After seeing the Republican and Democratic conventions back-to-back, and the unavoidably obvious differences between the two, a number of conservatives are despondent about their party – about its nominee, about its electoral fortunes, about its future. As well they should be. But will they have the courage to do anything about it?
As the Democratic convention wrapped up with a speech from their second history-making nominee in a row, which followed days of optimistic appeals to voters made by a diverse line-up of speakers who resemble America, many conservatives expressed their concerns and despair via doleful tweets.
These aren’t just tepid conservatives. That last guy? He was the press secretary for Vice President Dick Cheney.
They have every reason to lament the state of the Republican Party. After four days immersed in the Republican convention, I was left with a physical, lingering feeling of unease. I was unsettled. These were not people with whom I merely had deep political disagreements, but people who were espousing a vision of and for America that is fundamentally at odds with what most people, of either party, want the country to be.
I am relieved to know that there are conservatives who are just as alarmed as I am; who also watched the Democratic convention and saw how stark the differences between the two parties now are.
But I’m also wondering: What are they going to do about it?
Simply not voting for Donald isn’t good enough. It took the Republican Party decades to reach this point – and, let us be perfectly clear: It didn’t happen by accident.
Over decades, they developed and fine-tuned a strategy based on appealing to bigotry, to othering and scapegoating and victim-blaming. And then they dressed it up in cynical language about morality, patriotism, and nostalgia.
Long before Donald had the chutzpah to make it his actual campaign slogan, the Republican Party was promising to Make America Great Again.
The Republicans have had an enormous amount of success convincing their base that the insecurities they feel as the result of horrendous Republican policy-making – and the discomfort of losing their undeserved privilege – is really the result of marginalized people trying to take away their rights.
So now we are greeted to the grotesque sight of a Republican convention that looks like a white nationalist rally, with strategically cultivated bigotries being inflamed by fearmongering against immigrants, Muslims, Black activists, feminists, and the queer community.
It is the culmination of a carefully orchestrated and decades long campaign that simply cannot be undone with a single abstention in a single election.
Conservatives who are horrified by this spectacle cannot bury their heads in the sand, nor can they put a bandage on this mess with some sort of half-hearted, ineffectual protest vote for Gary Johnson.
What is required, urgently, is a full-throated repudiation of everything that has happened in this election; a wholesale rejection of Donald and his movement.
The situation is grim. We know it and they know it. Public hand-wringing and a refusal to endorse Donald is aggressively insufficient.
They may not like it, but this is what needs to happen: They need to concede that the Democratic convention reflected the reality of America, in both its current needs and in its people; they need to acknowledge that Hillary, despite whatever significant policy differences they have with her, is competent and, crucially, disinterested in utterly destroying our democracy.
And then they say it, plainly: I’m with her. At least for this election.