Sometimes the path forward is so obvious that we miss it in the search for more complex or subtle solutions.
We are still, however imperfectly, a democracy. Yes, Citizens United, gerrymandering, voter suppression, fake news, and hyperpartisan media silos all have undermined the foundations of our democracy. But it hasn’t crumbled yet, and voting remains the best means for effecting change.
So if you believe that Trump is unfit for office and/or abhor the agenda of the so-called “alt-right,” then – regardless of your ideological preference or traditional party affiliation – I suggest that your path is clear: you must vote in every election and you must tick the box for every candidate up and down the ballot, regardless of personality or party, who has the best chance of defeating the Republican. Let me be clear. This means that if your sister is running for dogcatcher on the GOP line, you pull the lever for her opponent. It’s not personal. The point is that as long as the GOP is the party of Trump and the alt-right, you should treat pulling the lever anywhere on the GOP line as a morally indefensible act.
The game plan of the Trumpist movement is clear: if a GOP politician fails to swear fealty to the strongman, she or he will be primaried from the alt-right and lose, and – unless things change – nearly half the time the winner of that GOP primary will continue to be the de facto winner of the general election (FairVote calculated last month this continues to be the case in 208 of 435 House seats). This could well lead to 16 years of Trumpism and the inevitable collapse of American prestige, leadership, and prosperity.
The only way to derail this result is to break through normal voting patterns and achieve a temporary but massive re-set of voter behavior. First, show up (the Trumpies will, that’s for sure). Second, the 72% of Americans who now self-identify as independent or Democrat, hopefully joined by millions of patriotic morally centered Republicans, must treat any candidate’s Republican Party affiliation as toxic for so long as the GOP is providing a home for Trump and the alt-right. It will take decisive defeats of GOP candidates up and down the ballot to persuade the party that Trumpism is not the horse to ride into the future. It will take multiple elections evidencing overwhelming repudiation of Trump and the alt-right in order to put the genie of populism back in the bottle.
It grieves me to have to advocate for a solution that is even superficially partisan, when excessive partisanship is part of what caused the present train wreck. I say “superficially partisan” because in intent and in the longer-term, what I advocate is not partisan at all. If you were a Republican before your party was high jacked by Steve Bannon, this is the only way to get your party back. Once the GOP escapes the unholy alliance between a narcissistic moron and a fringe movement with a repugnant agenda, then my many GOP friends can begin the important work of building a competitive center-right party for the 21st century. And they again can be free, if they wish, to vote Republican for the rest of their lives. But not now.
To those who choose to ignore the ugly side of Trumpism on the expectation that your profits will increase and your taxes decrease, I can only ask that you rehearse in your own minds the defense you will offer when discussing the matter with St. Peter at the gates to heaven.