Here’s a hot take by John J. Pitney, Jr that I’m sure will only become more popular with time (“I was a Republican until Donald Trump hijacked my party,” USA Today, 5/23/2017).
Already there’s a problem with the title. Donald Trump didn’t “hijack” the party—unless winning the party’s nomination according to its own rules is considered “hijacking”—regular Republicans showed up and voted for him in the primaries, again and again and again. And once he got the nomination, Reince Preibus and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and other Republican stalwarts endorsed Trump and helped shepherd him to victory. A plane can’t get hijacked if the passengers encourage the hijacker to do it and the pilots willingly show him how to fly the plane. So enough of this “hijacking” nonsense.
Because Pitney isn’t able to admit this small but significant fact and instead wants to act as though Trump’s ascension was a hostile takeover, it’s not surprising that he never quite explains what it is about Trump that he doesn’t like:
From the start of the campaign, i knew I could never vote for such a person. Trump is a mashup of all the sorriest parts of Republican history: Herbert Hoover’s trade policy, Warren Harding’s incompetence, Charles Lindbergh’s dictator worship, and Joseph McCarthy’s dishonesty.
So Pitney opposes Trump because he’s the embodiment of standard Republican politician traits (and wouldn’t you know, Pitney doesn’t make a peep about Republicans and the Civil Rights Movement). He opposes Trump because of his stance on NAFTA and for firing James Comey. He opposes Trump because he doesn’t believe in American Exceptionalism:
During an interview, Bill O’Reilly pointed out that Vladimir Putin is a killer. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump replied. “You think our country’s so innocent?”
Which is something I actually agree with Trump about, though context is everything: I condemn Putin and his dictatorial moves and simultaneously acknowledge and condemn the military muscle the United States has flung around the world against innocent people. Trump, on the other hand, wanted to create a reason by which his admiration of Putin was justified; Putin kills people, but so do we, so where do we get off being moral arbiters? I know Trump’s thought process wasn’t that sophisticated, but the point remains.
All this, though, makes me wonder whether Pitney would have written this column had any other Republican won the election, even if that Republican expressed the same ideas as Trump, because with few exceptions Trump didn’t much deviate from the standard Republican party line—he was just brasher and louder and dumber and more open about it than any of those other stooges were willing to be. The only reason Trump was able to rise and take control of the party is because the politicians within that party and the right-wing media that accompanies them in blasting their base constituents with nonsense for decades created an atmosphere from which a swamp thing like Trump would inevitably emerge. I didn’t think it’d come this quickly, but here it is.
Infuriating, too, is how Pitney says he registered as an independent the day after the election. Instead of being even the least bit curious about how his party ended up where it is now and what role people like him and his enthusiastic support for the party for the better party of a century played in bringing the party to its current dire straits, he bails and says he’s going to vote Democratic. Which is fine, I guess; I’d rather have a reluctant Republican vote for Dems than hold their nose and vote Republican because they still believe they’re the better choice no matter how bad they get. But I’d also like to have Republicans who can acknowledge their complicity and demand that the party start acting sane again. His abandonment of Republicans does not absolve him for his small part in the party becoming what it is today. Worst of all, the way he writes in his editorial:
I started volunteering for the party nearly a half century ago, handing out Nixon pamphlets in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., at the age of 13. I went on to work for Republican politicians in the New York State Legislature and both houses of Congress. And for a couple of years, I served in the research department of the Republican National Committee.
But early in the morning of Nov. 9, shortly after Trump claimed victory in the presidential election, I took out my laptop and changed my registration to independent.
It’s as if he wouldn’t have noticed anything were wrong had Donald Trump not been the nominee.
In that very perverse way, Pitney should actually be thanking Trump, because Trump has exposed without the possibility of nuance or abstraction to Pitney something that liberals have known for a long time but that conservatives such as Pitney were somehow unable to see: that the GOP is comprised of unprincipled opportunists who will do almost anything to attain and retain power.