PHILADELPHIA – A longtime Republican friend texted just as the Democratic National Convention was burying itself in balloons: “I’m sorry,” she said, “I’m a Democrat.”
Another Republican friend called after President Barack Obama spoke Wednesday night: “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m a Democrat.”
No apologies necessary. But thanks surely go to Donald Trump and his spineless Republican enablers. The party of Lincoln, a sometimes laughable bragging point for die-hards whose racial attitudes survived the Civil War intact, is long gone. Its dissolution began at least with Richard Nixon, who embraced a Southern strategy that pandered to racists and set the course for today’s GOP.
The party of angry men and patient women tried to add a little sugar and spice, plunging itself ever-lower on the curve when it embraced a cute little winkin', blinkin' and noddin' gal-gov from Alaska as vice presidential running mate to John McCain – and a heartbeat away from the presidency.
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Next came the Tea Party movement to which Sarah Palin briefly attached her Winnebago, followed by the government shutdown, and culminating with the glittering, twittering Tower of Trump.
That many people on both sides of the aisle are furious and feel marginalized by the pitiless evolutionary march of globalization is understandable. That any one person can make it all better, as Trump has claimed, is a joke that even the mirthless Vladimir Putin surely finds laughable. I imagine him practicing a line he learned in Crawford, Texas, while revealing his soul to George W. Bush: “Bring ‘em on!”
“I alone can fix it,” Trump has said. So averse to the first-person plural is Trump that he probably thinks the unum in e pluribus unum – is about him. Out of many, Trump.
Trump’s lack of cool and couth reminds me of the old quip, “Who’d want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member?” For many Republicans, the question is: “Who’d want to be a member of a party that would have Donald Trump as its leader?”
Not I, you may have noticed. At least a few dozen readers have taken note and written to express their disappointment. “You used to make so much sense,” they say. Or, “You’re obviously a tool of the left.” (I was hoping for Satan, but no luck.) The most popular: “You’re obviously a member of the liberal media cabal.”
Yep, that’s me. We cabals just sit around plotting our next mass assault on the candidate who, if elected, would keep us employed at least another four years.
I suppose it’s time for a confession: I’ve never been a Republican and never said I was. I’ve been an independent since the early ‘80s and was a Democrat before that. If you’re disappointed, well, sorry. It’s not I who has changed.
Although I find Trump reprehensible and have written continuously out of a sense of duty to country, I’m not about to become a Democrat. What for? Parties, clubs and groups hold little interest for a person who delights in her own company and identifies with Florence King, the brilliant curmudgeonly commentator and author who once wrote: “We may be psychopaths in our own fashion, but we behave because we know that prison life is communal.”
Relax, snowflakes, she was being irreverent. Like King, I’m a conservative, if this means everyone will leave me alone. Its further appeal, as defined by theorist Russell Kirk, is that conservatism is the negation of ideology. In a world gone barking mad in defense of this or that ideology or religion, I’m fine with the blank page and the wisdom of ages.
In a lecture called “Ten Conservative Principles,” Kirk explained: “A people’s historic continuity of experience … offers a guide to policy far better than the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers.” Hear, hear, though I as much as anyone do love a caffeinated debate about the meaning of squid.
Dearest to my heart is Kirk’s conviction that conservatives “uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.”
This gets at the essence of our debate about the role of government. Decentralized authority – to the extent reasonable and practicable – seems the obvious preference, given the alternative. But opposing collectivism also means opposing collectivist thought, which has increasingly come to define the GOP.
With its acceptance of Trump, the party has implicitly embraced the most un-American of litmus tests for citizens and immigrants based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation. Republicans are becoming ideologues of exclusion and marginalization, with hints of oppression to come.
Who’d want to be a party to that?
Reach Kathleen Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org.