A song from the Clash has been echoing in my head since Donald Trump won the Indiana Republican Primary six months ago and effectively seized my party’s nomination for president:
Should I stay or should I go?
I joined the Grand Old Party, as it’s affectionately known, shortly after graduating high school and have voted a straight ticket since I was 20-years old. Like many of my fellow conservatives, I’ve given the GOP both time and money, and have faithfully advocated for its candidates and argued against the opposition whenever and wherever possible.
Conservatives like me have been loyal members of the Republican Party for decades, but the fruits of that loyalty have been a mixed bag. We’ve only managed to slow, not halt, the growth of the insatiable Leviathan, and we’ve barely managed to prevent the Democrats from achieving their desired levels of taxation, regulation, and social control. We’ve gotten a couple of Supreme Court picks at least partially right, though, and seem to be doing well on the state and local level.
That’s a roundabout way saying things could be worse.
Meanwhile, our opposition, and even some moderates within our party, rush to be among the first to sanction the latest entrant into what’s become a parade of big government schemes and countercultural extremes, regardless of their unknown impact on a free, healthy, and prosperous society. Those who speak against the wisdom of all this radical, unchecked, unproven, and oftentimes undemocratic change are called ignorant, uncaring, bigots, racists, sexists, or homophobes.
The weak-willed leaders of our party hate to be called names, so they often either fold on policy or abandon conservatives at the first sign of resistance. And why not? The Republican Party currently holds a monopoly on any path for our conservative principles to influence policies, so they treat us just like any other monopoly treats is customers – like we’re servants.
Still, we patiently labored under the feckless establishment (Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, etc.) in hopes that we’d soon nominate a true conservative for president and right many of the wrongs committed in recent years.
Then along comes Trump, and many conservatives felt his nomination was the last straw.
Before, we were asked to tolerate our moderate presidential nominees because they could win … but they lost.
Now, we’re asked to tolerate a reactionary presidential nominee because he could win … but he probably lose, too.
If this is the best that conservatives can hope from our loyal relationship with the GOP, then we should all be asking the question:
Should I stay or should I go?
Noted columnist George Will decided a couple of months ago, explaining that he left the Republican Party for the same reason he joined it: because he’s a conservative.
Others followed him out the door … but to where?
Some are calling for the creation of a new conservative-grounded party that could eventually challenge both the Democrats and the GOP. That would only work in the short term and only in a parliamentary system because factions are still allotted seats at the governing table. In our federalist-based system of state elections, however, a sizeable third party winning conservative votes would only split the GOP’s current number into two smaller slices. That would allow the Democrats to win nearly every state for generations, and by the time any new conservative party matured into something that could completely supplant the GOP, the damage would be incalculable, perhaps even irreversible.
Folly, I say. If conservatives are one thing, it’s cautious.
Therefore we should stay the course, support the GOP and pledge ourselves to work harder than ever to educate ourselves and other party members, grow the base, go on to win elections, and eventually implement our polices.
Quitting the party it’s an option. In fact, we have no other option. We simply must be better.
Meanwhile, to my fellow disillusioned conservatives, remember this: Donald Trump wasn’t a Republican five years ago, and he probably won’t be a Republican five weeks from now, either.
But I will be.