On Independence Day, former conservative columnist Max Boot wrote in the pages of The Washington Post that it was time for conservatives to dump the Republican Party. Why? Because, in Boot’s words, “You used to belong to a conservative party with a white-nationalist fringe. Now it’s a white-nationalist party with a conservative fringe.”
That’s utterly untrue; there’s no serious data to suggest that the constituency of the Republican Party has changed in any serious way, or that the Trump administration’s policies have been driven by white nationalism, or that the alt-right has done anything but shrink in its influence on the Trump administration since the 2016 election cycle.
But according to Boot, the Republican Party and all that it stands for have been toxified by the Trump presidency. Interestingly, Boot cites some concerns that I share with regard to the future of the Republican Party:
Explaining my decision, I noted that Trumpkins “want to transform the GOP into a European-style nationalist party that opposes cuts in entitlement programs, believes in deportation of undocumented immigrants, white identity politics, protectionism and isolationism backed by hyper-macho threats to bomb the living daylights out of anyone who messes with us.” I still hoped then that traditional conservatives might eventually prevail, but, I wrote, “I can no longer support a party that doesn’t know what it stands for — and that in fact may stand for positions that I find repugnant.” I am more convinced than ever that I made the right decision.
But why is he so convinced? The Party itself hasn’t changed its stance on entitlements — and the Party has done nothing about entitlements like Social Security and Medicare for a generation. Still, next on the agenda, I’ve been told, is welfare reform. The Republican Party has stood for deportation of illegal immigrants for years; it’s in their platform, and has been for election cycles. Here’s the 2008 Republican platform, for example:
The rule of law means guaranteeing to law enforcement the tools and coordination to deport criminal aliens without delay — and correcting court decisions that have made deportation so difficult. It means enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas, rather than letting millions flout the generosity that gave them temporary entry.
Where is the evidence that the Republican Party is driven by protectionism and isolationism? Trump is obviously a protectionist — but his trade policy has been stymied in large measure by Congress. And his supposed isolationism has thus far involved a greater U.S. involvement in Syria and engagement with our Middle Eastern allies against Iran.
Then there’s the question of white identity politics. Boot isn’t entirely wrong that some segments of the Right have winked at a politics of white identity in response to the intersectionality of the Left. I’ve been highly critical of that tendency; it’s disgusting. But that tendency isn’t reflected in policy, nor is it reflective of the vast majority of the GOP.
So, what evidence does Boot cite? He puts it this way:
The transformation I feared has taken place. Just look at the reaction to President Trump’s barbarous policy of taking children away from their parents as punishment for the misdemeanor offense of illegally entering the country. While two-thirds of Americans disapproved of this state-sanctioned child abuse, forcing the president to back down, a majority of Republicans approved. If Trump announced he were going to spit-roast immigrant kids and eat them on national TV (apologies to Jonathan Swift), most Republicans probably would approve of that, too. The entire Republican platform can now be reduced to three words: whatever Trump says.
This is nonsense. Trump has been rejected on a bevy of policies, from raising taxes on the rich to his fabled Infrastructure Week. And Boot is deliberately misconstruing Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy — the separation of children is mandated by the Ninth Circuit in cases of arrest. Yet Boot calls the GOP the “party of the child-snatchers.” He concludes, “Like postwar Germany and Japan, the Republican Party must be destroyed before it can be rebuilt.”
If you’re comparing the GOP to the Japanese fascists or German Nazis, you’ve lost it. It’s that simple.