Blue wave destroys moderate Republicans

Blue wave destroys moderate Republicans

Chutzpah has been defined as “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.” The ex-conservative columnist Max Boot has that quality. He recently complained about how few moderate Republican officials are left, after loudly demanding that voters drive all Republicans from office to punish the Republican Party for Donald Trump. He and other Washington Post columnists advocated voting against all Republicans, even moderates running against radical left-wing Democrats. A true nihilist, Boot says that “we need to destroy the Republican Party” and that it must be “burned to the ground.” The Post’s delivery zone is a liberal region where only the most moderate of Republicans can get elected. No prominent official in the region had endorsed Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries. So to the extent that Boot’s rantings had any effect on voters, it was to get rid of moderate Republicans, not Trump enthusiasts.

But Boot, who lacks a sense of irony (and any self-awareness), recently tweeted that in the election, “Many Republicans who lost were relative moderates. The House GOP caucus, indeed the entire GOP, will be Trumpier than ever. This completes the GOP’s transformation from a Reagan-Ryan conservative party into a party … in Trump’s image.” In response, a moderate North Carolina lawyer — himself not a Trump fan — tweeted: “Perhaps you should have encouraged your 193,000 followers (and their followers) to vote for candidates based on their individual merits, rather than straight ticket.” But vote a straight Democratic ticket many Washington, D.C. area residents did. That resulted in the defeat of even many well-liked, socially liberal Republicans like Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman (whose family had a long history of civil-rights advocacy).

Until this election, there were a lot more moderate Republicans in local government. Many were in county governments in states that are liberal, but have pockets of moderation. But in the recent election, vast numbers of these moderate Republicans lost reelection in a “blue wave” that affected liberal states — and liberal areas of some conservative states like Texas. The Democrats who replaced them will now increase property taxes, wasteful spending, and government handouts to special interests. In past years, socially-liberal, fiscally-moderate voters often voted for moderate Republicans at the local level, to keep left-wing Democrats from winning, even if they voted for the Democrats at the national level. Not this year. Angry about Trump, they voted Democratic across the board, even for county officials.

They may find this was as foolish as cutting off their nose to spite their face. A county government can’t issue a subpoena to Donald Trump, look at his tax returns, or investigate the Trump administration. But it can increase their taxes to pay for welfare, featherbedding, or giveaways to lawyers and special interests.

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The Boots of the world argued that all Republicans everywhere should be punished because they were “complicit” in Trump’s policies by failing to denounce him sufficiently. This is the mindset of a blinkered zealot. It is also a political double standard — no one expects all Democrats to do this, such as Democratic Senators in Republican-leaning states. Far from denouncing Trump, Senate Democrats like Tester and McCaskill ran TV ads touting all the times they voted in favor of Trump policies, to try to make themselves appear moderate. Politicians are allowed to get along with even flawed presidents of the opposing party, not to mention their own.

Straight-ticket voting for Democrats was not about “complicity,” but partisan rage. In Texas’s major metropolitan areas, which lean Democratic, voters removed virtually every Republican judge from the state Courts of Appeals, replacing them with liberal Democrats in metro areas like Dallas, Austin, and Houston. As Chase Hoffberger of the Austin Chronicle noted, there was “an absolute wipeout of GOP incumbents at the Court of Appeals level in Texas. Of 32 contested races, the Democrats won 30, and took 15 seats from GOP incumbents.” These judges were not Trump acolytes or appointees, and they were in a state that voted for Ted Cruz in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.

Under canons of judicial ethics, these judges were not supposed to wade into the partisan arena by denouncing Donald Trump, so they can hardly be accused of “complicity” for failing to do so. The partisan removal of these well-respected judges will now lead to more costly litigation, and more legal uncertainty, as lawyers file a flood of petitions for rehearing in hopes that the more liberal judiciary will revive previously dismissed lawsuits. (The Texas Supreme Court is still Republican, but it does not review most decisions by the Texas Courts of Appeals).

The straight-ticket voting this year removed even independents because they showed insufficient fealty to the Democratic Party. Voters removed the sole non-Democrat on the Democrat-dominated Arlington County Board in Virginia, John Vihstadt. He was the Board’s fiscal watchdog and taxpayer advocate, a well-liked socially-liberal ex-Republican who had twice before been elected to the Board with 56% of the vote each time. Even many liberal Arlington voters had long appreciated his role in ending the County’s extravagant wastes of money — such as its former practice of spending a million dollars per bus stop — and his role in blocking plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a trolley that would have blocked traffic on a busy commercial artery, even while attracting few riders. But in this election, letters in the Arlington Sun-Gazette denounced him for refusing to support the Democrats in 2016. They harped on the fact that the day after the 2016 election, he publicly disclosed that he had voted for neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton. Liberal voters also echoed Boot in arguing that they needed to vote for Arlington Democrats across the board to achieve a “blue wave” and destroy the Republican Party. Never mind that the Arlington County Board cannot impeach a President or remove him from office, and never mind that Hillary Clinton carried the State of Virginia by a comfortable margin, making Vihstadt’s individual vote irrelevant.

The Republican Party is deeply flawed, and the Democratic Party is even worse. But abolishing them — or burning them to the ground, as Max Boot wants to happen to the GOP — would be a mistake, because they would likely be replaced by something even worse.

The Democratic Party would be replaced by an out-and-out socialist party. In polls, rank-and-file Democrats already prefer socialism to capitalism, even if Democratic elder statesmen like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton don’t. According to a Gallup survey, 57 percent of Democrats have a positive view of socialism, but only a minority have a positive view of capitalism. Democrats have already replaced a few veteran legislators with avowed socialists in primary elections. In The New York Times, Bari Weiss described how Brooklyn Democrats overwhelmingly voted for avowed socialist Julia Salazar despite her very public history of lying and lying about basic things like her background, origins, and positions.

The Republican Party would be replaced by a more protectionist party more obsessed with immigration. Republican Party elders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are more pro-free-trade than more recent entrants into the Republican Party like Trump and his working-class base. But as we explained earlier, “Protectionism is a bad thing,” because “freer trade has been critical in reducing costs to consumers and reducing global poverty.” Free trade “has expanded U.S. agricultural exports,” and “boosted economic growth” by “allowing manufacturers to obtain needed raw materials and components more cheaply, and thus preserve their overall competitiveness in selling airplanes and other manufactured goods that require such raw materials and components.”

Jerome Woehrle

Jerome Woehrle

Jerome Woehrle is a retired attorney and author, who writes about politics.