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October 11, 2016: For My Conservative Friends

Published onOct 11, 2016
October 11, 2016: For My Conservative Friends

Politics again, today. Mostly, I liked this article about the state of the GOP by writer John Scalzi (side note: I highly recommend his Old Man’s War series) because a particular line in it reminded me to close my gaping yap and step back from enjoying today’s schadenfreude:

I feel sorry for many of my individual friends who are Republicans and/or conservatives, who have to deal with the damage Trump is doing to their party and to their movement, even if I belong to neither.

Earlier this year, discussing the election with my girlfriend, I realized that for a firmly en-bubbled liberal millennial, I have a lot of conservative friends. In fact, despite the fact that I am personally waaaay left of center (my views fall somewhere between progressive and “wipe the system clean and build the Federation already”), at least half of most of my close friends are conservatives. And we talk about politics a lot.

I don’t want this to disintegrate into a self-serving explanation of why that’s the case. Suffice it to say that I had a pretty unique upbringing, at least when it comes to politics. My father is a liberal editorial cartoonist who himself counts people from across the political spectrum as close friends. Political discussion was constant at the dinner table, but ideological difference was always understood to be different means to a shared end goal of advancing the nation, not a zero-sum game. It was a nice way to grow up, and I would recommend all young readers find a political cartoonist parent, except that cartooning doesn’t seem to be a viable career path anymore.

Anyhow, the point is that while I’m not exactly upset at watching Trump take the GOP down in flames with him, I’m saddened for my friends and what has become of the conservative movement. As my dad has reminded me many times, conservatism is a necessary balance to progressivism. The two ideologies competing and compromising to move the country forward is what makes American democracy work. Either functioning alone for too long is a bad thing.

As Scalzi points out, this didn’t happen overnight, and the GOP itself is to blame for its own demise. And to be clear, as I wrote yesterday, I don’t think there’s an easy fix for the dilemma, and I think the effects of what the GOP and Trump have unleashed — particularly the normalization of white supremacy, xenophobia, racism and sexism — will take years to resolve. I suspect we’ll probably have to make structural changes to the way the system works to make it harder to win elections with retrenchment alone (here’s a possible solution to hyper-partisanship that I’d love us to think about more seriously).

But none of that makes the decline of conservatism any less saddening, and here’s why. I think Hillary Clinton will make an excellent president, mostly because she seems like a fundamentally good person who has a lot of experience with the depths of government machinery. She might even be able to get our stuck governance engine ticking again in a way that the less-experienced Obama has not been able to.

But I also question a lot of her positions, and wish she was being forced to defend them by a functioning opposition. Bernie Sanders did a good job doing that from the left. But there’s plenty I would like examined from the right (especially the libertarian right), particularly her about-face on TPP, her pretty shallow answer on Syria at the last debate, and her word-salad on energy policy.

I’m glad Trump isn’t going to win this election (as are most of my conservative friends, for what it’s worth), and I’m glad his defeat may force the GOP to finally, actually rebuild itself after nearly wrecking the country by bringing about the logical conclusion of the culture wars despite all of the warning signs.

But I’m sad that Hillary will get a free pass on so many things as a result. She’ll be a worse president because of it, and that is truly a tragedy.

By Gabriel Stein on October 11, 2016.

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Exported from Medium on October 22, 2020.

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