Well, here we are: two years into a presidency nobody thought was going to happen. Not surprisingly, this cycle’s midterm elections are projected to be particularly volatile (99 “competitive” races, according to FiveThiryEight, compared to just 44 in the 2014 midterm) with historically high voter turnout. For Americans on all sides of the political spectrum, this midterm election is about making a pointed statement.
“This election is really about one question,” tweets liberal political commentator Sally Kohn; “Do you like your tax breaks more than you like your fellow human beings?” She goes on: “Republicans keep covering for Trump’s divisiveness and hate mongering because they like his policies. At what point do they decide the damage he’s doing, the ugliness he’s spreading and violence he’s inspiring, is too high a cost?”
Kohn may have some legitimate grievances with the Republican Party regarding their tolerance of Trump’s seemingly excessive rhetoric, for the Trump Effect has always been—and can only be—wildly polarizing. But Trump is not the problem; he is a symptom of political disease in America, not the disease itself. And given that Trump has fought more effectively for the Republican platform than any president in recent history, members of his party—even those who were skeptical at first—have generally come to embrace him.
So, Kohn asks, is Trump’s rhetoric “too high a cost”? Are Republicans ready to turn their backs on him in the hopes that it will cure what ails our political system?
Not likely. Treating the symptom won’t cure the disease.
It’s not that Republicans love money more than other people; it’s that they don’t buy into the Democratic Party’s savior complex—the same savior complex that cost them the 2016 election. And somehow the Democrats like Kohn still haven’t figured that out. Many of them are still clinging to the Russia narrative or crying about the need for direct democracy because the electoral college is “outdated.” Regardless, Democratic leadership hasn’t seemed to figure out that White Guilt doesn’t entice swing voters.
Republicans—and, I think, most Americans—are tired of being told we’re evil and politically incorrect. We don’t care what Hillary Clinton calls us. We don’t care because we look at the people around us and see that they are not deplorable but mostly good. We neither associate with nor admire white supremacists or sexual predators. We despise poverty and inaccessible education. We want good healthcare and social mobility. We want the same things as good Democrats. We only disagree on the means to the ends.
Therein lies the diagnosis for America’s political disease. It’s not inflammatory rhetoric; it’s that the two parties have generally stopped believing that they have a common goal.
Republicans want women’s rights just like Democrats, but we don’t want broad policies that simultaneously trample on the rights of innocent men, other women, or fetal humans. We want to take care of the poor, but we believe that charity should stem from the virtue of the individual and is a responsibility of local municipalities rather than unelected bureaucrats. We want everyone to have access to good healthcare, but we believe it is a product of free market enterprise and not the responsibility of the federal government. We believe consenting adults should be free to love whomever they choose, but the government shouldn’t be involved in regulating it one way or the other. We want people to be free to enter into American society, but on a legal and accessible path to citizenship.
If this comes as a shock to you—as I’m sure it would to Sally Kohn—then you need to get off of social media, stop watching the news, and go spend some time with your neighbors. The people around you aren’t evil; they don’t hate you; and they’re probably more than willing to have a healthy political discussion with you. That free exchange of ideas and responsible self-government is what America is founded on, and the less we participate in it—the more we turn inward to ourselves, live online, and forget the people around us—the more the division will grow.
If the Democrats want to entice voters away from Trump, then they have to adopt a platform that makes it clear we all have the same goals and can find a compromise on how to accomplish them. Then we won’t need a Trump to feel like our voices are heard and our friends and family aren’t despised. But until that time, Republicans will continue to vote red—even if that means voting for an incendiary like Trump