For the past week, we have been reminded of the precarious position in which we find ourselves as Americans. The situation I’m referring to is the latest poll numbers for the GOP candidates.
What has drawn the lion’s share of the attention to date is Donald Trump’s increasing lead over the field. Nationally, The Donald has 41% with Ted Cruz in second place at 14%. The situation is reversed in Iowa, an important first litmus test for presidential aspirants, where Cruz has the advantage over Trump: 31% to 21%.
This is all the more alarming in the wake of Trump’s latest verbal bomb in which he proposed to ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Cruz has remained all but mute on Trump’s comments.
Across the country, more than half of your Republican electorate (55%) supports these two Tea Party favorites. Either of these men, if nominated, would cause irreparable harm to the country. Of course, the damage would be worse if they were actually elected president.
This is why I’m calling on you, rank-and-file Republicans, to do the right thing and vote for a more moderate Republican like Jeb Bush or John Kasich during the primary. If this strategy to protect the country fails – which seems likely – and one of the Tea Party candidates wins in the primary, I urge you to do the patriotic thing and vote for the Democratic standard-bearer in the general election.
Yes, I’m suggesting that Republicans consider voting to put a Democrat in the White House. As someone who has studied patriotism as well as reactionary movements, I’d suggest this is the GOP’s best move if you really care about the country as much as you often claim.
Be patriotic, not nationalistic
A tall order? It shouldn’t be.
After all, for the last 50 years, your party has laid claim to patriotism, draping itself in the flag at every turn. But let’s be clear on what is and is not patriotic.
Patriotism is a product of republicanism – the ideology, not your party. It demands the sacrifice of self-interest in service to the nation. It is not about touting the superiority of America when it’s convenient, or waving a flag at some parade. That’s commonly known as nationalism, something that doesn’t require sacrifice of any kind.
According to Aristotle and Machiavelli, two very different republican theorists of some renown, patriots put country first. If, as some argue, partisanship is tied to one’s identity, failing to support one’s party is a difficult sacrifice.
Recognizing that, take a look at the current political moment. Do you really think a Trump or Cruz candidacy is good for America?
Let’s begin with the obvious: Trump’s statement that he wishes to ban Muslims from entering the US. Not only does it run counter to a foundational principal of America – religious freedom – but his statement has earned a sharp rebuke from the international community. President, or even candidate, Trump promises to hurt America’s reputation abroad.
It will likely also hurt his credibility domestically, something true patriots should welcome. In fact, this latest verbal gaffe has hurt him even among some conservatives like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Many conservatives have used patriotic rhetoric to blast Trump, arguing that views and the policies that would follow, are against the American way of life.
That’s fine, but a problem remains. His comments may only endear him to some of your fellow Republicans. Indeed, in some quarters, his support among the rank-and-file of your party is, at least in part, predicated on his anti-Muslim views.
Surely, as Republicans, you know that much of conservative foreign policy is driven by the preservation of American national interests, a very pragmatic goal. Where is the pragmatism in such rhetoric?
The Bush administration’s break from this more realist, pragmatic tradition to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan cost us dearly. That its foreign policy failed to achieve most of the goals sought by your party should caution against such intervention. Furthermore, intervention will give ISIS what it wants: engaging Western forces in what ISIS’s followers believe will be an apocalyptic war.
This will only make easier for ISIS to recruit and diminish our security. Needless to say, such an outcome isn’t in our national interest. Even other Republicans like House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul doubt the wisdom of such a strategy.
There are some who suggest that the more Trump and Cruz say outrageous things that stand little chance of practical implementation, the more likely you GOP brethren will punish them during the primaries. However, in reality, this isn’t likely to happen. As it turns out, primary voters tend to prefer more ideologically extreme candidates.
So, where does this leave you Republicans?
It’s simple: you need only act upon the patriotism you so often claim. If you really love America as you say you do, you must put the country first, and sacrifice the interests of the party – at least for the present election cycle.
You must vote for Hillary Clinton – or Bernie Sanders, if he prevails in the primary.
It’s your patriotic duty, the republican thing to do.
Editor’s note: Christopher Parker is Associate Professor, Political Science, University of Washington. His views are his own.