In my evolution from a would-be reformer of the GOP to a supporter of President-elect Obama, I have been asked the inevitable “why” and “how” questions — and I have answered those questions, indirectly. But I’ve never gone so far as to admit what I will admit now: I am no longer a Republican. I am no longer a conservative.
To be clear: I still believe in many of the principles that first led me to the Republican Party. I still have a number of conservative tendencies. But of this party and movement, as they are defined today, I am no more.
There are some, I’m sure, who will ask why, rather than leaving the fold at this darkest of moments, I don’t join the countless other voices who are now in various stages of bemoaning the shape of the party, offering opinions on what went wrong, re-assessing fundamentals, and suggesting steps to reform.
Two reasons. First, I’m not convinced any of it will do any good.
Though not entirely, the Republican party and conservative movement today are increasingly limited to an unseemly combination of non-thinkers, hardliners, and reactionaries — and I suspect both the party and movement will become more hardline before softening, grow less rational before wisening up.
Granted, Britain’s Tories eventually regrouped and identified a path to resurgence. But they never, as Andrew Sullivan reminds us, “went so far off the cliff as to nominate a Palin.” (And yes, there may be more substance to Gov. Palin than her caricature suggests, but for now, she seems all-too-willing to serve as a presumptive leader of the non-thinking hardline reactionaries.)
Second, I believe there’s significant merit in Austin Bramwell’s thesis that “Non-movement conservatives have … done more (than movement conservatives) to advance conservative ideas.” Or, as Bramwell concludes: “Conservative ideas will flourish only after conservatism is forgotten.”
A potential case-in-point: Rahm Emanuel. In his recent interview with Jason Riley of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, Emanuel frequently sounded more “conservative” than the so-called conservatives. One example:
“I don’t think the country is yearning for an ideological answer. If anything it’s the opposite. They want real solutions to real problems. And if we do an ideological test, we will fail. Our challenge is to work to solve the actual problems that the country is facing, not work to satisfy any constituency or ideological wing of the party.”
You might argue that those words are a ruse, that they’re not reflective of the actual paradigm from which Emanuel operates. The evidence is against you. Two years ago, it was Emanuel who “made a tactical decision to recruit candidates who opposed abortion rights and gun control to run in more conservative-leaning districts” — a decision that “meant passing over more ideologically pure candidates, which didn’t sit well with some orthodox liberals.”
These points beg the question: If a Democrat can be conservative, if Democratic candidates can seamlessly co-opt entire planks in today’s Republican platform — pro-life, pro-gun, and in the case of the newly ascendant Blue Dogs, fiscal responsibility — then why bother with two parties?
It’s a fair question, and my answer to it represents yet another reason why I am no longer a Republican.
— TO BE CONTINUED —