There exist many #NeverTrump Republicans who agree that while Trump would best achieve their Party’s policies, that he must nonetheless be opposed on Principle. The Principle at question isn’t that Trump is a liar, a misogynist, a racist, or of low character (though all these are true). Instead, the Principle is that he’s a populist autocrat who is eroding our liberal institutions (“liberal” as in the classic sense).
Countries don’t fail when there’s a leftward shift in government policies. Many prosperous, peaceful European countries are to the left of Biden. What makes prosperous countries fail is when civic institutions break down, when a party or dear leader starts ruling by decree, such as in the European countries of Russia or Hungary.
Our system of government is like football. While the teams (parties) compete vigorously against each other, they largely respect the rules of the game, both written and unwritten traditions. They respect each other — while doing their best to win (according to the rules), they nonetheless shake hands at the end of the match, and agree that their opponents are legitimate.
The rules of the sport we are playing is described in the Wikipedia page on “liberal democracy“.
Sport matches can be enjoyable even if you don’t understand the rules. The same is true of liberal democracy: there’s little civic education in the country so most don’t know the rules game. Most are unaware even that there are rules.
You see that in action with this concern over Trump conceding the election, his unwillingness to commit to a “peaceful transfer of power”. His supporters widely believed this is a made-up controversy, a “principle” created on the spot as just another way to criticize Trump.
But it’s not a new principle. A “peaceful transfer of power” is the #1 bedrock principles from which everything else derives. It’s the first way we measure whether a country is actually the “liberal democracy” that they claim. For example, the fact that Putin has been in power for 20 years makes us doubt that they are really the “liberal democracy” that they claim. The reason you haven’t heard of it, the reason it isn’t discussed much, is that it’s so unthinkable that a politician would reject it the way Trump has.
The historic importance of this principle can be seen when you go back and read the concession speeches of Hillary, McCain, Gore, and Bush Sr., and Carter, you see that all of them stressed the legitimacy of their opponent’s win, and a commitment to a peaceful transfer of power. (It goes back further than that, to the founding of our country, but I can’t link every speech). The following quote from Hillary’s concession to Trump demonstrates this principle:
But I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.
Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power and we don’t just respect that, we cherish it. It also enshrines other things; the rule of law, the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity, freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values too and we must defend them.
If this were Trump’s only failure, then we could excuse it and work around it. As long as he defended all the other liberal institutions, then we could accept one aberration.
The problem is that he’s attacking every institution. He’s doing his best to act like a populist autocrat we see in non-democratic nations. Our commitment to liberal institutions is keeping him in check — but less and less well as time goes on. For example, when Jeff Sessions refused to politicize the DoJ, Trump replaced him with Barr, who notoriously has corrupted the DoJ to serve Trump’s political interests. I mean this only as yet another example — a complete enumeration of his long train of abuses and usurpations would take many more pages than I intend for this blogpost.
Four more years of Trump means four more years of erosion of our liberal democratic institutions.
The problem isn’t just what Trump can get away with, but the precedent he sets for his successor.
The strength of our liberal institutions to hold the opposing Party in check comes only from our defense of those institutions when our own Party is in power. When we cross the line, it means the opposing party will feel justified in likewise crossing the line when they get power.
We see that with the continual erosion of the Supreme Court over the last several decades. It’s easy to blame the other Party for this, but the reality is that both parties have been been going back and forth corrupting this institution. The Republicans refusal to confirm Garland and their eagerness to confirm Barrett is egregious, but justified by the Democrats use of the nuclear option when they were in power. When Biden gets power, he’s going to try to pack the court, which historically has been taught to school children as a breakdown of liberal democratic institutions, but which will be justified by the Republican’s bad behavior in eroding those institutions.
It’s not just the politicization of the Supreme Court, it’s the destruction of all our institutions. Somebody is going to have to stand for Principle over Party and put a stop to this. That is the commitment of the #NeverTrump. The Democrats are going to be bad when they get into power, but stopping them means putting our own house in order first.
This post makes it look like I’m trying to convince fellow Republicans why they should vote against Trump, and I suppose it is. However, my real purpose is to communicate with Democrats. My Twitter feed is full of leftists who oppose liberal democratic institutions even more than Trump. I want evidence to prove that I actually stand for Principle, and not just Party.
*** This is a Security Bloggers Network syndicated blog from Errata Security authored by Robert Graham. Read the original post at: https://blog.erratasec.com/2020/10/why-biden-principle-over-party.html