Just a short post today, to link to a fine article in The Atlantic that echoes an argument that I made some time ago. Today, in the US, you don’t have to think hard about whom to vote for: blind, “mindless” partisanship is fine, since any Republican candidate is almost certain to be worse than any Democrat. But the authors of the article make the further point that it’s not just a question of voting for the predictably better candidate; it’s a question of opposing the incomparably worse party across the board. Here is the core of the article:

We have both spent our professional careers strenuously avoiding partisanship in our writing and thinking. We have both done work that is, in different ways, ideologically eclectic, and that has—over a long period of time—cast us as not merely nonpartisans but antipartisans. Temperamentally, we agree with the late Christopher Hitchens: Partisanship makes you stupid. We are the kind of voters who political scientists say barely exist—true independents who scour candidates’ records in order to base our votes on individual merit, not party brand.

This, then, is the article we thought we would never write: a frank statement that a certain form of partisanship is now a moral necessity. The Republican Party, as an institution, has become a danger to the rule of law and the integrity of our democracy. The problem is not just Donald Trump; it’s the larger political apparatus that made a conscious decision to enable him. In a two-party system, nonpartisanship works only if both parties are consistent democratic actors. If one of them is not predictably so, the space for nonpartisans evaporates. We’re thus driven to believe that the best hope of defending the country from Trump’s Republican enablers, and of saving the Republican Party from itself, is to…vote mindlessly and mechanically against Republicans at every opportunity, until the party either rights itself or implodes (very preferably the former).”


(Thanks to Nancy LaTourneau for her Washington Monthly post citing this article.)


  1. Jeffrey Herrmann February 8, 2018 at 8:36 am

    Even Max Boot has come around:
    “I was a lifelong Republican until the day after Trump’s election, but I now agree with the centrist writers Benjamin Wittes and Jonathan Rauch when they call for voters to support Democrats ‘mindlessly and mechanically,’ …”
    Washington Post, February 8.

    Thoughtfully and deliberately would be OK, too.

  2. Donald Campbell February 9, 2018 at 9:26 am

    I think the article misses the point that the democratic party is only marginally better then the republican party. The democratic program would do nothing to eliminate the threat of nuclear annihilation nor do all we can to combat global warming. Perhaps the parties are enabled because we as people are unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to insure what is probably a bleak future.

    Perhaps it is a comfort to think, if I vote for a democrat things will be marginally better. Unfortunately I don’t think marginally better will be enough.

    • tonygreco February 9, 2018 at 10:51 am

      I am not a full-throated Democratic partisan, by any means, but I disagree that they are only marginally better than the Republicans. The Republicans are a truly radical reactionary party; the Democrats at least are mildly progressive. The differences between what Trump is doing and what H. Clinton would be doing are huge and consequential in multiple areas–judicial appointments, reproductive choice, health care, environmental and civil rights enforcement, and yes, climate change, just to name a few. I’d refer you to my post on the partisan chasm, as well as several earlier posts on the craziness of the GOP.

  3. Donald Campbell February 9, 2018 at 3:48 pm

    I understand we should vote because it is all we can do, but the vote seems like a “Hail Mary Pass.”

    The way our two party system in structured most people really have no voice or any hope of ever having a voice. A more parliamentary system may offer some hope, but at this late date even that hope in beginning to fade.

    • tonygreco February 10, 2018 at 10:23 am

      You’re right that there is a widespread sense that ordinary people can’t make a difference. I think that that political alienation contributed importantly to Trump’s election: when people are frustrated, they are more inclined to look to a strong man to bust up the system that they see not working. But I do see hope in the tremendous growth of activism on the left that has emerged in reaction to Trump. (Obama’s presidency anesthetized the left; Trump’s has revitalized it.) I think an aggressively progressive Democratic Party is possible, and could win in 2018 and 2020.

      • Donald Campbell February 14, 2018 at 10:36 am

        There is also the idea that politicians are like puppets on a string dancing to the corporate tune. After all it is the corporations that control most of the resources. Democrats and Republicans are just two faces of this Hydra. Of course the corporate tune is ‘Capital.’

        Can there be any real change while capital is the most powerful influence on the planet?

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