward this clown Donald Drumpf. Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment is generally valid, but there ARE limits, something I am disappointed you don’t understand, Mike. But when you say that you are having more FUN this election cycle than ever before? I have no words…this country’s future hangs in the balance, with Clinton and Drumpf being likely nominees, and you find this FUN? What is WRONG with you? I am done. Have a nice life, Mike–I do mean that sincerely, by the way, and thanks for the years I’ve enjoyed listening to you, but I am DONE.
And here is what Mike wrote in response:
sorry your misery keeps you from being excited about how engaged and involved everyone is this year. we have absolutely no idea who the nominee is yet, but we do know that people are turning out in record numbers on the GOP side to vote. i understand you’d rather wallow in anguish and woe, but that’s just not who i am. thanks for the years you’ve listened. all the best. – MG
I appreciate Mike’s response, and to a large degree, he’s right; I’m not sure I’m “wallowing in anguish and woe”, but maybe I am, and I can’t for the life of me understand how anyone would think that this is “fun”. One line in his response illustrates the massive difference between Mike and me. He says that “people are turning out in record numbers on the GOP side to vote”, and it is obvious that he sees this as a good thing.
I see it as anything but.
I have written volumes–arguably, too much, I concede–about my utter distaste for Donald Drumpf as a presidential prospect. I will not use this piece to further argue any of those points, except to make this general statement: I believe that the candidacy of Donald J. Drumpf is proving to be an unmitigated disaster for the Republican Party and, to the degree that the party has ostensibly been the vessel for those who believe in limited government and Madisonian constitutionalism, a disaster for the conservative movement as well. Mike Gallagher, in pointing to the number of people Drumpf is attracting, obviously believes otherwise, and he is not the only one I’ve heard espouse this viewpoint. I believe it to be dead-wrong, and a harbinger of some pretty bad things.
Allow me to explain by asking some questions: are the people “turning out in record numbers on the GOP side” people who are coming to vote because they have been converted to a sincere belief in the virtues of conservative principles of limited government and freedom, or are they there for other reasons (namely, their attraction to Donald Drumpf)? Will these individuals likely remain within the camp should Drumpf lose? Should Drumpf win, will their influence contribute to the scaling back of our Leviathan government and to the hoped-for restoration of constitutional fidelity? The answers to these questions seem obvious: this horde of new voters–at least those drawn in by Drumpf–cannot possibly be voting GOP because of their fidelity to these critical principles, because Mr. Drumpf gives zero evidence that he believes in limited government. In fact he has made numerous statements directly to the contrary. If I honestly believed that the ranks of the GOP were swelling because of a massive influx of people who understood and were committed to the principles of limited government, I would join Mike Gallagher in his glee. But of course this isn’t, and indeed cannot be, the case.
What is happening instead is quite likely the demise of the Republican Party, at least as the repository of Constitutional conservatism. Yes, yes, I know; there have been plenty of squishy characters who’ve held positions of leadership in the party who have capitulated to the Democrats, seemingly having had their spines surgically removed. Good grief, I actually haven’t been a registered Republican for many years, and I’ve here chronicled my disappointment with George W. Bush, a very, very good man who was no conservative. It was his squishiness which caused me to officially “un-register” (I doubt that’s a word) as a Republican, but I confess that was largely a symbolic move; in practice, I’ve never voted for a Democrat, and usually I have voted Republican (though not always). But despite the lamentable lapses from many in Republican leadership, we all know that in theory, the Republican Party has stood for limited government; no, not to a libertarian degree (which would largely suit me), but to a degree far removed from the increasingly-socialist Democrats. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got, in other words.
The threat of Donald Drumpf lies in the fact that we now likely won’t have that–at least not for some time to come.
One could say–yes, with some qualifications, but speaking generally and certainly comparatively–that Republicans have stood for limited government and Constitutional fidelity. The rise of Drumpf signals the end of this once-and-for-all, and this seems true no matter what shape the next few months take. If Drumpf becomes the standard-bearer for the Republicans, there will be no major-party choice who can be labeled “conservative” in any meaningful sense. If he loses, we get four more awful years of our national slide toward socialism and, I fear, leftist fascism (such as we see on college campuses nationwide). Then again, if he wins, we have heard not-a-few hints of right-wing fascism, and nothing resembling a commitment to conservative principles. And yet a significant percentage of people, new to the party, are eating this stuff up. Is this a good thing? Mike Gallagher seems to think so; I think not.
Further, there are a number of long-time Republicans who have come to his support. This raises further troubling questions about the commitment of these folks to principles of limited government. Say what you will for or against Mr. Drumpf, one thing is certain: it’s impossible to say with a straight face that one supports him because of his commitment to the bedrock principles of conservatism. It seems clear that he doesn’t understand them, but even if he does, he shows no great love of them. It now seems likely to me that I have greatly overestimated the commitment of rank-and-file Republicans to these principles as well, and this, as much as anything else, causes my “wallowing”, as Mike would say.
Now, a fair question–one to which I am not certain of the answer–is this: did Donald Drumpf create this problem, or did he merely expose it? Regardless, this election cycle portends a huge shift in the Republican Party. If Drumpf is the nominee, the Republicans cannot go into the election professing conservatism, and if he wins, how long will it take to regain that commitment (particularly, as I’ve said, if the Gallagher-loved influx of voters holds no such commitment)? Methinks it would never happen. If the Republican Party brass exercises some chicanery in order to deny him the nomination, he will likely bolt and take millions with him, assuring Hillary Clinton’s election. If a third-party, genuine conservative bid is launched, not only will it be the greatest of long-shots to win, but the Republican Party will be split all sorts of ways. We are truly in uncharted waters here, answering the question, “what if a person not committed to the professed values of a major party should happen to strongly contend for that party’s nomination?” Nothing approaches this phenomenon in my years of watching the American political scene. And while Mike Gallagher sees all of this as “fun”, I see no good outcome, and the likely death of the Republican Party, at least as we have known it.
It’s enough to get me quoting Woody Allen:
“More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”
Yeah. What he said.
P.S. Because for fun I downloaded John Oliver’s “Drumpfinator”, though I type his actual last name, it is always changed to Drumpf. Yes, it’s silly, but I don’t care, because so is he.