America stands on a precipice. We can choose to maintain the current course under the trifecta of GOP federal government, or we can opt to give the Democrats one (or possibly two) houses of Congress. We can choose to maintain the strong GOP majority of state governorships and legislative chambers, or we can change the electoral map blue. In this midterm election, it is the moral and civic imperative of all Americans of all political stripes to vote Democratic. The Republican Party must be rebuked for its irresponsible governance of the country over the past two years, which has seen our global standing diminished, our founding vision of morality and integrity compromised and our institutions assaulted with corruption.
The Congressional GOP has abetted and enabled the Trump Administration’s debasing of America’s image and power abroad. It suffices to say that our government is the laughingstock of America’s authoritarian rivals. Our flirtation with isolationism in the globalized economy has seen a mounting trade war with China that can only harm U.S. consumers and workers. The GOP is willing to support diplomatic brinkmanship and sanctions with Cuba and Iran but is hard pressed to criticize the inexcusable conduct of Saudi Arabia and others in the areas of human rights and violent aggression. For a party whose most recently exemplary decried the Iron Curtain, the current crop of Republicans is happy to ignore the creeping authoritarianism emanating from Russia. In fact, they’re remarkably unwilling to look into the very real possibility that the Russians compromised our 2016 elections and refuse to acknowledge the fact that the U.S. might be being played by a second-rate world power. Most importantly, America’s role as the leader of the free world, a role we have long aspired to fulfill, has been cheapened and diminished under Republican leadership. Our allies are being alienated, our rivals emboldened, and in the middle, our country is finding itself alone.
The Trumpian GOP hasn’t only damaged our standing in the world. It has damaged our moral standing as a nation founded on the virtues of liberty, equality and tolerance. The rhetoric of the current president has disturbingly given sanction to white supremacists, religious extremists and neo-nationalists to unabashedly attack the vision of America as a place where unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are freely given to all of its citizens. Republicans only modestly chastise the president when he equivocates violent neo-Nazis to the non-violent counter-protestors they killed in Charlottesville; they support the administration as they attempt to enforce religious liberty for some and none for others (read LGBTQ people, women and the nonreligious); they ignore or applaud the racially driven immigration policies that have resulted in a rancorous travel ban and the illegal detention of children in border prisons. The Party of Lincoln has, tragically, come to preside over and tolerate a surge of ugly identity politics that threaten the soul of our country. Compassionate conservatism will not be found here.
Compassion has been replaced by the Republicans with corruption unseen since Warren G. Harding. One need only look at our current cabinet, stacked with billionaires whose first loyalty is not to the country but to their pocketbooks. The Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Veteran Affairs and the Director of the Environmental Protection Agency have been forced to resign, and investigations opened into several others, over egregiously improper use of government funds. The Education Department has under Betsy DeVos become an instrument of profiteering for predatory student debt companies. The EPA has seen its founding mission undermined to benefit private corporations and polluters through deregulation at the expense of the public health and quality of American life.
Trump, too, has corrupted his high office; his refusal to release his tax returns (breaking a bipartisan precedent since Nixon), his obvious nepotism and his refusal to divest himself from his business suggests a man willing to use the Oval Office as just another tool for his personal self-enrichment. The position occupied by titans like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Eisenhower and Reagan risks being lastingly tainted in the eyes of millions of Americans.
The corruption of American institutions by this current GOP extends to Congress as well; Republicans in the House regularly undermine the independence of the Justice Department with their repeated threats of investigation of Rod Rosenstein and the FBI for fulfilling their duties to look into possible Russian collusion. They passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, whose provisions primarily benefit the donor class sustaining their coffers while ballooning the federal deficit and cutting the revenue needed for basic social services. The Republicans, most damningly, have undermined the legitimacy of the Supreme Court with their ham-fisted confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to a lifetime position. Justice Kavanaugh is above all else a partisan political operative who temperamentally disqualified himself as an impartial judge for all Americans with his confirmation testimony on Sept. 27. In this testimony, he accused a former president and first lady of engaging in a conspiracy to thwart his ascension to a position he felt he was entitled to. In voting to put a partisan who shows such visceral contempt for an entire swathe of the American electorate on the court, Republicans demonstrated that they do not care for the prevalence of reason, justice or moderation in law. For power Republicans have shown they will willingly shanghai the country.
The vision of America currently being enacted by the GOP is not conservative. It is not even small-“d” democratic. The GOP has betrayed its founding principles as a party of freedom, small government and sensible moderation in favor of authoritarianism, federal overreach and reactionary extremism. While the economy may be fine, America has suffered from Republican mismanagement in other ways that may be more lasting. As a liberal progressive, I need not further explain why I personally object to the current Republican government; I want to instead implore my fellow American conservatives to vote with their conscience. The American Dream, a project that all liberal and conservatives have a stake in, is threatened. To save the country — and to save the GOP from itself — we must vote Democratic and check the dangerous abuse of power in Washington. The Trumpian experiment must end.
Contact Cole Griffiths at colegrif ‘at’ stanford.edu.