Can Republican elites ever top Trump?

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At first, it seemed unfathomable to many that Donald Trump would even survive the primaries let alone present a serious challenge to the Democratic nominee. Trump’s rancorous attitude is coupled with a penchant for bigotry: It’s not a good look and does not present an image of a man well equipped to diplomatically lead an influential country such as the US.

With a complete lack of political experience, and using extreme rhetoric that may damage Republican gains in the Houses of Congress, maybe its no surprise that Trump’s support from Republican elites has leaking away for months. For example, the massively influential  billionaire donors the Koch brothers will be funding only Republican congressional campaigns and not Trump’s bid for the Presidency.

Other top Republicans like former president George H.W. Bush have refused to vote for Trump. However the New York representative Richard Hanna became the first sitting Republican member of Congress  to announce he intends to vote for Hilary Clinton over Donald Trump.

“Trump’s rancourous attitude is coupled with a penchant for bigotry: It’s not a good look”

This mass party betrayal tells us two things: Hillary Clinton, existing on the corporate right-wing of the Democrat party, is conservative enough to attract Republican support. It also tells us that one’s interests aren’t always best served by their own party. It seems Trump is dragging away his party from their traditional interests, sparking a certain amount of rebellion. Moderate Republicans and left-wing Democrats now feel isolated in their party  by two controversial nominees.

With young voters also abandoning the two main parties for the Libertarians and Greens, it seems Americans are getting sick of the two-party system and are forging new loyalties to insurgent parties. In the UK and EU we see the same thing, with disenfranchised voters abandoning the mainstream party politics of old. Labour and Tory in-fighting also tells us that previously powerful elites have a big problem with maintaining their loyalties when things don’t go their way.

But we shouldn’t see supposed party disloyalty as a personal failing or weakness. In reality, it shows a loyalty to one’s beliefs over figures of authority. These betraying Republicans see Clinton as a better portrayal of their values, and a Trump presidency as nothing short of both a cataclysm of one disaster after another, and a corruption of their party. Therefore, whilst these new Clinton voters are unlikely to become Democrats, they demonstrate that party loyalty sometimes needs to be broken in order to ensure that political power is kept out of the hands of those who misuse it.

I have to question the value of loyalty as a whole. On the one hand, politicians and public figures need to be able to rely upon their most loyal members, allowing them to focus on undecided and swing voters during elections. However, the party faithful must always balance this with what they think will do good for society. Opinions change, times change, and new generations must always challenge the ideas of their elders. A battle of ideas is healthy, and absolute loyalty to any person, idea, or party is a dangerous idea.

“Party disloyalty… shows a loyalty to one’s beliefs over figures of authority”

Trump is the perfect example of this danger, and the unquestioning fervour of some of his supporters makes them ignore the wilful, damaging hatred of his words. A refusal among Clinton and Trump supporters to challenge the untruths of the nominees is spreading partisanship, ignorance, and a toxic culture of post-truth politics. A certain level of scepticism is needed to promote the common good. Refusing to question authority presents a false idea of democracy, as people are not voting in line with a fully considered and personal view.

“Absolute loyalty to any person, idea, or party is a dangerous idea”

Ultimately, democracy should allow the people to steer the direction of government, in accordance with a compromise between their own beliefs. This compromise has to be allowed and nourished  to exhibit fairness, and prevent disorder. Dedication to a party can be important, but we must remember that democracy can only function correctly when party members feel free to make their own voting decisions and change their mind. An overt idealism of party loyalty betrays a person’s individuality and independence.

Last modified: 23rd March 2017

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