The Voice Of Reason — From A Republican

Of late, I’ve taken to doing something I had not done, but should have, before – reading opinion pieces by conservative writers.  Not all of them, of course, for some I find to be simply too odious to read more than a paragraph, but those conservative writers who take a more moderate stance, who aren’t so far to the right as to be moronic, have something to say and I want to listen.  I want to understand what makes them tick, why they think as they do.  Yesterday, I came across an opinion essay in the New York Times by Stuart Stevens, a long-time Republican political consultant.  Mr. Stevens joined the Lincoln Project earlier this year. This essay resonates, it helps explain some things, maybe answer some questions we’ve been asking, and I think it is worth sharing here.  I hope you’ll take a minute to read Mr. Stevens’ words.


I Hope This Is Not Another Lie About the Republican Party

But it might be lost forever.

stuart-stevensBy Stuart Stevens

After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential race, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, commissioned an internal party study to examine why the party had won the popular vote only once since 1988.

The results of that so-called autopsy were fairly obvious: The party needed to appeal to more people of color, reach out to younger voters, become more welcoming to women. Those conclusions were presented as not only a political necessity but also a moral mandate if the Republican Party were to be a governing party in a rapidly changing America.

Then Donald Trump emerged and the party threw all those conclusions out the window with an almost audible sigh of relief: Thank God we can win without pretending we really care about this stuff. That reaction was sadly predictable.

I spent decades working to elect Republicans, including Mr. Romney and four other presidential candidates, and I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. He is the logical conclusion of what the party became over the past 50 or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race-baiting, self-deception and anger that now dominate it. Hold Donald Trump up to a mirror and that bulging, scowling orange face is today’s Republican Party.

I saw the warning signs but ignored them and chose to believe what I wanted to believe: The party wasn’t just a white grievance party; there was still a big tent; the others guys were worse. Many of us in the party saw this dark side and told ourselves it was a recessive gene. We were wrong. It turned out to be the dominant gene.

What is most telling is that the Republican Party actively embraced, supported, defended and now enthusiastically identifies with a man who eagerly exploits the nation’s racial tensions. In our system, political parties should serve a circuit breaker function. The Republican Party never pulled the switch.

Racism is the original sin of the modern Republican Party. While many Republicans today like to mourn the absence of an intellectual voice like William Buckley, it is often overlooked that Mr. Buckley began his career as a racist defending segregation.

In the Richard Nixon White House, Pat Buchanan and Kevin Phillips wrote a re-election campaign memo headed “Dividing the Democrats” in which they outlined what would come to be known as the Southern Strategy. It assumes there is little Republicans can do to attract Black Americans and details a two-pronged strategy: Utilize Black support of Democrats to alienate white voters while trying to decrease that support by sowing dissension within the Democratic Party.

That strategy has worked so well that it was copied by the Russians in their 2016 efforts to help elect Mr. Trump.

In the 2000 George W. Bush campaign, on which I worked, we acknowledged the failures of Republicans to attract significant nonwhite support. When Mr. Bush called himself a “compassionate conservative,” some on the right attacked him, calling it an admission that conservatism had not been compassionate. That was true; it had not been. Many of us believed we could steer the party to that “kinder, gentler” place his father described. We were wrong.

Reading Mr. Bush’s 2000 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention now is like stumbling across a document from a lost civilization, with its calls for humility, service and compassion. That message couldn’t attract 20 percent in a Republican presidential primary today. If there really was a battle for the soul of the Republican Party, we lost.

There is a collective blame to be shared by those of us who have created the modern Republican Party that has so egregiously betrayed the principles it claimed to represent. My j’accuse is against us all, not a few individuals who were the most egregious.

How did this happen? How do you abandon deeply held beliefs about character, personal responsibility, foreign policy and the national debt in a matter of months? You don’t. The obvious answer is those beliefs weren’t deeply held. What others and I thought were bedrock values turned out to be mere marketing slogans easily replaced. I feel like the guy working for Bernie Madoff who thought they were actually beating the market.

Mr. Trump has served a useful purpose by exposing the deep flaws of a major American political party. Like a heavy truck driven over a bridge on the edge of failure, he has made it impossible to ignore the long-developing fault lines of the Republican Party. A party rooted in decency and values does not embrace the anger that Mr. Trump peddles as patriotism.

This collapse of a major political party as a moral governing force is unlike anything we have seen in modern American politics. The closest parallel is the demise of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, when the dissonance between what the party said it stood for and what citizens actually experienced was so great that it was unsustainable.

This election should signal a day of reckoning for the party and all who claim it as a political identity. Will it? I’ve given up hope that there are any lines of decency or normalcy that once crossed would move Republican leaders to act as if they took their oath of office more seriously than their allegiance to party. Only fear will motivate the party to change — the cold fear only defeat can bring.

That defeat is looming. Will it bring desperately needed change to the Republican Party? I’d like to say I’m hopeful. But that would be a lie and there have been too many lies for too long.

37 thoughts on “The Voice Of Reason — From A Republican

  1. Great piece. If you’re looking for more bipartisanship, another great place to go is Braver Angels. It’s a project which brings people together from across the political spectrum, to have real conversations with each other, as opposed to the usual trolling and name-calling. I’ve been watching their videos and listening to their podcasts, and it’s been a breath of fresh air for me in today’s polarized world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! And thank you for the heads-up about Braver Angels … I will definitely check that one out! That’s what we need … people willing to listen, consider other viewpoints, and perhaps even compromise!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Note to Tucker Carlson | musingsofanoldfart

  3. Wow…I feel so sorry for that man while at the same time admiring his courage for speaking the truth. Conservative parties the world over seem to have devolved into something self serving and ugly. I hope something better emerges post November.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Do you think that’s even possible? I’m wondering if it isn’t time for a new party to take its place, maybe one that more closely reflects the majority of Americans? Btw, I’ve come across ex-Democrat voters who believe that party has well and truly lost its way too.

        Liked by 1 person

            • Of late, I’m not so sure democracy can survive the 21st century, not just here in the U.S., but the populist movement seems to have a goal of destroying democratic foundations worldwide. Then again … if we don’t address climate change and SOON, none of it will matter by the end of this century.

              Liked by 1 person

              • The truth is, we’ve never really had democracy. The best we’ve been able to achieve is ‘representational’ democracy, and as we’ve found, that’s all too easy to skew and distort.
                Maybe it’s time to make people more accountable by having a greater say in everyday decisions. Or maybe the populist movement has shown that the majority, if that’s what they are, aren’t such good judges of what’s ‘good’ for a country.
                But ultimately you’re right about Climate Change. While we dither and carry on, our one and only planet is becoming less and less hospitable.
                Soon a short video yesterday in which the presenter made the point that if insects disappeared, we’d all be dead in a very few years, but if humans disappeared, the planet would thrive. That may turn out to be prophetic.

                Liked by 1 person

                • This is true, and I think no nation in modern times has been a true ‘democracy’, nor will any. We had a democratic republic … or at least we thought we did, but obviously only for some, and not for all.

                  Yes, I have long heard that planet Earth doesn’t need us for its survival, but we need it. If we allow the bee population to continue to decline, we will see food shortages in a few short years, and the air we breathe is already nearly unbreathable. Greed and arrogance may well be the downfall of us all … and in the not too distant future. Some days I’m glad I’m already old, y’know? Hugs, my friend.

                  Liked by 1 person

        • Possible? Yes. Probable? No. The biggest stumbling block to reforming the party is, I think, the fact that nearly unlimited amounts of donations can be made by corporations and lobbying groups, ensuring that by the time we elect one, he has already committed to voting a certain way to benefit his benefactors. The Democrats, I’m sure, do some of it too, but not nearly as much as the Republicans. They are, after all, the party of big business, and lately of the gun and fossil fuel industries. I think Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that enabled such a flow of money from special interest groups, was the biggest threat to having honest politicians. It should be overturned, but isn’t likely to be anytime soon. Sigh.

          Liked by 2 people

  4. An excellent column indeed! I have found it to be increasingly difficult these days to keep an open mind, particularly concerning politics, more particularly concerning trump and GOP politics. However the point made by Mark Twain, in a quote that is attributed to him, certainly applies to Stuart Steven’s column : “An open mind leaves a chance for someone to drop a worthwhile thought in it.” Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Like you, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to keep an open mind, but I’m trying to force myself to, because if we’re to solve our problems, we’re going to have to have compromise from both right and left, and how can we meet in the middle if we refuse to take a step in that direction? Sigh. I love the Mark Twain quote … so true!!!

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  5. Jill, Stuart Stevens speaks wisely. For more than a year, I have shared with GOP Senators the president is a clear and present danger to our country, planet and the Republican Party. He has officially killed the GOP. A comment made earlier is apt. The GOP slide began when they tolerated the making up of facts by candidates and Fox. Both sides exaggerate and even lie, but the GOP dwarfs the Dems on untruths. This is one reason I left the GOP around 2008. Trump just took advantage and took the lying to a new level. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • The difference between Mr. Stevens and, say, Mitch McConnell or Lindsey Graham is the difference between night and day. If the GOP stands a chance of turning things around and once again becoming a respectable party, a viable party, it will be because of people like Stevens.

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  6. “I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. He is the logical conclusion of what the party became over the past 50 or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race-baiting, self-deception and anger that now dominate it. Hold Donald Trump up to a mirror and that bulging, scowling orange face is today’s Republican Party.”
    ~ It could not have been easy for Stuart Stevens to acknowledge and admit this. This is growth.

    “This collapse of a major political party as a moral governing force is unlike anything we have seen in modern American politics.”
    ~ Should the party succeed in maintaining its control under Trump, I fear that the USA, too, will go the same way as the former USSR–a total collapse of the Union.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Ronald Reagan on Ronld Reagan, “I don’t believe I ever said that. I can’t remember.” No, he never said Capitalism is up, and Socialism is down, but there it is, in sight and sound. I cannot remember, but it seems to me he handed out a lot of names to McCarthyism, mostly as what we would call today a Confidential Informant, but in 1947 was called an FBI spy. RR, with his first wife, JW, or Jane Wyman. often handed over names of suspected members of the Communist Party, who were the bugaboo of all rich Americans. I cannot determine if anyone ever threw RR’s name into the g, but it does not sound like it, or he may have had immunity under any c8rcumstance as he made to gain illicit information. He was a prick with no conscience then and still one when he died. He was obviously connected with the fearmongering of Joseph McCar5y against who were innocent of any crime.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It’s true what u say about Reagan, but there’s no denying his articulate eloquent speeches which actually made sense to the ppl whether u agreed with him or not. He warned about globalism and the great sucking sound of all good paying union jobs leaving the country b/c rich assholes want to exploit cheap labor overseas at the expense of the working class. In any case he makes Trump sound like a grade school simpleton with speech impediment. I wouldn’t mind having Reagan or JFK during these tumultuous times. Second rate hacks like Biden or Trump will not save the country from terminal death spiral.

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    • If the GOP has a future, it will be because of men like Mr. Stevens who see the flaws, see the misdirection the party has taken, and genuinely want to be a part of the solution. He is not alone, for there are may who feel the same. You’re right … this is growth.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. In 2012 they actually had a vision that probably would have been taken seriously by the electorate, so how the hell did Trump get the endorsement? Because only some of the conservatives took the policy changes to heart. The rest were just lip-sinking the ship. Whatbthey really wanted was absolute power, and that’s what Trump gave them. Now they are preying on the electorate to let them keep it.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thank you for posting this.

    I agree with Mr. Stevens. The Republicans did this to themselves.

    So here’s what we now have:

    The Republicans call themselves fiscally conservative. But the deficit grows under Republican government, and it is Democrats who attempt to control it.

    They call themselves the “law and order” party. But it is a Republican president who has stirred up disorder in places like Portland.

    They call themselves the party of patriotism. But we see a Republican president kowtowing to Putin.

    The Republican party have made themselves unfit to govern.

    Liked by 2 people

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