Party Loyalty

Author: Gary Hart

“Sometimes,” John Kennedy once said, “party loyalty asks too much.”  Let’s imagine a situation in which lifelong members and leaders of a political party, strongly motivated by its ideology, its beliefs, and its culture, find that fellow party members have selected a leader of that party who claims to share those motivations but whose words and behavior are antithetical to the principles of that party.

Further suppose many of the party voters in the leadership contest had only recently been attracted to the party by calculating “strategists” who promised that the party would endorse and support, especially in Congress and the White House, the particularly narrow issue or issues which had radicalized them and caused them to support the leader who identified with their radical notions.

Whether consciously or not, those supposedly smart “strategists” sold out the party’s traditional principles for the immediate expedient of broadening the party’s “base” by taking these groups on board and promising to support their non-traditional agendas.

Faced with this situation, what are traditional party leaders to do?  If they do not fall into line behind the new radical leader, then they risk losing the support of the new radical groups who brought him to leadership.  If, however, they do abandon their traditional beliefs and support the new radical leadership, they will reveal themselves to be more interested in political power (and their own political careers) than in their principles.

With some notable exceptions, most Republican Party elected officials and party officials have endorsed Donald Trump for President.  Some have done so with varying degrees of enthusiasm and some have done so while whispering behind a shielding hand that they are doing so knowing the candidate to be badly tainted but fearing to alienate that candidate’s radical following.

Each of us should reverse this scenario to test how we would respond.  Those of us who have been lifelong Democrats could, in theory at least, find ourselves with a presidential candidate who cast racial aspersions, demonized immigrants, ridiculed women, pandered to prejudices, abandoned historic allies, threatened military actions in various venues, and fanned the flames of fear and hate.  I say in theory because I cannot imagine this happening.  But neither could traditional, principled Republicans as recently as a year ago.

Speaking only personally, it would take me about ten seconds to publicly denounce this candidate and all those “strategists” and talk-show loud-mouths who had high-jacked my party and turned it into something totally at odds with the principles for which it traditionally stood.

Republican elected and party officials will have to account for themselves.  History will judge those who put their re-elections and power positions ahead of human decency, the national interest, and the principles for which the United States claims to stand.  In the meantime, they must live with the fact that, by endorsing and supporting Donald Trump, they have done serious damage to the political party in which they claim to believe and have called into question whether, in the eyes of the closely observing world, the United States is still the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Sometimes party loyalty does ask too much.

10 Responses to “Party Loyalty”

  1. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Is this not parallel to what is happening at the same time within the Democratic Party? The Party loyalists are firmly behind the establishment candidate, while many of the younger members along with a substantial number of grass-root older members are supporting a candidate that can be said to stand for the values and principles from which the Democratic “leadership” has drifted away. I think that the Democratic Party is in a similar situation that you describe for the Republican Party, but for the opposite reasons.

  2. Gary Hart Says:

    In response to Stephen Pillow, others may find the parallel but it escapes my unimaginative mind. If anything, Sen. Sanders is the antithesis of Mr. Trump. My argument is that Mr. Trump is far outside the mainstream of either party and much closer to the demagogues of history and of current Europe than he is of any candidate in my memory (except perhaps George Wallace). Likewise, whether one supports Sec. Clinton or not, she is certainly somewhere within the mainstream of the current Democratic Party whether we like that mainstream or not. I’d welcome any continued argument Stephen cares to make.

  3. Paul Borg Says:

    Dear Senator Hart,

    By temperament I would classify myself as an independent and refuse to favor one party over another on the basis of some kind of feeling of loyalty. I value the party system because I believe it is still the best tool for organizing material support for people to express their Vision for this Nation as long as each party has equal opportunity (not determined by money or special interests) to express that Vision. I hold those persons placed at the helm of affairs for each party to act in the best interest of that vision and present candidates for public office that will have the competency, character and concern required to fulfill their responsibilities. If a party does not protect its vision and allows candidates to present in blatant contradiction to that vision, I would judge that party to have no real core and simply grasping for power at any cost and in my view, is not to be trusted in public office.

    This is a trying time for the Republican Party. I pray they can set their house in order.

    Internal and external pressures on this Nation require Public Servants that are at the top of their “game” and who genuinely want to address the needs of the American People in a meaningful way. We cannot afford to be mediocre.

  4. Tom Gee Says:

    A superficial glance suggests that the Republicans on the fence, including Speaker Ryan, are in tough reelection fights. Those who are trying to figure out how to dump Mr. Trump are not, so they may feel free. No profiles in courage here. I suspect the same thing would happen were the democrats faced with a similar problem It does not surprise that you, Senator Hart, would easily take a principled stand, but I do not believe much of that exists in today’s environment. Some yes, but too few to make a difference. And, I suspect that has a lot to do with money in politics and the way in which the media coverage has scared off good people to some extent.

  5. Elizabeth Miller Says:

    Tom,

    I think we should acknowledge that it is hard to imagine that Democrats would ever find themselves in the situation that Republicans are dealing with today – based purely on relatively recent past and present performance.

    In other words, I think we should avoid any sort of false equivalency between the Democratic and Republican parties, especially given the polar opposite trend lines both parties have been on for the last couple or three decades.

  6. Paul G Says:

    FALSE EQUIVALENCY – A ‘BERMUDA TRIANGLE’?

    Hope for restoration of our founders’ enlightened republic is threatened by two empire-morphing private corporations – Republic and Democrat – masquerading as our equivalent democratic-republican best interests.

    As a lifelong active member of one of these two parties I did not fully realize this evil corporate special interest reality until recently.

    But there is a disturbing third side – “Bermuda Triangle” – to these empire-morphing private corporations masquerading as our two equivalent democratic-republican representatives: it is the impressively-named entity, “The US Commission on Presidential Debates (USCPD).” They make unholy profit from deciding who’s on first and what questions will be asked and not asked.

    The 3-headed hydra’s demonically deceptive power is, in the recent words of a major network owner, “Good for us (the shareholders); but bad for America!”

    In such a cesspool, does it matter who “wins” if they continue to flush our treasure and ideals down the drain as they profit from unnecessary $trillion wars and “public-private-partnerships” in the name of false security?

    Our honorable host has given and continues to give his life to help restore our republic, through enlightened education of our citizenry that must earn our rights daily by our duty to all our citizens’ mutual best interests.

    Restoration of our founders’ enlightened republic is far from the Bermuda Triangle of false equivalency; it is our best hope.

  7. Stephen D. Pillow Says:

    Senator Hart,

    Thank you for your response to my comment. I did not intend to equate Senator Sanders’ campaign with that of Trump as being far outside the mainstream of the party. My intention was to draw attention to the many people have with the seemingly similar attitude of the Democratic Party “leadership” with regard to Big Business and campaign financing of and influence within the Party. My contention is that the Party and especially Ms. Clinton are far more concerned with issues of “corporate” interest than with issues of the average American. I realize that any candidate for the office of President has to balance a policy of not openly alienating potential campaign financiers, but to me Ms. Clinton and the Party leadership have leaned too far toward the financiers than trying to keep a more moderate stance, which I feel that Senator Sanders is.

  8. Eric C. Jacobson Says:

    It appears at least one famous Republican pundit has heeded Senator Hart’s call. But George Will’s ostentatious leave-taking from the Republican Party notwithstanding I respectfully question the host’s premises that Donald Trump is entirely “off the reservation” of historic Republican Party politics and doctrine.

    To make my own perspective known at the outset: I am both a Never Trump AND Never Hillary voter. But I have always distinguished Donald Trump’s “sizzle” — his politically incorrect rhetorical rough-housing, which (unlike Senator Hart who seems to take it at face value) I find concerning and unbecoming but take only half-seriously (as I gather Trump himself does) — from Trump’s “steak” (no pun on one of Trump’s former business ventures intended). The steak includes both what Trump is against as well what he is for.

    In the “what he is against” category I put his (highly admirable) political demolition of the nihilistic younger conservative members of the Bush family dynasty (of which Ted Cruz appears to be an honorary member) and their extremist policies of Social Darwinistic laissez faire (pro-Wall Street crony capitalist-type) at home and belligerent (military-industrial complex-feeding) nihilistic “endless wars” abroad.

    In the “what he is for” category (and impressively seems to have made the political order of the day due to the way in which “globalization as we know it” is reducing the prosperity of all wage earners in America) appears to be some form of American autarky (AKA self-sufficiency) although it is not yet being called that. In bumper-sticker terms that means: populism, protectionism and isolationism.

    The latter two have deep roots in Republican Party doctrine. Protectionism dates back to the country’s founding and was the cornerstone of Alexander Hamilton’s economic policy (currently being celebrated on Broadway). It is an important part of what made America a great power in the first place and without which we would have remained a subjugated and insignificant colonial outpost. (More recent Republican protectionists Smoot and Hawley were scapegoated for the Depression.)

    Ditto for isolationism. The Republicans engineered the in my view (altogether appropriate) political backlash against our nation’s participation in the totally needless bloodletting of World War 1 (memorialized in Barbara Tuchman’s masterwork March of Folly) and the salutary domestic return to normalcy thereafter, including the political reversal of the infernal repression of antiwar leftists such as Eugene Debs who President Harding not only released from prison via a presidential pardon but invited to the White House. Similarly Bob Dole famously decried World War 1, World War 2 and Korea as “all Democrat wars…” during his 1976 Vice-Presidential debate with Walter Mondale. (Save for WW2 which was bipartisan at least after Pearl Harbor, Dole was 100% correct.)

    Populism is “not so much” a Republican tradition, but is a kissing cousin of Teddy Rooseveltian Progressivism that sought to coopt it.

    In my view the big question of 2016 was whether populism, protectionism and isolationism would take an enlightened form, via Bernie Sanders, or regressive form, via Donald Trump.

    The Republicans “got it”: they steered clear of Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz and are about to nominate Donald Trump. Alas mainstream Democratic voters “blew it” and opted for (confirmed right-centrist neoliberal) Hillary Clinton (who doesn’t “get it”) over FDR liberal Bernie Sanders (who does “get it”) by a comfortable margin in the nationwide Democratic primary vote contests.

    But IMHO the 1% and their spearchucker mainstream pols in both old parties and their corporate media pressitutes should have been more careful about what they wished for (namely Hillary’s nomination). Because now the populist cause will have a (Pat Buchanan-esque if we’re unlucky/Ross Perot-esque if we’re lucky) regressive cast, led by a cranky mean-spirited SOB and (possible) billionaire-class-traitor. (Trump’s credibility as a populist upper-class traitor remains to be seen. So far, it’s “all talk and no action” and will have to remain such unless and until he’s elected.)

    But the usual play book the establishment’s power elites employ to discredit enlightened populists (such as Bernie Sanders) who are easily red-baited, will now be entirely ineffective. Hence the resort to the current rounds of non-stop increasingly vitriolic and hysterical smears of Trump’s character, temperament, fitness, intelligence, yadda, yadda yadda. The Democrats and their media lackeys have become so extreme in their insolence they are making Triumph the Insult Dog look good-natured!https://youtu.be/_TPZmDuojWw

    Unfortunately for the former Goldwater Girl (who even adopted her radical Republican hero’s “right-ward march” campaign logo http://www.dailykos.com/story/2016/2/21/1488674/-HRC-s-Logo-just-like-Goldwater-s-She-sealed-her-thesis-at-Wellesley-another-thing-she-is-hiding ) NOTHING the Democrats and mainstream media do now is likely to quell the public groundswell for Springsteen-esque (AKA healthy nationalistic) profound America First oriented economic policy change (the kind referenced in Bruce’s 2012 Wrecking Ball album): “Wherever this flag is flown, we take care of our own.”

    And (barring a miracle in which the Democrats nominate Bernie after all) when the forsaken middle American electorate inflicts the coming electoral landslide on the far out-of-touch Democratic Party and its desultory presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (an almost inevitable result as previewed here: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/06/coal-country-democrats-donald-trump-2016-213988 ) it will NOT be the end of the world.

    In the immediately ensuing election cycles it WILL be the end of any and all incumbent Democratic pols who take their campaign funds and accompanying marching orders from the 1%. And that will be a (damn) GOOD thing.

    Although I will personally never vote for Donald Trump any more than I will ever vote for Hillary Clinton, in my view one or two terms of President Trump will be a small price to pay for the elevation of a new generation of progressives whose candidacies are funded by- and who loyalties run to America’s everyday people. New representatives whose sensibility (like that of the host of this website) is informed by the prophetic injunction in Deuteronomy: “Justice justice thou shalt pursue.”

    I have a dream!

  9. Paul G Says:

    AMERICA’S 1st. PARTY

    “If defeated everywhere else, I will make my stand for liberty, among the Scots-Irish in my native Virginia.” – General George Washington

  10. Stu Cohen Says:

    Republicans say that, somehow, millions of bigots sneaked into their Decent and Respectable Republican Party – ten minutes ago – and nominated an open racist as their nominee for president.

    That is hypocrisy, plain and simple. And it is abetted by the “main stream media”.

    The modern Republican party is no longer a normal political party. For decades it has been an extremist sect that fed its supporters’ rage, pandered to their bigotry, and in so doing, paved the way for demogogues like Trump. They created their own version of Victor Frankenstein’s monster and like him they deny everything.
    wikipedia excerpt: “The creature horrifies Victor Frankenstein who disavows the experiment.”

    It started around this time and issue.

    “If you are against segregation and against racial separation, then you are against God.”
    Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., Founder of Bob Jones University, in his 1960 film entitled “Is Segregation Scriptural?”

    It was not religious freedom that caused Fundamentalist Christian organizations to enter politics. It was their rascism. When the Supreme Court ruled against their segregationist policies, they realized that they needed a more publicly acceptable issue that would give them power. Fundamentalist Christian leaders never made a fuss about abortion until after they became political. Chosing abortion was their new issue, and the Republicans were their willing collaborators. The Fundamentalist Christian organizations got them votes, and the Republicans gave them power.

    For Republicans, winning is everything, principles are swept away and hypocrisy reigns.

    “When Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, it was an easy call for me. What’s a lifelong Republican supposed to do, support the opponent? I don’t think so,” Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican nominee, told CNN Saturday May 28th, 2016. Bob Dole! As decent and respectable a Republican as can be found.

    Trumpism is not the worst of the damage the Republicans have done to our country. The Republicans have systematically taught Americans to hate and mistrust their own government. How could the country have come to such a sorry pass?

    Perhaps a clue can be found in a speech given from the U.S. Capitol by a newly elected president on a cold, clear January morning in 1981.
    “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
    Ronald Reagan

    Warmest regards, Senator Hart.

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