Divorce, Republican Style

I’ve been reading media reports to the effect that Silicon Valley’s Right-wingers are disenchanted with Donald Trump and the GOP.

While much of the Silicon Valley tech community is progressive, it includes several billionaire tycoons who lean far to the economic Right. Evidently, tech libertarian extremists (like Peter Thiel and his ilk ) who gave generously to Trump and those he endorsed on the theory that they would work to eliminate the business regulations they oppose now recognize that Trump is incapable of actually following through on any of his policy promises. They have also noticed that the GOP overall is consumed with culture war issues and uninterested in their oligarch agenda.

According to the reports I’ve read, they’re closing their wallets.

Those reports have made me cautiously optimistic that we may finally be seeing a  “divorce” between those we used to call “country club Republicans” and the (formerly fringe) theocratic Right.

I was always bemused by the marriage.

The country club Republicans were businessmen (and yes, almost all were men–wives were “auxiliary” members). The haters–the religious Right, the racists and anti-Semites and (after Roe) the single-issue “pro life” voters–were focused on issues those men cared little or nothing about, and with which they frequently disagreed.

The two factions had very little in common, ideologically or culturally, and for years, I anticipated a separation.

What I failed to recognize–and what the then “mainstream” Republicans failed to anticipate–was the inability of the GOP mainstream to keep the zealots on the fringe.

I still recall an astute analysis of the zealots’ takeover by a longtime (sane) party worker; in a discussion a few years after the “Reagan revolution,” as folks like Pat Robertson and Ralph Reed were increasingly calling the shots, she blamed mainstream Republican party folks who had been willing to use that fringe, happy to let the fanatics do the “grunt. work”–knocking on doors, addressing mailers, phone banking–while they ran things. After a time, they looked around and found that the “grunts” now owned the Party.

It took a lot longer than it should have, but business-oriented, middle of the road donors and voters are finally waking up to the fact that they have absolutely nothing in common with today’s GOP. They don’t hate gay people (in Silicon Valley, many are gay–even Peter Theil, whose husband is reportedly advising him to sit on his wallet) or partake of “anti-woke”fervor.

The Washington Post recently ran one of several reports on the disillusion of Silicon Valley Right-wingers.The subhead was “The right-wing titans of tech helped create Donald Trump. Now they’re alienated from politics and searching for allies.”  They are, according to the article, “so deflated by the tenor of GOP discourse that they appear to have decided to sit out the 2024 campaign entirely.”

The ambivalence among tech leaders goes well beyond a distaste for the former president, who was scorned by several high-profile tech-world supporters in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Although the tech elite often have criticized the left and “wokeness,” some now say the GOP has overemphasized divisive social issues such as transgender rights and abortion at the expense of the tech titans’ primary political goal: radical deregulation….

“There’s such a massive disconnect right now between caucus-goers and primary voters and the people who write the big super PAC checks,” said a political adviser to major Silicon Valley donors on the right. “We don’t care about [transgender] kids going to bathrooms. We care about dismantling the regulatory state.”

According to the Post report, these big-pocket donors have come to see Trump as very undisciplined, with character traits that sabotaged his ability to effect policy changes.  (I wanted to say “Ya think? You didn’t notice earlier that this guy is a walking, interminably talking, know-nothing mental case?” Evidently, the analytical skills of these “titans” are confined to technology…)

It isn’t just Trump. David Sacks has given huge sums to DeSantis; he’s now backing off.

Most Silicon Valley people are politically but not socially conservative,” said one of the people familiar with Sacks’s thinking. “All DeSantis needed to be was normal. Now he’s gone nuts on this woke thing.”

And that brings us full circle.

Garden variety business Republicans–those “country club Republicans” of yore– aren’t just uninterested in the racism and homophobia of today’s GOP base. They understand that the GOP’s culture war is affirmatively bad for business. They oppose all business regulations, including the ones intended to prevent them from engaging in diversity and inclusion efforts. Many depend heavily on immigrant labor. They have big stakes in international stability. They also don’t do well in government shutdowns.

I hope the divorce is final…..


Why Good Republicans Should Vote Democratic in 2018

When I left the GOP in 2000, John Keeler, an eminently thoughtful and civil legislator, asked me what I thought it would take to keep people like me–not just reliable Republican voters, but active  and involved party workers–from leaving. I responded that I would have remained a Republican had the party continued to be the party I’d originally joined–my version of a refrain that I have often heard in the years since, “I didn’t leave the GOP, it left me.”

When I run into people I worked with in the Hudnut Administration, or on campaign committees supporting Republicans like Bill Hudnut and Dick Lugar, the conversation often turns to bewildered “what the hell happened” commiserations. My students (who appear to have overwhelming animus for today’s GOP and its priorities) find it hard to believe that the party wasn’t always a refuge for anti-woman, anti-minority, anti-immigrant, anti-science, anti-government know-nothings.

One consequence of Trump’s election has been a vast increase in political activism by previously unengaged citizens of all ages. And that participation–not to mention demographic data showing a rapidly graying GOP and a young, diverse and growing Democratic party that did not bode well for the future electoral prospects of the Grand Old Party even before Trump– is not a good sign for Republicans.

Right now, the GOP is dominated by a relatively small group of white, elderly political and religious fundamentalists. If it weren’t for highly successful gerrymandering and the Electoral College, the GOP would already have been consigned to permanent minority status.

That wouldn’t be good for America. America needs two responsible, adult parties.

Here is the choice faced by “real” Republicans– the ones who still believe in facts and evidence, in compromise and bipartisanship, in working toward the public good–those who recognize that the last election was not a fight between candidates with contending policy preferences , but an atypical and dangerous departure from democratic norms.

Those Republicans can continue to vote, however reluctantly, for any candidate with an “R” beside the name, and (assuming the country survives Trump/Pence) watch with dismay as the radical cult that is now the GOP dwindles into inconsequence. Or those rational, good-government Republicans can take the party back, and grow it by returning it to its roots in the socially tolerant and fiscally conservative “big tent” politics that have been displaced by the zealots, alt-right bigots and assorted “true believers.”

In order to do that, however–in order to reassert control by the adults–the current iteration of the GOP has to be defeated. If the party is to be resurrected, its faithful voters in those bright-red gerrymandered “safe” districts are the only ones who can do it. They have to declare “enough,” and the only way to do that is by voting Democratic in 2018 and then picking up the pieces, restoring sanity and–quite possibly–saving the two-party system.

If the Trump/Pence/Bannon administration continues on its current course, if enough reasonable Republicans are sufficiently embarrassed and repelled by Mitch McConnell’s appalling behavior in the Senate and by the GOP’s “lunatic caucus” in the House, it might actually happen. (But then, I’ve always been an optimist….)


That’s Funny…

I don’t know whether these things run in cycles, but over the past few days I’ve seen at least three articles/blog posts speculating why there aren’t any conservative comedians–at least, none with the audience of a Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Andy Borowitz, Bill Maher or several other liberal comics who come readily to mind.

I don’t think the dearth of conservative comics is an attribute of political philosophy. After all, in the days of the Soviet Union, there weren’t very many hilarious Communists. I think the problem is fanaticism. A sense of humor requires more than the ability to tell a joke. As my mother used to say, it’s easy to laugh when the other guy slips on a banana peel. People with a sense of humor can laugh when they are the ones who slip on it. The ability to laugh at one’s own foibles is one sign of emotional maturity. If you look at the popular political satirists, they all share the ability to poke fun at posturing and stupidity whether it comes from the right or the left. These days, it just happens to be coming mostly from the right.

Zealots provide a great target for comedians, but they themselves are almost never funny.


Voting for Indiana

I see that John Gregg is throwing the proverbial hat in the ring, and running for Governor against Pious Mike Pence.

I know relatively little about Gregg.  What I do know is that he was once Speaker of the Indiana House, that he is more socially conservative than I am, and that he’s a folksy public speaker. But I really don’t need to know much more, because I do know Mike Pence. And I also know that the last thing Indiana needs is a preacher-in-chief–a Governor with an extreme religious agenda and a very limited grasp of Constitutional history and principles. (Whether that “limited grasp” is a matter of political convenience or genuine ignorance is irrelevant in this context.)

We have seen the harm that can be done when a crop of zealots is elected to the legislature only to be enabled by a Governor who really does know better, but who sacrifices sound policy (not to mention human compassion) to political expediency. The last thing Indiana needs is a Governor who would be a cheerleader for the intolerant, “Christian Nation” elements of that legislature.

I’ve heard very good things about John Gregg, and I hope they are true. But he has my vote because he isn’t Mike Pence.


The Mean Between Extremes

The ancient Greeks used to warn of the dangers of extremism, and advocate for the “golden mean.” Our contemporary circumstances point to the value of that warning.

I posted yesterday about the hateful responses to Elie Weisel’s objection to equating healthcare reform with Nazi death-camps. But the examples extend much farther: the demonizing of Muslims, the insistence by fundamentalist Christians that this is a “Christian Nation” in which others reside only by sufference.

M.J. Rosenberg makes the point forcefully.