An Open Letter To My Friends Who Are Former Republicans

Dear Friends,

I know you are going through some hard times right now. You do not like Trump any more than I do.  He has stolen your party. He has forced you out. The ideals of a smaller, smarter federal government, personal responsibility, fair play in a robust private sector, responsible foreign policies, and balanced budgets—these Republican ideals are gone, vanished.  Having a vulgar, self-dealing narcissist in the White House is not any more your cup of tea than it is mine.   Your response has been to call yourself an Independent. Some of you may still call yourselves Republicans but are really RINOs (“Republicans In Name Only”), having had your fill of Donald Trump.

But you have a problem. Whom are you going to vote for in 2020? It won’t be Trump, that is for sure. But which Democrat can you vote for? What if the Democrats do not nominate a center-left candidate? What if it is Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren? Several of you have told me that you will sit this one out. 

And that becomes a real problem, not only for us Democrats but for the country. It is a problem because if the Independents, moderates and former Republicans do sit this one out, Trump will be in for four more years. We need you because we do not have four more years to waste.

Now it is possible that Trump may not survive the Whistleblower incident. He would appear to be in a meltdown mode right now, but we can’t count on his self-destruction. While the House probably will impeach him, the Senate most likely will not convict unless matters get really, really worse.  The only certain way to get rid of Trump is to vote him out in 2020. We need your help to do this. 

So hear me out on why you should not rule out a progressive, Democratic candidate. 

There are two issues that I have heard you complain about with regard to your voting for a progressive Democrat. The first is personality.  Some of you have told me that you held your nose and voted for Hillary but would not do it again for, say, Elizabeth Warren. She is just “too shrill,” too much like Hillary, and too far left-wing. And you think Bernie is a socialist nutcase, with Trump-like, authoritarian tendencies. There may be personality issues with other candidates as well. My response is that compared to who we have in the White House right now, any human who can fog a mirror is an improvement. I am asking you to put aside personality when you walk into the voting booth. I am asking you to think about policy and the future of the planet Earth.

The number one issue of our time—perhaps of all time—is climate change. Trump and too many, elected Republican officials deny that climate change is happening or if it is, that human activity has anything to do with it. We have pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement and are pursuing an all-in carbon policy, and that will continue if Trump gets reelected. Need there be any other reason not to sit this one out?

There are, of course, lots of other reasons. Our foreign policy is a mess. Trump’s heroes are dictators. He has alienated our allies and befriended our adversaries. Trump has exploited the divisions in our country and made them worse. He is a racist. His immigration policies and actions are cruel. He is trying to shred the social safety net, and his policies benefit the rich rather than the poor and middle class. He is a habitual liar. The list is long.

While you would never call yourself a progressive or a liberal, I believe that in your heart you  agree in principle with many of the progressive policy goals: universal health care coverage (but not Medicare for all), a fair and reasonable immigration policy, fair and reasonable trade policies, stronger gun control policies, more affordable, public higher education, and preserving a social safety net. You may disagree on the methods but not so much on the goals; and overall, I believe many of the progressive positions should not be deal killers—though I recognize that the devil is in the details. 

The major disagreement it seems to me has to do with how we pay for all the “good things” the progressives want to do. The progressive, left wing of the Democratic Party sees the rich paying for the new initiatives and proposes higher taxes on the wealthy. Some of you see higher taxes as a non-starter and a brake on a robust economy. However, following the last tax reform, the situation now is way out of balance. I call your attention to David Leonhardt’s op ed piece in the October 6 New York Times (“The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You”), which shows that the super-rich now pay a lower share of their income than the average American taxpayer. For bleeding hearts like me, this is an absolute no-brainer. Of course the wealthy should pay more! Though hardly super-rich, yes, I would agree to pay more taxes to further a progressive agenda. I realize that for a whole bunch of reasons this may be a stumbling block for you. I am asking that you put this one aside for now. I realize there are probably a bunch of other issues as well that you disagree with, not so much as to the goal but the methods– like a guaranteed living wage, legislation encouraging stronger labor unions, and more government “over regulation.” No president is going to be able to achieve everything or even most of his or her policy goals anyway, so you need not panic. Chill out for now. The stakes are just too high.

And there is one other reason, and this may be just as important as the climate change reason. Donald Trump has debased the presidency and has put at risk the role of the United States as the leader and guiding light for democracy on the planet Earth. If our democracy goes down the tubes, what is going to happen to the other countries in the world? Just as the climate change issue is showing us how fragile our planet is, the presidency of the most corrupt administration in American history is showing us how fragile our governance is. Trump has convinced about forty percent of the American electorate that our press writes fake news, that facts are what you want them to be, that he is infallible, and that whatever it takes to get elected is fair game. If he can get away with his reckless and, frankly, unamerican actions, our democracy, our country and indeed our planet are in deep trouble.

Now there is one message that I have heard from you that resonates with a lot of people and that is that you are sick and tired of the divisions in our country and the us versus them attitude with not much room in the middle. You believe our country needs more than anything a leader who can pull us together rather than divide us. The very heart of Trump’s strategy, of course, is to divide us and play to his “base.” I agree with you on the need to come together and will be hoping that a Democratic candidate will emerge that has the ability to do this without sacrificing the principles of more fairness and less income (and class) disparity. That said, the voting process does not mean selecting the best person for the job but rather the best choice among those who are running for office. Think “any normal, functioning adult.”

So, my moderate and independent friends, suck it up. Keep your eye on the ball. Hold your nose if you have to, but for God’s sake, do not sit this one out. Vote for the Democrat opponent even if that person turns out to be Elizabeth Warren or (God forbid) Bernie Sanders. The world our grandchildren will inherit depends on it.

7 thoughts on “An Open Letter To My Friends Who Are Former Republicans

  1. Well said. You have diagnosed the real problem. We need independents.
    Personally, I actually think Elizabeth Warren is our best chance. Bernie’s health will be
    (should be) his biggest obstacle, if his die hard fans are realistic and sane.
    Have you read Warren’s book “This fight is our Fight – The Battle to save America’s
    Middle Class”. If not, I’ll send it to you.

  2. Good for you Joe!!!
    Well put- I support everything you said and pray
    Republicans will help us out
    I like Budajudge ( sp???) partially because
    he is from my home state but others have also
    been impressive!!!

  3. Joe,
    A couple of observations.

    One issue you didn’t mention is the president’s ability to nominate Supreme Court justices. Down here in the heart of Trump country in the blood red state of Georgia, where even the dirt is red, the number one concern of most of my friends leading up to the 2016 election was whom HRC would nominate if she were to win the election. These people, small business and professional men, primarily, just like you and me, all realized and acknowledged that Trump the man was every bad thing you said about him. But, the Supreme Court stakes were, in their view, of overriding importance.

    As you know, I am an “alt Centrist,” having voted strictly for republicans for president from 1964 through 2000, and strictly for democrats ever since. In fact, I feel that this post could have been titled “An Open Letter to Jim Killebrew.” It’s topics have been batted around by the two of us many times. So in 2016, I put a clothes pin on my nose AND donned a hazmat suit, and, in the most isolated voting booth at the poll, checked off Hillary for president, an act which for decades I had sworn I would never do. I have one other local friend who admits to doing the same. Next year it will be either very easy or very difficult for me to vote against Trump depending on who it is that the Dems nominate.

    All of which leads me to this. Yes, we Centrists or Independents or whatever you want to call us may face another difficult, gut wrenching, no win choice next year. But, the Democratic Party will too. If their number one mission is, in your words,
    to save the planet and mankind, they will move to the center and forget about the likes of Warren and Sanders. But if they choose instead to use this moment to try to advance the agenda of their ultra liberal wing, then ….

    A silver lining. I sense that some of the Trump supporters I know have morphed into FORMER Trump supporters and plan to stay home next Election Day. Small sample size but still, the wrong Democratic nominee could change all that.

    Best, JGK

    1. Doctor Killebrew,
      Truth be told I did have you in mind when I wrote this but you are not the ONLY one.
      Here is your homework. What exactly is it about, for example, Elizabeth Warren’s proposed policies that are so bad that it will keep you at home on election day. Chapter and verse, please. And would not you agree that there is little chance that most of these proposals are only that and will not become law anyway?
      Help me understand the hostility and resentment toward the “far left.” It is quite possible I have lived in DC too long, but I do not understand the push back against proposals that are designed to help level the playing field, give people with limited resources a break and make our country a better place. What is wrong with universal access to affordable health care? What is wrong with establishing a minimum living wage? What is wrong with affordable public higher education? Affordable day care and preschool?
      You have a point that these have to be financed, but what is wrong with asking people like you and me to pay a little more and the super rich to pay a lot more.
      And even if you find some things you do not like, is staying home an option if it helps Trump to four more years?

      1. Professor Howell,

        Here is my homework.

        To start with, you surprise me. Where in my comment did I say I would stay home next Election Day? What I did say was that my ease or difficulty in voting against Trump would be a function of whom the Dems nominate. Believe me, if I could vote for HRC in 2016, I can vote for Warren or Bernie in 2020, again with nose pinched inside a hazmat suit. Actually, in a recent phone conversation about a most unfortunate baseball bet we made, it was you who said, “Killer, I think you’re right. If the democrats nominate Warren or Sanders, they’ll be handing Trump a second term on a silver platter.” I shouldn’t have put that in quotation marks, but that is either very close or right on your exact words.

        As for her policies and those of Sanders, I’ll start with the Wealth Tax, which was last propagated by none other than the late Huey Long, “The Louisiana Kingfish,” who was felt by none other than FDR himself to be one if the two most dangerous men in America, the other being Douglas MacArthur. I agree with you that there would be little chance that it would get anywhere, especially if the Senate or House is controlled by the GOP. Even so, there was an article in the October 1st NYT reporting that some democrats and well credentialed liberal economists, including Lawrence Summers, a Clinton Treasury Secretary, have serious doubts that such a tax could raise anything close to the figure she and Sanders claim. They felt their figures were inflated by something on the order of 100%. They also felt that it was bad economic policy for all the usual reasons, stunting growth of the economy, choking off entrepreneurs and their creative innovation, etc., etc. They also pointed out the difficulty of administering the tax. How do you value art and antiques and other collectibles? How might the IRS value the lease hold on a luxury apartment in, say, New York or Boston or DC? What is the value of a second or third home in South Africa? (One of my friends actually has one.) Finally, the Uber Rich have always been able to pay clever accountants and savvy lawyers to avoid taxes. Now I think Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders both know all this. I think it is just another demagogic vote snaring political ploy. I read that two thirds of Americans like it. I’m surprised it’s not more.

        What’s wrong with affordable health care for all, a living wage for all, affordable public education, etc.? Nothing, if you can pay for it. But the detail devil pops up when words like “affordable” and “living” and “fair share” enter the debate. Also, I think it was today’s NYT that had an op ed piece about New Hampshire’s and Washington’s failed attempts to set up a one payer system for health care. It actually may be worse than rocket science.

        Finally, I think governments and their bureaucrats are poor stewards of our tax dollars, abysmally poor. It seems to me that part of human nature, at least my human nature, is to use money more wisely when things are tight than when things are flush. I think all governments, especially the Big One in your fair city, need to be kept on a short economic leash and expected to do more with less. Throwing money at problems does not equate with solving problems.

        Respectfully submitted,

        JGK

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