Let’s begin with this premise: a vibrant democracy requires (at least) two credible political parties to hold one another accountable in times of stress or scandal. When one party goes off the rails, citizens can turn to the other party as a corrective. This idea has served the United States well for more than two centuries.
The problem is that today we do not have two credible political parties. As Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial moves dramatically toward conclusion, with new information emerging each day about the near catastrophe that occurred on January 6, the moral, ideological and intellectual bankruptcy of the Republican party (not to mention competency considerations) becomes more evident.
The party’s ongoing fealty to the former President who for months falsely claimed that he had won the election “by a landslide” and then incited an insurrectionist mob to attack the Capitol, disqualifies them as the “loyal opposition.” To restore its integrity, the Republican Party must cast aside the disgraced President, nurture new leadership, decide on and then offer an alternative set of priorities to the Biden administration and show political moxie that is rooted in character and based on long-held democratic principles. None of this is currently happening.
As Covid infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue at astronomical highs (although, gratefully trending lower), as headlines are completely bereft of Republican policy proposals and as no sustained moral outrage is raised (domestically) in the flagrant racism embedded in leniency afforded Trump-supporting white supremacists who stormed the Capitol or (internationally) in the kid-glove treatment of Vladimir Putin and his Russian henchmen in their treatment of Alexey Navalny or the bounties placed on US troops in Afghanistan, concerned Americans are prompted to ask: “Who are these Republicans and what do they represent?”
Intellectually, Mitch McConnell’s diametrically opposed dictates that the impeachment trial could not begin until after the inauguration and then claiming that trying a former President is unconstitutional are farcical. Yet, 45 Republicans voted this way. It is absurd.
I firmly believe that a healthy democracy demands two credible parties. Without a “loyal opposition,” one party can easily lose its way and become detached from the electorate it seeks to serve. I have not agreed with most Republican stands for decades and yet I agree that honest, astute Republicans make the Democratic Party more accountable, more creative, more responsive to the needs of the people. When one of our two major parties becomes so bereft of ideas, so captive to a personality cult, they lose their intellectual, ethical and ideological legitimacy; and we all suffer.
Parties evolve, but recent pronouncements from Republican leaders (and the laughable opening arguments on the former President’s behalf during the impeachment trial) lead me to see no redemption in Republicanism as currently constituted. Even more discouraging is the way state and local Republican chapters have sanctioned and censured those in their midst who have stood against disqualifying Joe Biden’s election or try to buck Donald Trump.
So, I have asked myself: should I explore—and possibly align with—organizations such as the Lincoln Project in the hope that a “new” Republican Party will restore a traditional, legitimate, two-party system that has served us so well for more than two centuries? This is a troubling question, but we progressives are quick to talk about putting country ahead of party. Is this one way I can do that? Should I actively work towards the establishment of a new Republican Party that truly stands for inclusion, justice and the freedoms we all cherish—for everyone? It is something I must consider if I am to practice what I preach and truly put country over party.
6 thoughts on “The Disloyal Opposition”
YOU SAID IT, Bob! I grew up in a Republican town in a Republican family. (Back when I was a Boy Scout during World War II, I was grateful when the Iowa Governor Hickenlooper gave me and several of my friends a lift to the Boy Scout camp after his July 4 speech in my town.) But by the time that I got to seminary I had become a Democrat. Still it pains and troubles me to see how the current Republicans still support Mr. Trump. We need to find an appropriate way to dialogue with Republicans.
It is simply not enough for us to support the Democratic party. We need to express our convictions to our Republican friends and relatives. Dialogue is desperately needed now. It is not enough to vote for and cheer the Democrat leaders. Our broader mission as thoughtful American Christians, must be to express our convictions to Republican friends and office holders.
J. Martin Bailey
Your question of whether or not you might lend your precious life energy to supporting groups like The Lincoln Project, leads me to suggestion another possibility for your consideration. The Cohen Group at http://www.cohengroup.net. Also, Republicans are already targeting new ways to suppress the vote. Aligning oneself with groups that fight against such efforts would yield a good return I suppose. Take care. Love from the Pacific NW.
I like what I’ve heard so far about the Lincoln Project but I need to educate myself and learn more.. We can’t go on like this. I am a Democrat but the Republican party I knew, though I believed it always carried the seeds of today’s probems, has now devolved something plainly obscene. I am listening to the Second Impeachment Trial as I write this.. I can’t help but think that there is more violence to come. I certainly hope I’m wrong.
-We were headed for a ‘Profiles in Courage’ moment when Mitch McConnell, to his political credit, derailed it. He gave his fellow Republican senators a quasi-principled argument to avoid reaching a conclusion on the merits. How could they convict a man if the whole proceeding is unconstitutional? And that procedural objection is certainly stronger than anything they’ll come up with based on the evidence, so why not?
-But, no, you don’t have to support the Lincoln Project, or any other center-right Republican initiative, based on your belief that a loyal opposition party is essential for accountable democracy. Such support might, in fact, be used as an argument against what you are trying to accomplish. You can and should support Republican candidates when you believe that their policies and principles are in line with yours. There must be some of those candidates out there.
The Grand Old Party (G.O.P.) as we have come to know it is younger than the Democratic Party and likely may expire in the near future as a direct result of the deep divisions sown within its membership by Newt Gingrich and Donald J. Trump.
While it’s membership continues to be vast and it all-but owns the majority of state legislatures, the far-right wing of the Republican party is beyond the type of “truth and reconciliation” mentioned in last week’s commentary here. Current values of the GOP are best reflected within the shattered glass found on the floor of the U.S. Capitol, a consequence of Republican-led insurrection of 2021.
It is noteworthy to remember that over the course of the last 20 years the two Republican administrations to attain the White House both lost the popular vote. The most recent Republican president, a one term occupant of the Oval Office, faced not one but two impeachment trials.
Influential mainstream Republican leaders are overseeing efforts to establish a new, third party. Whether those efforts bear fruit relies in large part on the will and temperament of the conservative body politic.
I, for one, will not lament the loss of the post-Eisenhower Republican party. In theory and in practice it’s leadership has proven to be — how does one say this charitably? — wanting.