I’d like to nominate, for next year’s John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, every prominent Republican who has declared, unequivocally, that they will vote for a candidate other than seemingly-inevitable GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump in the general election–including former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman and neoconservative writer Max Boot.
Granted, it’s fair to ask why these anti-Trump Republicans didn’t abandon ship years before, considering the wingnuttery that existed in the Republican Party long before Trump’s rise. On the other hand, when it comes to severing ties with the radical right, better late than never.
Do you remember the “Obamacans,” the legions of conservatives and Republicans who declared that Barack Obama, not John McCain, was best suited to become the 44th President of the United States? Christopher Buckley and Colin Powell were the two most prominent names on the list of “Obamacans” who were courageous enough to acknowledge that McCain’s selection of silly Sarah was too sickening to stomach.
The anti-Trump Republicans remind me of those brave “Obamacans.” They also remind me of the Republicans who embraced ex-Republican third-party candidate John Anderson in the 1980 presidential election; while I wish those Republicans had set aside their grievances with President Carter, at least they recognized the radicalism of Ronald Reagan–something a majority of the electorate did not.
I imagine that many of these anti-Trump Republicans were simply in denial about just how pathetic their party had become. Maybe they thought the Tea had cooled off. Maybe they thought there was still some semblance of reason and rationality on the right.
The rise of Trump has been a rude awakening for them. They now realize that in today’s GOP, reason is considered treason. They now realize that the party is so far gone that even Jesse Helms would be branded a RINO if he were around today. They now realize that the virus of viciousness is spreading–and that it’s far more dangerous than Ebola or Zika.
Granted, not all of the anti-Trump Republicans deserve to be considered brave. Former George W. Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner embraced the politics of cowardice earlier this year when he suggested that he would remain neutral in the general election:
Beginning with Ronald Reagan, I have voted Republican in every presidential election since I first became eligible to vote in 1980. I worked in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and in the White House for George W. Bush as a speechwriter and adviser. I have also worked for Republican presidential campaigns, although not this time around.
Despite this history, and in important ways because of it, I will not vote for Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination.
I should add that neither could I vote in good conscience for Hillary Clinton or any of the other Democrats running for president, since they oppose many of the things I have stood for in my career as a conservative — and, in the case of Mrs. Clinton, because I consider her an ethical wreck. If Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton were the Republican and Democratic nominees, I would prefer to vote for a responsible third-party alternative; absent that option, I would simply not cast a ballot for president. A lot of Republicans, I suspect, would do the same.
I guess Wehner never heard the words of the late historian and activist Howard Zinn:
I don’t believe it’s possible to be neutral. The world is already moving in certain directions. And to be neutral, to be passive in a situation like that is to collaborate with whatever is going on.
As for the anti-Trump Republicans who will not remain neutral but who will take their votes elsewhere, we should welcome them with open arms into the reality-based community. We should praise their willingness to stand up to the scorn of social media and the abuse of angered allies. We should also respectfully ask them: “Hey, what took y’all so long?”