Could there be a more depressing Independence Day column than one titled “The Problem with Participatory Democracy is the Participants?” That’s like saying, “the problem with my family is my relatives.”
Eitan D. Hersh, associate professor of political science at Tufts University, penned it in The New York Times as a polemic against “cheap participation” in politics and civics in pursuit of “political hobbyism.” What pabulum!
I think there’s too much “cheap political science” actually, and not enough actual teaching students how to think deeply or engage in ideas they don’t personally agree with.
And Bob Burnett lamented that Democrats are “searching for the soul of the Democratic Party,” in the progressive Common Dreams blog. Ironically, he used Bruce Bartlett, a GOP stalwart and historian, as his cudgel.
Over the course of two decades, the Republican Party became the Oligarchy Party. It didn’t abandon ideas but rather turned the conservative intellectual process over to a small number of billionaires. Republican congress members became tools of the oligarchs. Inevitably, this produced the situation where Donald Trump cut his biggest deal; Donald became President of the United States after agreeing to let the oligarchs guide his domestic and foreign policy after accepting millions in financial support.
I’ve always said that Trump was a Democrat right up to the day he announced his run as a Republican. But Trump was the kind of Democrat that no longer exists–the one former Senator Max Cleland was. During the primaries I asked Cleland what he thought of the Democratic Party now. His answer was unprintable.
Where Democrats, political scientists, and Republicans argue over whose money has more influence in politics, both parties go out and raise hundreds of millions of dollars, then pour $50 million into a single House district in Georgia to try and make a point.
The parties are both broken, and Donald Trump is the symptom, not the disease. But he, as abhorrent as he is as a moral role model, may be part of the cure. It’s like when snake venom is used to make antivenin.
Trump’s dismantling of some of the administrative state, while simultaneously debasing the executive office of the President, opens the door to a better cure. Both Democrats and Republicans are looking to states and local control for their own good. And that makes the case for less federal power.
We need a fresh slate of candidates beholden to neither party and their money. Party money has so many strings attached, with donors, PACs, super PACs and committees that it’s all very much broken.
That’s why the Federalist Party‘s arrival is so timely. We don’t need another social media outrage machine. We don’t need another Tea Party. It’s not another reactionary group. It’s a proactive and thoughtful organization beyond shallow “political hobbyism,” dedicated to simple goals, less federal control, and freeing us from the brokenness of tribalism.
It could be a golden opportunity.
In February, 2016, I wrote “I’d rather see the GOP lose and stand for something than win and stand for nothing more than winning. If that makes me a bad Republican, so be it.” Even then, I had a feeling the Trump might win–I even went so far as to (God help me, I repented later) justify Hillary.
With Trump’s election, the GOP may have been set back decades, and may even go the way of the Whigs if his deep unpopularity swings enough seats in 2018. Just think, two seats in Congress have already nearly been lost in almost completely GOP-safe districts.
The Federalist Party has an opportunity to begin building a new conservative banner with candidates who can win against the failed politics of both the Republicans and Democrats. If the GOP won’t carry the banner, why shouldn’t Americans turn elsewhere?
I believe that there’s still hope for America, that we haven’t succumbed to “bread and circuses.” I believe that the Democratic-Republican chokehold on politics can be broken. I still think there’s a chance for the GOP to revive itself out of Trumpism. But that window is closing fast with every repulsive tweet the president sends.
This Independence Day, I celebrate America’s resolve not to remain a self-hating dysfunctional family like Mr. Hersh posits. I think we can choose a better path.