The 2016 election has set many new precedents. Here’s one for me: I will vote a straight Democratic ticket.
Never thought that would happen. Even in the yellow dog Democrat days in Texas, my argument never varied: elect the best candidates, regardless of party, and they will find a way to figure out the way forward. Elect some Democrats to get the horses to a gallop, and throw in a few Republicans to pull on the reins.
But Republicans this year are stuck in the barn, and it doesn’t smell good in there. Here’s what drove me to it:
♦ Donald Trump: Political parties have no more important responsibility than selecting a capable, qualified presidential candidate. This is the first presidential election in my lifetime in which issues don’t matter to me. Trump is simply unfit.
Germans used to have a joke about East Germany, which was officially known as the German Democratic Republic: It’s not German, it’s not democratic, and it’s not a republic. Ditto for Trump: He’s not conservative, he’s not a Republican, and he’s no president.
♦ Global warming: America isn’t the only country in which populist demagogues have threatened to take power. But it’s the only developed country with a major political party that denies that humans are causing temperatures to rise. Debating what to do about rising temperatures is a perfectly legitimate thing for political parties to do; pretending that global warming isn’t happening is like pretending a tire isn’t flat.
♦ Merrick Garland: Republicans keep claiming Americans have to vote for Trump to keep Hillary Clinton from nominating liberals to the Supreme Court. It’s an argument that would carry more weight if there were not a perfectly well qualified, highly regarded judge who has been awaiting Senate hearings for more than 200 days.
Refusing to even consider a Supreme Court nomination isn’t conservative. It’s dereliction of duty unprecedented in American history. And now that it appears highly likely that Clinton will win the presidency anyway, it is dereliction of duty compounded by political stupidity.
♦ John Maynard Keynes: From the Great Depression through the financial stimulus of 2009, America coped with recessions by applying the theories of Keynes, who argued that during slack economic times, the government should artificially enhance demand by deficit spending. But the theory took on water over the years and by the time of the stimulus vote, House Republicans voted 177-0 against fiscal stimulus.
Look, I’m no professor, although I sometimes pretend to be one, and I’m certainly no economist. But studies have shown that the stimulus helped us get through the recession. Even if it didn’t, so wholesale a rejection of Keynesian economics suggests that Republicans are responding less to evidence than to ideology.
♦ Affordable Care Act: Yeah, I know, things aren’t looking so hot right now. The act needs work, and it always did. But what we had before wasn’t working either, and Republican proposals to change that barely scratch the surface. Tort reform and selling insurance across state lines just aren’t going to get the job done.
♦ Senate filibusters: Both parties bear some blame here, but Republicans have multiplied use of the filibuster to unprecedented levels. It isn’t what the founding fathers intended, it isn’t smart, and it is a major contributor to the breakdown of organized government in Washington.
♦ Voter suppression: Since 2010, 20 states have passed laws making it harder to vote. The laws, overwhelmingly passed by Republicans, ostensibly are aimed at preventing voter fraud, but there is almost no evidence that voter fraud actually occurs at the individual voter level. Instead, as Republican lawmakers occasionally reveal in unguarded moments, the laws are almost uniformly aimed at keeping poor minorities from voting. That’s cowardly and un-American.
♦ Budget deficits: Sure, everybody blames Democrats for the national debt, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Reagan cut taxes and debt rose. The elder Bush (who probably lost re-election for his economic heresy) and Clinton raised taxes, and deficits disappeared. The younger Bush cut taxes, and deficits returned.
While total debt has increased dramatically under President Obama, budget deficits as a percentage of gross domestic product have declined steadily during his administration and are now below the 40-year average.
Trump’s budget plan would blast a hole in the budget trillions of dollars wide. Clinton’s plan also increases the deficit but by a much smaller sum.
♦ Talk radio: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and their ilk have produced a toxic political atmosphere over the last generation in which facts are fungible, cheap shots masquerade as discourse and political fidelity trumps reason. Mainstream Republicans have winked at their antics, and now they are paying the price.
I’m no more sanguine about the possibility of a government totally controlled by Democrats than you are. We need that hand on the reins. Plenty of honorable Montana Republicans remain. But today’s national Republican Party has abandoned an honorable past that linked it tightly to traditional American values.
Wholesale repudiation is the only answer. I plan to repudiate.