The Trump and not-Trump wings of the GOP

Paul Mirengott:

Allahpundit has left Hot Air. His farewell post is here.

Most of our readers are probably familiar with Allahpundit’s work. He’s a terrific writer and a prolific one. …

Allahpundit is an unabashed NeverTrumper. I’ve probably read more anti-Trump articles by him than by all other pundits combined.

He deserves great credit for hanging in there and taking so much abuse from the Trumpy internet mob. It amazes me that he lasted so long at a site that, as he puts it, serves a pro-Trump populist readership.

I’m happy to read that Allahpundit leaves Hot Air on excellent terms with his longtime colleague Ed Morrissey (a fact that Ed confirms). I’m also happy to learn that he will land on his feet at The Dispatch, an anti-Trump enterprise where he should thrive.

Allahpundit’s farewell piece is well worth reading. However, it contains what I think is an obviously false claim — that the Republican Party has no cause other than consolidating power (which is no cause at all) and “defending whatever Trump’s latest boorish or corrupt thought-fart happens to be.”

This, I believe, is a central fallacy of the NeverTrumpers. Their understandable disgust with the GOP for making Trump its leader, and continuing to back him, causes them to assume that the party isn’t about anything other than serving Trump.

It’s possible for a party to nominate and continue to support a narcissistic demagogue and still stand for a coherent policy agenda. And this is more than a theoretical possibility if (1) the demagogue became the party’s leader because the rank-and-file believed other leaders weren’t fighting hard and effectively enough on behalf that agenda and (2) the demagogue, despite his other failings, has not abandoned the agenda. (Trump hasn’t, as discussed below.)

One can blame GOP leaders for lacking the courage to denounce Trump’s outrageous behavior — an easy enough take for pundits who don’t have to worry about running for office. But lack of courage isn’t the same thing as lack of an agenda. And failing to stand up to a bully isn’t the same thing as failing to stand for anything substantive, especially if the bully stands (or pretends to) for many of things you stand for.

What does the GOP stand for? With a few exceptions, pretty much the same things it stood for pre-Trump. (Some conservatives are frustrated that the GOP isn’t more innovative, but standing for old stuff isn’t the same thing as standing for nothing.)

The GOP stands for a considerably more limited government than the Democrats do. It stands, for example, for less federal regulation than exists today and for less taxation.

The GOP stands for enforcing U.S. immigration laws.

The GOP stands for a stronger military (and a less woke one) than we have today. It wants the defense budget to be increased significantly.

The GOP stands behind local police forces. It’s willing to entertain police reform proposals, but opposes defunding the police, reducing funding for the police, using “violence interrupters” to replace police officers, and so forth. It views the police not as a problem, but as a key part of the solution to rampant crime in America.

Speaking of crime, the GOP stands for stiffer sentencing of criminals than the Democrats do. Led by Trump, the GOP walked partially away from this stance when it backed bipartisan jail-break legislation in the form of the First Step Act.

But unlike the Democrats, few Republicans have an appetite for more such “steps.” And Republicans stand against the kind of ludicrous bail reform Democrats have implemented in various cities and against Soros-backed Dem prosecutors whose sympathy for criminals overrides their willingness, if any, to prosecute many of them.

The GOP stands for nominating a certain kind of federal judge — judges who, for example, support the Constitution as written under an originalist analysis, not judges who think the Constitution needs to evolve with the times. Judges like Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, not judges like Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson.

The GOP stands against wokeness. Liberals, and probably some NeverTrumpers as well, deride this as a substitute for a genuine policy agenda.

Nothing could be further from the truth. By opposing wokeness, the GOP supports freedom of speech, and freedom of religion — two of our most fundamental values.

It also supports another core principle — the right to be free from racial and other such forms of discrimination. Unlike Democrats, the GOP wants all Americans to be judged as individuals, based on their merit, not as members of a racial or ethnic group, based on whether they are (or can claim to be) “people of color.”

The fight against wokeness also extends, of course, to education. The GOP stands against bureaucrats who inject leftist ideology into the teaching of America’s children. It stands in favor of more parental control over education.

There are two important areas where a split exists within the GOP. One is the question of how the U.S. should engage with the rest of the world. The party contains traditional internationalists, semi-isolationists, and many who fall somewhere in between. This has long been true, but it’s truer now than it was before the rise of Trump.

However, a similar division exists among Democrats. No one I know concludes from this division that the Democrats stand for nothing of substance.

The second area of division is trade. Many Republicans still believe strongly in free trade. But these days, there are also many protectionists, as well as many (perhaps a majority) who fall in between.

This division, too, exists among Democrats.

Foreign policy and trade are the two main substantive areas where Trump steered the GOP away from its traditional positions to some extent. In the other areas mentioned above, he largely adhered to the positions most Republicans have long held.

It’s normal, though, for a party to adjust some of its positions over time and as its leaders change. The Democrats certainly have. There’s nothing suspect or unprincipled about this.

Allahpundit complains, as other conservatives have, that in the 2022 midterms the GOP isn’t giving voters a strong sense of what they will do if they gain control of Congress. Is this true?

It’s certainly the case that party leaders haven’t come up with anything like the 1994 Contract With America. I imagine, though, that individual candidates are campaigning hard on at least some of the substantive issues mentioned above.

In any case, if the GOP is short on specificity about policy in this campaign, that’s evidence of a tactical choice, not evidence that the party stands for nothing.

And it’s a familiar tactic for the out-of-power party, one that certainly predates the rise of Trump. 1994 was an exception. Normally in mid-term elections, the outsider party rails against the insider party, hoping that its perceived failings will be enough to achieve major gains. Normally it is.

Keep in mind, too, that even if the GOP takes control of both chambers of Congress and does with healthy margins, it won’t be able to implement any policies. It’s not just that Joe Biden will veto pretty much any legislation that emerges from a Republican Congress. It’s also that Chuck Schumer and his fellow Democrats can defeat nearly all legislation through the filibuster.

Given the reality that Republican congressional majorities can block bad legislation but can’t convert good legislation into law, why not talk mostly about what’s wrong with the Democrats’ agenda?

NeverTrumpers wouldn’t be human if their hatred of the man who has dominated the GOP for seven years didn’t spill over into a sweeping critique of that party. But when the critique extends to accusing Republicans of not standing for anything substantive, cooler heads must dissent.

William Otis:

The titular leader of the Party is Donald Trump. The country was in better shape under Trump than it is now, largely because Trump, while himself a sometime conservative at best, governed mostly following traditional Republican principles. The problem is Trump’s persona, and specifically his numerous and serious character defects. He’s self-involved and juvenile to an astonishing degree, and not particularly honest either. He refused to accept that he lost the last election even though virtually all the polling (including from friendly polls) predicted he would, and his own quite conservative Attorney General, Bill Barr, and numerous other allies, told him he had. He then egged on a bunch of nonsensical rioters in body paint and buffalo horns who sought to disrupt (or prevent altogether — you can’t get a straight story) the counting of the electoral votes on January 6, and thus the peaceful and lawful transfer of power that is perhaps the single most cherished hallmark of the many noble gifts America has given the world.

I was never in doubt that the rioters would fail. American democracy was never at risk to the faux panic-stricken extent the Left wants us to believe. But none of that mitigates the stain Trump’s reckless vanity smeared on our history. Whether he’s a criminal or not — something that remains to be determined — he has forfeited public trust and proven himself unfit for office. We are fortunate that traditional Republican principles can be carried forward for the future of American governance by a number of excellent potential candidates, foremost among them (in my view) Tom Cotton.

But just as there’s a problem with Trump, there’s a counterpart problem, to wit, being blindly obsessed with Trump. Like any other obsession, it distorts judgment, and in a dangerous world, distorted judgment is not something America can afford.

In just two years, we’ll have another Presidential election. Someone is going to win it, and the country is then going to be run by either an administration with Republican principles or Democratic ones. This fact cannot be made to go away either because of our amply justified disgust with Donald Trump’s moral failures and contempt for law, or because of our at least equally justified dismay with Joe Biden’s decrepit embrace of the dangerous, sinister and corrosive forces now driving the Democratic Party.

As I said in the title of this post, life is choosing whether you like it or not.

It’s the choice between the most basic Republican outlook on America and the most basic Democratic one that I want to explore. I won’t keep you in suspense: It has become pellucidly obvious that, while Republicans overall think well of America and want to see her flourish, Democrats overall think America is a seriously flawed country, if not an evil one, and deserves the “reckoning” they not-so-secretly relish. (Hence the title of our blog, “Ringside at the Reckoning”). The partisan divide about race is closely related here. Republicans want equal opportunities while Democrats want equal outcomes. In order to get equal outcomes, they are willing if not eager to adopt policies rooted in contempt, if not in some instances hate, for the white majority. This is what they call “equity.”

And that is where I get off the train. I am painfully aware of the dangers Donald Trump and his kind of thinking present to the honest and lawful governance I spent my career, 25 years in the Justice Department, trying to advance. This is not what America is about, it’s poison, and Republicans need to wake up. But I will never — never — support a political party that hates me and wants to handicap my life and my family’s life because I’m white. Even more important, I will never support a political party that thinks America, or “Amerika” as they call it in their few honest moments, stinks. America has its flaws as every country everywhere at any time has its flaws, but it does not stink. It is, to the contrary, as Lincoln understood, the last, best hope of earth.

If the Democrats don’t know this, or pretend not to, or dismiss it as dull-witted Rotary Club patriotism, fine. It’s their Party. But for as long as this is their attitude, they cannot be trusted with governing the country.

The specifics of their toxic attitude toward America are everywhere, and, at least as reflected in criminal law, it’s getting people killed. They want no border enforcement because — let’s just say it — they don’t think America deserves even the rudiments of sovereignty a secure border represents. They don’t want criminals held accountable or imprisoned because they see criminals as victims and the rest of us as their oppressors. They don’t want to do anything serious to prevent Iran from getting The Big One (and indeed want to pay for Iran’s building it) because of America’s rancid “imperialism” in the Middle East (and everywhere else). They don’t want energy independence because America is the world’s polluter (even as the actual polluter, China, gets a pass). They don’t want white kids in their teens and twenties to have a fair, race-neutral shot at college admission because of a long-dead social system of slavery and Jim Crow those kids had nothing to do with.

In the real world, this is where we are. Just pretending that our ex-President is the country’s central problem is every bit as foolish and juvenile as he was, and, given the alternative we see now and the perils we face in the future, more dangerous. It’s not just Trump’s obsessive defenders, but his obsessive critics as well, who need to wake up.

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