We know just how little they are attached to any principles, because today’s Republican Party’s elders have told us so by (with a few notable exceptions) being so willing to throw their support behind a presidential candidate whom they know is utterly ignorant of policy, has done no homework, has engaged in racist attacks on a sitting judge, has mocked a disabled reporter, has impugned an entire religious community, and has tossed off ignorant proposals for walls, for letting allies go it alone and go nuclear and for overturning trade treaties, rules of war and nuclear agreements in ways that would be wildly destabilizing if he took office.Friedman may by right in a lot of ways here, and so far I am hearing from my own Republican friends that many will vote for Hillary or sit this election out.
Despite that, all top G.O.P. leaders say they will still support Donald Trump — even if he’s dabbled in a “textbook definition” of racism, as House Speaker Paul Ryan described it — because he will sign off on their agenda and can do only limited damage given our checks and balances.
Really? Mr. Speaker, your agenda is a mess, Trump will pay even less attention to you if he is president and, as Senator Lindsey Graham rightly put it, there has to be a time “when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Will it ever be that time with this version of the G.O.P.?
Et tu, John McCain? You didn’t break under torture from the North Vietnamese, but your hunger for re-election is so great that you don’t dare raise your voice against Trump? I hope you lose. You deserve to. Marco Rubio? You called Trump “a con man,” he insults your very being and you still endorse him? Good riddance.
Chris Christie, have you not an ounce of self-respect? You’re serving as the valet to a man who claimed, falsely, that on 9/11, in Jersey City, home to many Arab-Americans, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.” Christie is backing a man who made up a baldfaced lie about residents of his own state so that maybe he can be his vice president. Contemptible.
This is exactly why so many Republican voters opted for Trump in the first place. They intuited that the only thing these G.O.P. politicians were interested in was holding onto their seats in office — and they were right. It made voters so utterly cynical that many figured, Why not inflict Trump on them? It’s all just a con game anyway. And at least Trump sticks it to all of those politically correct liberals. And anyway, governing doesn’t matter — only attitude.
And who taught them that?
But Friedman has never understood American democracy. He is a policy guy, and an internationalist, somebody who cares deeply about the details of trade deals and infrastructure finance plans. Most people are not like that. Most people pay no attention to that sort of wonkery. Most people vote their identities; they vote for the party and the politician who seems most firmly on their side. This goes for both parties; the Democrats have voters who are progressives because they think it's cool to be trans or eat organic. Obama didn't get such amazing turnout from black voters because of his health care plan. And most American conservatives aren't really much invested in trade policy or Wall Street deregulation. I often think about Rick Perry in this connection, a man who got into conservative politics because he loved the Boy Scouts so much, just they way they were in the Texas town where he grew up.
No political party can win a majority just from voters who support their policies. To win a majority you need the votes of millions who couldn't tell you a thing about what laws their party plans to pass. You need to appeal to their emotions. Tom Friedman wants a coldly technocratic Republican party dedicated to regulatory reform and "market based solutions." Fine, that's his choice. But a party like that could never get more than 25 percent of the vote. Many professional politicians are supporting Trump because they understand this. They know that half of their own votes come from people who don't much care about tax reform or defense policy and just want to keep liberal ideas out of their towns. You can't win elections by refusing to accept the support of jerks, losers, sexist pigs, racists, stoners, effete snobs, and every other sort of fool, because collectively they make up a big part of the electorate.
Tom Friedman doesn't have to run for office, so he doesn't need the support of the average conservative-leaning voter. If people who do need that support are grudgingly taking sides with Trump, maybe Friedman should rethink what is is that ordinary people really want, and what sort of politics are possible in a democracy.