TLF: Rounding out the conversation for Before The Election, here’s Part 3 of my interview with my friend James. If you haven’t, please go back and check out Part 1 and Part 2. Feel free to suggest questions, in the comments section below, or on Facebook, hopefully we can get to some after Black Tuesday (can I call it Black Tuesday?) is over and done with.
On to the questions!
Tell us more about leaving the Republican party. You weren’t just someone who votes R. You’ve said some about why you left, but it seems like a Big Deal that you decided to. And your route in politics has been a bit twisty since then, so tell us a bit about that.
JH: Well, it was a big deal for me. I don’t know that it was for anyone else. When I resigned from my very important office as party precinct vice-chair (literally the lowest-level office you can hold in the local Republican Party), all I got from the party was a, “Thanks for your service, sorry you’re leaving,” email.
I’ve written thousands and thousands of words now about why I left, but I think there’s one piece in particular that drives to the heart of it: a piece I wrote called “Conservatism is Dead (Long Live Conservatism)” which was actually published by The Federalist. The basic gist of the piece was: the Republican Party has traditionally been the party of the conservative movement. But the conservative movement of Ronald Reagan has now divided into three factions (which I term the “populists,” the “grassroots,” and the “establishment”), that don’t agree with each other about *anything*, and so the conservative movement doesn’t exist anymore. To me, that means the Republican Party is in its death throes. It has no solid coalition, the coalition it aspires to have can’t build a 50%+1 national majority even if solidified, it lacks the leadership and (frankly) moral character to set a firm new course toward a new coalition, and really the only serious vision on offer within the GOP right now (besides the fantasies of the same establishment idiots who thought GOP voters wanted to vote for a third Bush) is Trumpism — and I want no part of Trumpism.
So, seeing no future for the Republican Party, and no future for myself with whatever comes out of its ashes, I left. I’d known the Party was dying for months, but I had hoped somebody I supported could win the GOP’s last primary as a serious national party (Paul or Rubio or Cruz or Fiorina) so that my faction could control and appropriate the GOP’s infrastructure for whatever comes after the GOP. But Trump won instead, and to the victor go the spoils. It’s his party now. With nothing left to fight for, I left.
Since then, I’ve been trying to promote the creation of serious alternative local opposition parties that can win elections. My vision is modeled after the early local oppositions of 1854-1858, which formed as the Whig Party died, and eventually merged together and became the Republican Party.
Actually, if you read up on the fall of the Whig Party and the formation of the Republican Party out of its ashes, an AWFUL LOT of it sounds familiar to the Republican of today. For example, did you know that, in the election of 1856, there were three major parties? There were the Democrats, of course, who had remained united through all this (they wouldn’t collapse until 1860, as the shockwaves of realignment reached them), and there were the newly-formed Republicans, standing their first national election as a constitutional- and judicial-conservative party that opposed the spread of slavery… and there was the also-new American Party (aka the “Know-Nothing Party”), which ran on a platform of anti-immigration, anti-foreign religions (especially Catholicism), pro-protectionism, and, in general, making America great again. Sound familiar?
So I’ve been doing what I can to replicate that. A few weeks ago, I joined the Solidarity Party of Minnesota and became its Secretary. The Solidarity Party is a social democratic party that attempts to unite the best parts of conservatism — subsidiarity, distributism constitutionalism, and human dignity — with the best parts of progressivism — solidarity with the poor, concern for the environment, and a peaceful foreign policy.
It’s hard work. We’re currently trying to identify funding sources, candidates, and districts where we can plausibly run for state offices in 2018 and 2020. The national party platform is a bit of a work in progress, in my opinion — too broad, and with several missteps both minor and grave — but, despite its flaws, I believe it’s the best programme of action you’re going to find in American politics today. Their presidential candidate, Mike Maturen, is running a write-in campaign (officially registered in 27 states last I checked) and, of the declared candidates for president, I think Maturen is the best option. If only he had a chance. (Cracked profiled him the other day: http://www.cracked.com/blog/cracked-interviews-3-fringe-presidential-candidates/)
So, that’s where I’m at. As I wrote back in May, when Trump clearly won our primary, forming a new party may not succeed, especially since my goal is to disembowel the Republican Party and take its place as a new major party — in the U.S.’s non-proportional, first-past-the-post, constituency-based electoral system, there is absolutely nothing more difficult than replacing a major party with a new one — but what the hell else am I going to do for the next four years?
Better this than sit around being sad like Paul Ryan.
TLF: I’ve seen some people on my Facebook feed asking how one could overlook the faults of Trump and vote for him, but not wanting any whiff of the faults of Hillary in the responses. Does Donald have anything going for him on his own merits?
JH: Trump is a man with no publicly discernible moral character or integrity. He would be a terrible leader, whom I am able to consider only because of the equal-but-opposite awfulness of his opponent, Clinton. My fond hope is that, even if he wins on Election Day, our electoral college will do its actual job under the Constitution and choose somebody else because the whole reason the electors exist is to moderate the raging passions of the people and elect presidents who aren’t lawless demagogues. (Actually, I hope the same if Clinton wins.) But that’s practically unimaginable, because electors are hand-picked for party loyalty, and half of Americans or something don’t even know what the electoral college is, so… aagh. So many of our problems come from not following the Constitution, or (as here) following the letter of the Constitution while eviscerating its spirit for no good reason. And I’m digressing. Point is, I really, really don’t want Trump to be president. (We could impeach him, too. I’d be fine with that. That fraud in his past is cause enough.)
Take all that as my disclaimer, because there are merits to the Trump candidacy.
Trump’s supporters are right to be anxious about large-scale low-skill immigration, particularly when the immigration comes from areas of the world with cultures that are radically different from our own. This is a complicated issue which is tough to boil down to a paragraph, so it must suffice to say that a country is more than an economy, and immigration advocates, diversity gurus, and economists all tend to forget that. For a country’s laws, ideals (like free speech), cultural achievements (like our Constitution), moral values (like “women aren’t property”) to survive, we have to have a citizen-culture that overwhelmingly supports those things. Immigrants, of course, are an essential part of renewing the fabric of our culture (we are all immigrants in America!), but immigrants must be fully assimilated in order for this whole thing to work, and assimilation takes time, effort, money, and (above all) communities with the capacity to absorb the inflow.
Right now, America’s foreign-born population percentage is right near its historic high — it’s just shy of 14% today (and rising), and it hit 14% for the first and last time in 1890. That’s great (my family came over in the 1890s), but it’s has also, historically, represented the limit of what our system is able to absorb before our assimilation mechanisms are overwhelmed and we begin to see serious racial, cultural classist, and economic tensions arise.
Trump’s supporters are also right to be concerned about the deep, deep divide between Trumpland and the world inhabited by our safely-cocooned wealthy elites, who run government, corporations, and the media and feel free to treat every white person outside that bubble with contempt and prejudice that would be called racist if the victims and perpetrators weren’t both white. The elites, me included, haven’t recognized the hollowed-out cultural hellscape of transient jobs, collapsing families, imploding churches, growing government dependence, and widespread drug abuse as the travesty that it is. It took until Trump was practically upon us for us to even notice that white American men of a certain age have suddenly seen their life expectancies sharply fall in the past few years, even as all other demographics have seen rises, because of drug abuse, suicide, and general despair. They want to burn it all down, but not because they’re the Joker — it’s because they’re desperate. (And, I repeat: not all desperation is economic!)
So they picked Trump. Man, I wish they could have found a better tribune than Trump. But the many unwritten rules of our elite class made it so it was impossible for anyone respectable to arise who could speak for these people and articulate their issues, so we forced them to find someone who holds all the rules, good and bad, in utter contempt. In that way, I suppose we upper-middle-class people, Democrats and Republicans alike, were the root cause of Trump.
If you haven’t read Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, I think it’s essential reading for understanding what’s going on in U.S. politics today. If you don’t have time for a book, this Cracked article is… well, it’s not bad, though obviously I prefer to approach the question of Trump with a bit more sociological rigor than Cracked is able to provide.
It’s hard to find other good things to say about the Trump movement, because Trump himself has never met a principle he can’t flip-flop on and lie about, and his supporters can’t seem to agree on the case for supporting him, either. Also, so many of them are not downtrodden white people but just straight-up racist sexist misogynist xenophobes that it’s hard to sort out the slivers of good from the mountains of bad. I’m sure there are other good things to say, and that they’ve been said by other, wiser men (like maybe Rod Dreher) somewhere along the line, but that’s all I’ve got for now.
TLF: You’ve been a staunch NeverTrumper since before he got the nomination. Is there anything that would induce you to change your position and give him your vote?
JH: Well, to be fair, I’ve never quite embraced #NeverTrump. My friends Rachel Lu and Maggie Gallagher have done so with great vigor, and I respect where they stand. I have put a lot of energy into defending them and their consciences from the hordes of enraged Trump supporters (particularly Catholic Trump supporters) who want to excommunicate everyone who isn’t on board the #TrumpTrain. I think they have a reasonable position that deserves grave consideration. And so I’ve written a lot of #NeverTrump-themed stuff, and I stand by all of it. But I’ve been careful not to endorse the position.
Because I also think the #NeverHillary people have some good arguments, and I’ve been considering voting for Trump to stop Hillary. This may not make any sense to many reasonable progressive people, who simply cannot see any comparison between Clinton and Trump… but look at what I’ve already told you about my belief in the written Constitution and fetal rights. Given those premises, it’s no wonder I see Clinton in apocalyptic terms. I sometimes say things like, “If Hillary Clinton appoints a justice to the Supreme Court, the American Experiment is over,” and I really mean that. (Unpopular opinion I hold: Citizens United is the bulwark of our democracy.) Given the stakes, I have felt compelled to at least consider voting for the only candidate who can stop her — even with all the awful things I loathe about that candidate.
Even now, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do. I’ve narrowed it down to two options: (1) I might write in Mike Maturen, who is, after all, my party’s official nominee, and who, if he gets 1% of the statewide vote, gives our party access to public campaign financing, which would be a HUGE deal; or (2) I might cross out the name “Donald J. Trump” on my ballot and write in “Republican Slate of Electors,” indicating that I support the Republican electors for my home state of Minnesota better than the Democratic electors, but that I do not want them to cast their electoral college votes for Trump.
I’ll decide between those two choices probably on election night, while I’m in the voting booth. I truly don’t know which option will win out.
In the end, though, I decided I just couldn’t cast a straightforward vote for Trump. It’s tough to envision how that could change. Clinton can’t be worse than she already is, so the argument for Trump to stop Clinton can’t get stronger. And Trump himself is such a liar I can’t believe anything he says.
So I suppose I would need to see Trump do something genuinely good despite genuine, recognized personal risk to himself. Like, if he leaped into traffic to heroically save a baby who had wandered in front of a bus on 5th Avenue, tragically losing his leg in the process… that might sway me that Trump is a better guy than I gave him credit for. But that’s fantasy land. It’s not going to happen, and so my vote isn’t going to change.
TLF: James did a couple of posts about voting options over on his blog, that’s worth a look. Also, I’ve learned a lot about the Electoral College from following Tara Ross, who I followed on Facebook for her Daily History posts, and is a big Electoral College defender.
We’ll aim to see you after the election, if the world still exists at that point