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When I lived in Maine in the 1990s and early 2000s, I felt proud of its senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, two Republican women who epitomized the state’s independent streak in the national arena. They gained a reputation as bulwarks of moderate and considered conservatism against the encroaching tide of polarized and reactionary politics that had risen steadily since the Reagan administration. But they could not hold the waters back alone, and none of their colleagues stood with them, and so they fell.
According to her Wikipedia entry, Snowe cited hyperpartisanship for her decision to not seek re-election in 2012. (She is replaced by Angus King, an independent who usually caucuses with Democrats.) Her colleague Collins chose to stay, and last year she flared briefly in the national attention as one of only three Republican senators blocking any of the Trump agenda’s focus of wrecking all societal progress built under Obama, receiving more than one spontaneous hero’s welcome after voting against repealing the ACA. But then she voted in favor of the Trump tax bill, openly hurtful for all but the mega-wealthy it benefits. This week she has voiced her support for the Trump administration’s policy of tearing screaming children away from their refugee parents at the border, herding them by the hundreds into concentration camps, condemning them to lifelong psychological trauma in the name of American security.
The airport-hallway applause for Sen. Collins, I dare say, has stopped.
Snowe’s departure from the senate came after Maine elected the Republican Paul LePage as governor, whose political agenda centers on a policy of vetoing, unread, literally every bill that hits his desk — a nihilistic practice he promises to maintain until the legislature recognizes his own absurd demands. As a Maine resident, I would often hear the adage “As Maine goes, so goes the nation”, and it proved true here as well: LePage rode into office on a wave of statewide fear and hatred of immigrants several years before Trump did the same on a national scale. In both cases, Republican lawmakers and voters have shown a willingness to let both men wreck society all they want so long as they continue to pursue the anti-immigrant agenda that so many voters seem to support. LePage remains in the governor’s mansion today.
I don’t know how much further the Republican party can fall, but I do know that it has undeniably crossed a line from even nominal conservatism to the support of outright evil. At both party and individual levels, Republicans will reliably pay any price at all to maintain power in the short term, and they feel free to weaken or destroy any societal norms standing in their way without shame or apology in broad daylight. I therefore can see only two reasons why an American citizen in the summer of 2018 would continue to identify with the Republican party:
You have reason to believe that Republican affiliation will raise the fortunes of yourself and your immediate family in the present, and you don’t give a damn about anyone else. (Where “anyone else” includes the entirety of the future, including your own future-residing children.)
You delight in seeing punishment visited upon people different from yourself and your immediate family, regardless of whether you believe this abuse will help you personally.
I see the motivators here as a mix of broad better them than me satisfied cruelty with the more subtly poisonous zero-sum philosophy I allude to in the position statement that I have begun to my own public work. Every family torn apart at the border, every classroom massacred, every newsroom shuttered, every working-poor family going hungrier as new tariffs boost prices faster than wages, and — in the distance — the low roar of territorial and sectarian skirmishes around the world getting louder as climate change slowly turns soil into dust. To those subscribing to the zero-sum worldview, each of these elicits only a shrug, and perhaps even a feeling of triumph: More for us, then! As if we’re all just playing a game that must have a loser for every winner, rather than trying to build an ongoing story of human civilization while we all live on this rock flying through outer space together.
If you are an American citizen who identifies as Republican, all I can do is urge you to reflect upon your place in the global community you were born into — starting with the acceptance that you and yours do belong to the world, at least as much as to a nation — and realign your philosophy appropriately. Your political party is not your family, or where you live, or what you do for a living, or who you pray to. Blessed to live in a democracy, you can shift your political alignment with a word — if you speak that word with conviction, and then let that word resound and carry you through your future actions in the voting booth and beyond.
If, having thought it through, you still consider membership in the Republican party to best represent your beliefs, then you choose to stand in opposition to mankind’s survival beyond your own generation. And I say: to hell with you, and to anyone else taking up the après moi banner of ultimate selfishness. I will continue to do all I can to make sure that all your regressive, destructive work against the continuation of the human story is repaired and rebuilt. Your cruel and cavitary philosophies filled in and forgotten, except as an object lesson for the very future generations whose existence you today work to prevent.
The door remains open. Let go of your received wisdom, read a book, read a newspaper. Take a nice vacation and visit a faraway city, perhaps. Consider everything actually happening all around you, both nearby and at a distance, with as clear sight as you can manage. You can renounce the Republican name any time, and rejoin those working to build the future rather than tear it all down. But if you cannot, then I want to see all your efforts die in futility.
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