You Want Republicans to Put Country Before Party…But Will You?

You say you want Republicans to put their country before their party and stop kowtowing to President Trump. I agree for many reasons, which I won’t explore here.

Instead, I want you to imagine for a moment, that a Republican member of Congress does as you suggest: They take a principled stand against the president, in opposition to their party and leadership and, of course, the many Trump supporters and Republicans who voted to send them to Congress. Now, would you support them?

Would you take to the Internet to “follow” them and sing their praises? Would you donate to their campaign? Sign up for their e-mail updates? Encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same?

Or…do you think it’s ridiculous for me to even suggest a politician deserves praise for doing something you find so minimally acceptable…plus [insert laundry list of complaints against Republicans here)?

If you’re a headline writer, do you put their name front and center…or do you identify them as an unnamed Republican who’s scoring points against his own team (or something to that effect)? If you’re not a headline writer, which of those headlines do you like, tweet and/or retweet?

If you’re a journalist, do you write a thoughtful piece that gives the member a chance to explain the reasons for their stance…or do you write a sop for partisans, that heralds the move as a win for Democrats and/or a slap in the face to Republicans? If you’re not a journalist, which of those stories do you read, like, tweet and/or retweet?

If that member of Congress is your member of Congress, would they be able to count on your vote this next election? Would you volunteer to spend your weekends going door to door to help build their support? If/when a more Trump-friendly Republican decides to challenge them in the primary, will you register as a Republican to help them survive?

If you’re a Democratic Party strategist do you look for ways to help the Republican member survive their primary…or do you root for the more “Trump-friendly” Republican to win, because you think their more-extreme views will make them easier for a Democrat to beat? (That’s what you thought about Trump, right?)

If you’re in Democratic Party leadership are you grateful to finally have a Republican who wants to work with you…or do you see this member’s sudden loss of support among Republicans as an opportunity to put a Democrat in his seat? In other words, do you capitalize on the opportunity for bipartisanship or do you actively discourage Democratic members from working with them, so their Democratic challenger will have an easier time attacking them as an obstructionist Republican?

Our founding fathers believed that elections would make elected officials beholden to the will of their people. Or as James Madison wrote:

“…it is essential to liberty that the government in general should have a common interest with the people, so it is particularly essential that the branch of it under consideration should have an immediate dependence on, and an intimate sympathy with, the people. Frequent elections are unquestionably the only policy by which this dependence and sympathy can be effectually secured”. (The Federalist Papers №52.)

As you ask yourself the above questions, you should consider whose will our elections are making elected officials “dependent” on. Because, if you can’t even imagine voting for a nameless, faceless candidate, who doesn’t share your party affiliation, then might there be a reason we’re electing officials, who feel beholden to the will of their party?

There are, of course, a few elected officials, who don’t need their party to get reelected. Senators John McCain, Lisa Murkowski, Ron Wyden, Patrick Leahy, Lindsay Graham and Susan Collins are, for example, all personally popular enough in their states (and a few even get a fair amount of cross over votes) that they can afford to take stands against their party and even tick off the more extreme segments of their party, without risking their reelection. In fact, I’m sure taking those stands is part of what makes them so personally popular in their states. But might that be the reason, they are among the few who take those stands?

That raises the age-old question of the chicken vs. the egg. Yes, elected officials can afford to take principled stands against their party, if they have loyal, bipartisan support among voters back home, but might not more elected officials enjoy that kind of support, if they started to take such principled stands?

I don’t have the answer, which is why I ask: You say you want Republicans to put their country before their party, but are you willing to do the same?

For the record, I’m not saying these questions have easy answers, only that we should be reflecting on them.

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