A Republican Voice …

I have shared Michael Gerson’s opinions before, for he is one of the few in the Republican Party who isn’t a far-right extremist but rather is both intelligent and honest.  I was impressed by his honest assessment of the Republican Party in his column yesterday and thought it well worth sharing.  While I would disagree with Mr. Gerson on a few things, I respect his opinions for they are not based in hatred and bigotry, but rather genuine conviction.

Michael Gerson is a republican op-ed columnist for The Washington Post who served as President George W. Bush’s chief speechwriter from 2001 until June 2006, as a senior policy advisor from 2000 through June 2006, and was a member of the White House Iraq Group.


Ron Johnson isn’t a Republican outlier

Opinion by 

Michael Gerson

Columnist

March 22, 2021 at 3:46 p.m. EDT

A political movement will either police its extremes or be defined by them.

Disapproval from opponents is easy to dismiss as mere partisanship. It is through self-criticism that a political party defines and patrols the boundaries of its ideological sanity.

This is the reason the case of Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) remains so instructive and disturbing. Johnson is a Republican who prefers his racism raw. He recently described the majority-White crowd protesting on Jan. 6 (some of whom stormed the Capitol and assaulted police officers) as “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break the law.” Meanwhile, he would have been “concerned” by an approaching crowd of “tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters.” So: Whites who propagate a destructive lie, attack the democratic process and commit violence are Johnson’s kind of people; African Americans who protest a history of injustice are a scary horde.

There have always been bigots with access to a microphone. But in this case, Johnson did not face the hygienic repudiation of his party. Republican leaders preferred a different strategy: putting their fingers in their ears and humming loudly. Republicans have abolished their ideological police.

The reason is simple. After four years of Donald Trump, Johnson’s sentiments are not out of the Republican mainstream. They are an application of the prevailing Republican ideology — that the “real” America is under assault by the dangerous other: Violent immigrants. Angry Blacks. Antifa terrorists. Suspicious Muslims. And don’t forget “the China virus.”

Trump did not create such views. But he normalized them in an unprecedented fashion. Under Trump’s cover, this has been revealed as the majority position of Republicans, or at least engaged, activist Republicans. A recent New York Times poll found 65 percent of people who identify with the GOP to still be Trump “die-hards,” Trump “boosters” or captive to conspiracy theories. And most of the rest find nothing disqualifying in Trump’s pathologically divisive performance as president.

Our country faces many crises. But our nation’s politics has a single, overriding challenge: One of the United States’ venerable, powerful political parties has been overtaken by people who make resentment against outsiders the central element of their appeal. Inciting fear is not an excess of their zeal; it is the substance of their cause.

This has left some of us politically disoriented. I am pro-life. For me, this has always been the natural application of a humane historical trend: The United States’ gradually expanding circle of legal inclusion and protection. You may disagree with me, but I believe there is a logical moral progression that leads from abolitionism to the civil rights movement to the protection of the disabled and unborn.

Yet it is precisely this progression that’s being denied in today’s GOP. Claiming that discrimination is an illusion, that White people are the true victims, that diversity is a threat and that the American way of life is really identical to the good old days of White dominance — these are not just mistaken policy views, like being wrong on entitlement reform or tax policy. They are the fundamental failure of empathy, the triumph of dangerous historical lies and the violation of the highest objectives of politics: the advance of equal justice and human dignity.

It is one thing to be involved in policing the excesses of an ideological movement. It is another task entirely to persuade the large majority of an ideological movement to adopt the basic rules of morality and humanity. In the first case, the Republican Party is a flawed instrument of good. In the second case, it is a source of dangerous dehumanization that gets a few important things right.

The stakes could hardly be higher. Politics does not directly determine the morality of citizens. But it helps shape the system of social cues and stigmas in which citizens operate. It matters whether leaders delegitimize hatred or fertilize it; if they isolate prejudice or mainstream it. If political figures base their appeal on the cultivation of resentment for some group or groups, they are releasing deadly toxins into our society without any idea who might be harmed or killed. Such elected leaders might not have blood on their hands directly, but they are creating a society with more bloody hands.

I am still finding it difficult to fully embrace the Democratic Party, which denies the American progression toward justice and inclusion in other ways. But I could not advise an idealistic and ambitious young person to join today’s GOP because her ambition would be likely to destroy her idealism. Most Republican leaders can no longer be trusted with the moral education of the young on the central moral challenge of our history. Elected Republicans who are not bigots are generally cowards in the face of bigotry. And that is a shocking, horrible thing.

32 thoughts on “A Republican Voice …

  1. It is moderates who give me hope. There will always be disagreements, but I believe we are capable of finding common ground and learning to compromise – to meet each other halfway or somewhere in between – on the issues of disagreement. (It would help if the mainstream media supported such efforts in stead of reinforcing conflict and division.) I like your idea of a “logical moral progression that leads from abolitionism to the civil rights movement to the protection of the disabled and unborn.” I would extent this progression to non-human life and hope for a world were all life is sacred.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with you completely, though of late the divisions are so deep that I’ve largely given up hope of ever finding common ground. You’re also very right about the media … they often add fuel to the fire, but on the other hand, without their comprehensive reporting we would be in the dark. Like you, I would extend that progression to all life … including animals, sea creatures, birds … heck, humans are the newbies here … the critters ‘owned’ this world long before we came along and spoiled their habitat!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I trust Gerson’s voice sometimes; at least he doesn’t seem as unprincipled as many GOP politicians appear to me. I agreed with Gerson’s take on Johnson and the GOP’s courtship of racism. It’s one of the examples I use to point to my GOP friends about the direction their party has gone, along, of course, with Hawley…Greene…McConnell…well, you know the list of obstructionists, racists, and liars releasing other deadly toxins into our system. Hugs and cheers

    Liked by 1 person

    • He has a couple of beliefs that I disagree with, particularly women’s rights, aka abortion, but overall I see him as a moderate. If ALL the Republicans in Congress thought as he did, I don’t think we’d be in doubt about the future or S1 & S4, or other critical legislation. Oh yes, I know the lot … I suspect Hawley, Greene, Boebert, Cawthorn, Gaetz and others are an embarrassment to the old-timers in the GOP, but they’ve been given their orders and … they aren’t about to stray. Hugs ‘n cheers to you, Michael!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for posting this, Jill. I think that Gerson got more right in his piece than not. I think back to the days when liberals and conservatives had enough in common that they could easily work together and find compromise agreements – that is the era that spawned Gerson’s values and thinking. I hope that he and other like-minded people will form a new conservative party that will eventually bury Moscow Mitch’s crew.
    Oh, by the way, who was the deranged creature that subverted your filibuster tactic into an obstructionist weapon that paralyzed the Senate? Here in Canada, we also use the filibuster to allow the opposition to bring attention to a bill they oppose. But here, all it takes is the application of CLOSURE by a simple majority to end it and force a vote on the bill. No wonder your Senate gets almost nothing done! That’s democracy? Nope, that’s the dictatorship of the minority.

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    • So good to see you, John! I was thinking about you yesterday, wondering if you and Anne were okay.

      Yes, I agree … Gerson is the voice of bi-partisanship … we need some in Congress who think as he does! Like you, I remember the days when discussions in Congress were just that, and the end result was usually some form of compromise that worked. Now, there are no discussions, only obstruction and arguments, finger-pointing and lies. Ah, you must mean Joe Manchin, the Senator from West Virginia. Funny, isn’t it, that the Democrats rarely used the filibuster when the Republicans held a Senate majority, but now that the Rs are in the minority, they are threatening to use it on every single vote. If they cause S1 and S4, the voting rights bills, to fail, then they will have done a huge disservice to this nation … one from which I’m not sure we will ever recover. Your use of the filibuster seems much more sensible.

      Take care, my friend! Hope all is well with you both!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Anne and I are still healthy – we got our first Pfizer shot this past Sunday. However, the Ontario government “in its infinite wisdom” has decided that we won’t get the second shot for 4 months. We’re praying the vaccine will still be effective.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m so glad to hear that you’re both well and have had the first dose of the vaccine … but 4 months??? Daughter Chris got hers and got the 2nd dose two weeks later. Even David in the UK is getting his second dose after 10 weeks. I’m holding out for the single-dose J&J, since I never go anywhere anyway anymore.

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  4. I read the Washington Post also, Jill, but only skimmed over this one. I wish now I had read it in the beginning. I often wonder if Abe Lincoln, a Republican, would recognize anything at all in his party of choice today. Of course the answer is “no”, but what an example of how different the Republican party of today is from its beginning. I also am against abortion, but I’m more against the voters who endorse candidates who pay lip service to the issue, therefore becoming one issue voters rather than looking at the whole picture. How can you be pro-life when you are endorsing anti-life issues spouted by self proclaimed experts on the subject. Probably not making much sense today.
    Now if someone would just come up with a party that endorses climate control! More rain here affecting my mushy brain.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not only Lincoln, but the Founding Fathers would be appalled at how our society has interpreted the Constitution, particularly the 2nd Amendment. You make the same point I’ve made many a time. How can people call themselves “pro-life” when they carry guns, they vote against helping single mothers support their children, and they support the death penalty. It confounds me. Too much rain, eh? We’ve had two beautiful, sunny days, with temps in the 60s and I even had a couple of windows open today! Loving it! Hugs, dear Angie!

      Liked by 1 person

      • We’ve had several beautiful days, Jill. Today, however, I visited my aunt and it seems that every time I schedule a visit with her we get rain. At least I got to see her again, something we’ve been unable to do for well over a year. And thankfully there was no mention of politics and the right to life thing. She voted for the turnip because he said he supported the anti-abortion movement, but we all saw how many times he actually did anything about it. ZERO, ZIP, not at all. I wonder how many abortions he paid for with all his female companions. And I also agree about the death penalty. Murder is murder whether carried out by regular person in a mall or grocery and armed with a gun, in the schools with smuggled in guns, or a person on death row in the prisons. If they would just be consistent rather than pick and choose which ideas they like and base their vote only on those, never seeing the overall picture.

        Ah, I’m tired and hurting from the weather changes. Just did two loads of laundry and now just want to sit in a hot shower with the water hitting every joint and making it all go away.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m so glad you got to visit your aunt! Hopefully that revived your spirits a bit. Our weather has changed 5 times since I got up this morning! ‘Tis that time of year. I slept not a wink last night (worrying about our mutual friend) and am beyond exhausted today. The hot shower sounds good, but I’d likely fall asleep and drown!

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          • I haven’t heard from him in a couple of days and am beginnin to worry also. Had short notes for a couple of days but nothing lately. It was great to see my aunt, and a cousin walked in just as I was getting ready to leave. Really good to see him also. Maybe things will get back to normal as we once knew it eventually, or at least a better normal than they have been for over a year.

            Liked by 1 person

            • He’s surviving, though not well. The doc finally came to see him yesterday and gave him new steroid creams and a different antibiotic, so hopefully he will begin to heal soon. He’s not able to sit at the computer for long, so it may be a few days yet before you get a letter, but I’m sure you’ll hear from him as soon as he starts feeling better.

              I’m so glad you enjoyed your visit … yes, hopefully things will return to ‘normal’ sometime this year … whatever normal is/was!

              Liked by 1 person

              • thanks for the update on our friend. I knew he was having a lot of trouble with everything he tried to do. so glad to hear the doc finally came to visit. I hope the new cream helps. It has to be hell not being able to get around at all.

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                • Well, his brother is taking him shopping for groceries this morning, and though he says he is still in horrible pain and sees no improvement so far, I think he’s looking forward to getting out of the house for a bit. He’s been in a bit of a sour mood … understandably. I’ll keep you posted until he can start writing to you again.

                  Liked by 1 person

                    • Well, Mike’s only there from Friday afternoon ’til Sunday afternoon, but it still helps, I think. I refer to them as two “Grumpy Old Men”, or as Felix and Oscar in “The Odd Couple” 🤣 Yes, he needed to get out, and he visited the clinic afterward to get his dressings changed again. I do hope his new meds start to help by mid-week!

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                    • I got a note from him today. Not doing so good. Doc is coming again tomorrow, or maybe already there by now, to check again and change the dressings again. At least when Mike is there he has someone to talk to. Not sure if he feels like talking right now though. Do you text? I think I have your number written down somewhere.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • We email a few times a day. Typically, we send short notes a few times a day, with one long letter at night, but he hasn’t been up to the long letter for a week or so now.

                      I am very concerned about his current situation, but also know that he is his own worst enemy. He won’t clip his claws, so he scratches the cellulitis until it is deep into the leg and open to infection. Then, he won’t do what the nurses and doctors recommend. He is … a stubborn man and … sigh. I’ll email you.

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          • Our weather changes about every ten minutes, but this IS Kentucky. I wish I could say we are used to it, but I’ll never get used to those darn sinuses! If only I could find a good sandblaster! As for the hot shower, I have to use a shower chair, and once I really did fall asleep. Whacking my head on the faucet woke me up rather abruptly and not in the way I prefer. OUCH!

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                  • Glad you were reminded before you ran out. I’m pretty sure it is all psychological but since I don’t know for sure i still take the decongestant when it gets bad. It sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, but I have the feeling i’ve done something to make it feel better and go off to sleep.

                    I seriously think all the allergens have hung around for a couple of years waiting for people to be caught out without a mask. Then they hit hard and fast, trying to get back at us for wearing the masks.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • I don’t know, but I find wearing a mask close to impossible, hence for a year now, I have only gone out once a week to pick up groceries, usually ordered online and picked up at the drive thru pickup. Today, however, I had to do some shopping for the girls’ Easter baskets, so I was in a store, masked, for about 40 minutes, and by the time I checked out, I was near to passing out, with sweat streaming down my face, no voice, and gasping for air. For hours after I got home, I was chilled, shaking, and could do nothing but doze. Maybe it is psychological, but it damn sure felt physical. 12 hours later and I still do not feel well. Sigh. I’d like to choke those who refuse to wear a mask because they say it’s their right not to, or it makes them look silly! Sigh. ❤

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                    • I’ve never really enjoyed wearing them, but had to a lot when doing health care. A few other times also, while doing tornado cleanup in 2000. Too much junk in the air back then, plus it was in January and cold enough to have worn a bearskin one. Didn’t have a bearskin though, so the regular surgical one had to do. I don’t think I could be a surgeon though. I don’t know how they get through a surgery with those thigs on, but they do keep the OR colder than normal. My biggest problem is that my glasses fog up and I have to take them off in order to see where i’m going once inside the store. I avoid other shoppers as much as I can, go when there aren’t many people up yet, and am in and out in little time at all. I might just start using my mom’s defense method against all kinds of flu — get the cheapest bourbon on the market and every time I leave the apartment take a swig before leaving and again when I get home. I was with her once and when we got back to her house she handed me a glass and told me to drink it down fast. I thought she was trying to kill me with it. I guess the cheaper it is the more it burns on the way down, choking and taking your breath away. She never got the flu though.

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  5. Jill, along with David Brooks, Michael Gerson is a voice of reason from a more conservative vantage point. He was the first conservative editorial writer to encourage Republicans to steer clear of then candidate Donald Trump. He was dead on accurate then and remains so now. This is a good piece on Senator Ron Johnson not being an outlier in the Republican Party with his overt racism. Gerson is right to say the deceitful former president did not invent the racist party bent, but he did normalize it. And, our country is sadder for it. Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • Agreed. And while I don’t agree with everything he said, obviously, I see him more as a moderate than a far-right conservative. I would only add George Will to your list, for he is also a voice of moderation and reason. Yes, Gerson was spot on with all he said about Trump and the Republican Party. No, Trump didn’t invent it, but he gave the racists permission to show their true colours and now they’re not willing to go back into the box from which he freed them.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for sharing!!… To be frank, there is some extremism in all elements of today’s world societies… those political leaders were put their by their “foundation”, their ideological base.. granted, one doesn’t want to completely ignore the leader/politician, but the core issue is the base, the foundation itself… one has seen in the past what happens when a leader/politician goes against the thinking of the base… in order for change, one needs to concentrate on the base in hopes of of finding common ground… as for Donald Trump, he has found him an audience that will inflate his ego while he is playing the role, today the Republicans, tomorrow who knows…. 🙂

    It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.” (Issac Asimov)… 🙂

    Until we meet again…
    May your troubles be less
    Your blessings be more
    And nothing but happiness
    Come through your door
    (Irish Saying)

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