Republicanism in 2020 – Part II of II

Trumpism by Any Other Name

By Jorge D.H. Prósperi, 2020

“By any other name” is a disambiguation – a polysemantic word. Broken down into its parts dis means “not” – ambiguous means “unclear” and the ending -tion makes it a noun. So disambiguation is the act of making something clear.  When thinking of the word disambiguation, think “clearing up confusion.”

One of the tenants of is to provide “disambiguations” – make things as clear as possible to its readers – even if it means leaning into discomfort – yours and mine.

One of the major political ambiguous and unclear questions and debates is regarding what is Republicanism in 2020?

The term as it applies to an individual or as an ideology no longer is clear.  Increasingly we hear from Republicans that the “GOP” – the Grand Old Party of yesteryears has been replaced by Trumpism and no longer is grand. This fact causes great consternation to those who still hold on, with questionable loyalty, to the GOP brand.

The question – the disambiguation is being dissected by Republicans who once raised the GOP banner high with loyalty but no longer see themselves representing Republicanism.  For such Republicans, the vision, mission and guiding principles of the GOP have been truncated to a degree that they no longer can recognize nor support. 

Republicans in 2020 are no longer in lockstep with the current administration’s definition of Republicanism. The reason being that the definition, standards and norms behind the issues and policies have not only been blurred but decimated. The party that once stood for the “moral high ground” and “family values” no longer can claim such prestigious terra firma and righteous evangelical landscape.

Trumpism has created a deep crevasse and schism leaving a segment of the GOP members in a state of shock, dismay and provided reasons for no longer supporting the current president and his administration. As a matter of fact, the divide increases on a daily basis as reasons for the exodus are continually affirmed.   

For such Republicans, it has become a time to use the power and capital of voice to clarify and identify the idolatry and stench of Trumpism. This is a position that many Republicans never thought they would ever have to address. So what happened?

The Republican Party has been  part of a two party system that goes back centuries. The two party system, while differing on articulating solutions for socio-political issues tended to find common ground by using debate, bargaining, collaboration, coalition-building within the framework of the Constitution, Democracy and rule of law. Both parties, with partisan cohorts  within their own party, agreed to disagree and came together when it mattered most. 

History tells us so – 1776 – The Equal but Separate Genesis, Inhumanity of Slavery, Jim Crow Crimes and Laws, The  Great Depression, Civil Rights Catharsis and Affirmation, World War I, II, Vietnam, Iraq Conundrums, advocacy for the 15th, 19th, 24th, 26th amendments. These are but a few examples of two parties coming together, even though each had to pull the other through barbwire to reach consensus. Men and a few women of good will found a way. They tended to place America and its citizens before party and reelection. 

As Lee Drutman, author of the Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop explains, 

“From the mid-1960s through the mid-’90s, American politics had something more like a four-party system, with liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alongside liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Conservative Mississippi Democrats and liberal New York Democrats might have disagreed more than they agreed in Congress, but they could still get elected on local brands. You could have once said the same thing about liberal Vermont Republicans and conservative Kansas Republicans. Depending on the issue, different coalitions were possible, which allowed for the kind of fluid bargaining the constitutional system requires.” 

The two party system in the 21st century has changed with the two parties seemingly distinct and apart. While I can still recognize remnants of the Democratic Party given its 21st Century progressive platform and political agenda, the Republican Party has dramatically been altered. The Grand Old Party seemingly, is not only Old, but antiquated and out of step with the 21st Century. 

George Will, an icon conservative Republican answered a question by Chris Wallace on Fox News as to why he had left the Republican Party, 

“I decided that, in fact, this is not my party anymore. I changed my registration to unaffiliated 23 days ago. I hardly made an announcement. I just mentioned this in a meeting with the Federalist Society. The long and the short of it is, as Ronald Reagan said when he changed his registration, I did not leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me.”

There are others who have followed because in good conscience can’t leave such times unremarked and unchallenged – to name a few: 

George Conway, Susan Del Percio, David Frum, David Jolly, Elise Jordan, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Andy McKean, Sophia Nelson, Tom Nichols , Joe Scarborough, Steve Schmidt, Shermichael Singleton, Michael Steele, Bret Stephens, Charlie Sykes, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Nicole Wallace, Peter Wehner, Rick Wilson, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).

All have their reasons why they now critique and stand against Trumpism. Each has a history of being deeply invested in the Republican Party. All of them wielded the power of influence in different ways – working in the White House, managing-strategizing presidential campaigns, Press Secretary, RNC Chairperson, GOP Cable News Pundits-Contributors-Commentators, Strategists, Authors, Fund Raisers, Professors – all have been and continue to be significant political voices in Washington and beyond. 

They do not always agree with each other on issues and policies, but are able and willing to articulate with intelligence, reason and coherence their position on specific socio-cultural-political positions. They articulate ideas and counterpoints with temperance, reason and advocacy. 

In my opinion, all of such traditional Republicans are holding on to a standard founded by William Frank Buckley Jr. – a name not often mentioned in 2020 – a voice that I vigorously disagreed with during my youth, but a voice that I would listen to because of the manner by which issues and policies were presented with intellect, comprehensiveness, rationale and support for his thinking and positions – a voice to be respected for his command of language and critical thinking. While I may have disagreed regarding socio-cultural-political and religious ideologies, I listened and learned.  In turn I always felt that he also was listening.

Above all else, he left me feeling as a fellow citizen who could come to the table of discourse – but needed to be well prepared with critical logic, reason and fairness. While some considered Buckley Jr. to be smug and arrogant, I thought of him as a conservative that beckoned reasoning connected to our Constitution, Democracy, Bill of Rights and citizenship. The amplification and authentication of such tenets left for civil discourse and debate.

The fluency and richness of his language was yet another reason to listen as he provided another level of literacy for an immigrant transitioning from playground, to street, to school, to citizenship English. Yes, my journey was very different from Mr. Buckley’s, but nevertheless connected by our pursuit of Veritas.

“Truth is a demure lady, much too ladylike to knock you on your head and drag you to her cave. She is there, but people must want her, and seek her out.”

William F. Buckley, Jr.

Buckley Jr. was born in 1925 and died in 2008 during the George W. Bush presidential era. It was during this time that Republicanism was morphing. What is important to comprehend is that Donald Trump is not an alien organism but a manifestation of a political pathology that has been brewing throughout the 1900s-2000s, not only in America but throughout the world. 

He is but an enigmatic symptom – a manifestation of our history still healing from the paradoxical genesis of “equal but separate.” America continues to struggle with its socio-cultural generational shifts deconstructing social constructs – revising its socializing agencies. This is the homework still left for all of us to do. But America is young and worthy of making such sacrifices. 

The conundrums caused by Trumpism have not only caused anxiety, chaos and confusion, but also opportunism to create divisions and tribalism in order to preserve power and maintain its control.

As those in Europe in the 1930s came to realize, the existential threat was insidious and pernicious. The awaking took place after the loud knocking on doors of those who felt they were safe as academicians, professionals, community leaders, reporters neighbors, parents . . . as citizens. Surely the rule of law would abide and protect.

We now face such an examination of a growing pathology and the core principles of our citizenship in the 21st Century.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.

Barack Obama