The title of this piece is a famous quote typically misattributed to Patrick Henry, but was actually created for typing practice by instructor Charles E. Weller in the 1910s. It is an example of a false narrative, something that sounds patriotic but is actually mundane. It is representative of the Republican platform today.
I’m writing this just after the Democratic National Convention, with the intent of publishing it not just today, but again after the election. By doing so I admit to the possibility of some egg on my face, come November… but I don’t believe that is likely, and the current numbers and trends support my view. So, let’s flash forward, shall we, to the day after the election, and let me address the Republicans in office:
Yesterday, you received a shellacking in the polls. There were some bright spots; a few seats that you hoped to hold were kept in Republican hands and a scant handful of Democrat seats flipped. But the President was soundly defeated by Joe Biden, a number of important Senate seats were lost, and your numbers in the House dropped even lower than they had been. Losses were seen in state houses nationwide.
Worse, despite his loss, the President is not letting go. He and his supporters are howling about chicanery, and using anecdotal evidence of a few instances of suspicious behavior (with little to no verification) to “prove” that nationwide fraud has occurred. This, despite the information you have privately seen which demonstrate that if anything, the opposite holds true. You know that there have been disinformation campaigns run against the American public which were designed to help the Republicans, and despite your distaste for such tactics you remained quiet about them.
Many of you viewed yourselves as caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. You see the issues that the Democrats wish to push, and you know from private conversations that even many of the moderates among them view the radical agendas favorably. You also know that even the radicals are often people of character. Washington D.C. and the various state capitals have been an education in human nature for you. But by the same token, you have watched as Trump and the conspiracy sellers have perverted the principles of your party. You view yourself as still holding true to patriotism and decency, accepting Trump’s failures because they’re better than the alternative.
You view this as your chance to correct the ship of state, to help free your party from Trumpism. In this, you are right, but you probably have the wrong idea of how to do so.
You have one chance at this, and one chance only. This is what you have to do: resign.
You will never be able to fix the party from within, nor even to participate in such a revival. Your name and legacy alike are irretrievably tainted. This advice is not due to any lingering animus. You turned a blind eye to destructive nationalism for four years, and in so doing you have empowered QAnon and its brethren. Even now, you can look at seats in Congress and see promoters of those anti-American fictions sharing your party banner.
You may be concerned that walking away will hand them even more influence. This is true… but not if enough people join you. This can’t be an isolated event like the departure of Justin Amash. This needs to be a party-wide mea culpa, where a huge percentage of the enablers just walk away. That absolutely includes people like Ben Sasse, who faced his test and chose to ignore traitorous behavior. Occasional sniping from the sidelines isn’t enough, you have to have actually stood your ground when it was important.
If there are enough people it will become impossible for the Republican power brokers, the glib and loathsome who sat behind their microphones and twisted themselves into pretzels to not merely excuse every abomination over the last four years but sold the offenses as patriotic, to frame the walkout as a “cleaning out the deep state” or “RINO event”. This needs to be a giant, voluntary purge, including from all of you who went along thinking that you would still be President some day. Your career is already over, you may simply have another two to six years as a political zombie if you choose to hang around.
Don’t worry; you’ll be fine and your family will be fine. There’s not a person who has spent even a single session as a state Representative who can’t leverage the connections and influence into a comfortable future, whether on a board of trustees, as a consultant or as the latest lobbyist for a corporation.
The result will be a massive power vacuum, and it can be filled by people who never signed on to the Trump show or, in the worst case, walked away early. There are plenty of people out there in fairly high-profile positions who can help you find them… Fiorina, Kasich, Weld, the Bushes (outside of Jeb’s sycophantic son), David French, Amash… Romney would remain in the Senate, which would prevent you from having to risk ceding the senior spot to some QAnon freak appointed by a Trumpist Governor as part of a power play.
I understand that this comes across as a mean-spirited “I told you so.” That’s not the intent, which is why I’m posting this months in advance. It is a heartfelt explanation of what I believe is the only way you can possibly shift the party’s principles back toward what you originally fell in love with. Anything less than a monumental, highly visible break will fail to shake your constituents free of their stupor and will entrench the moral rot associated with QAnon and their type. Anything less is a guarantee that Donald Trump Jr. and Tucker Carlson are on the stage for your 2024 primary, not merely further reducing the number of adherents to the party but ensuring that what you hoped was a passing embrace of nationalism over patriotism will instead be the main conflict in Republican circles for decades to come.
It probably still won’t be enough to retrieve many of the independents and Democrats who walked away from a lifetime of Republican support. They shouldn’t be your target. This is simply the surgery needed to excise Trumpism from your body politic.
Rick Wilson coined the phrase, “Everything Trump Touches Dies”. You have a choice right now of whether to save your career for a few more years or whether to save the party. This is your final chance to demonstrate whether you are, at your core, a good man. You can come to your party’s aid in only one way: by taking part of a mass resignation.