The great Republican exodus of 2017 has come and gone.
Critics said President Donald Trump’s first year in office would mark a sea change in American politics. Fed up Republicans would torch their voter registration cards and join the Democratic resistance.
More than a few friends and acquaintances have voiced their outrage over my ongoing Republicanism. Just this week, one local Democrat on Twitter said it’s important for “Republicans with a soul” to change their registration.
But the Democrats’ intimidation offensive has failed. A mass departure from the GOP is not happening, and anyone who cares about the health of our republic should be glad.
Since February 2016, the number of Iowa Republicans has grown by about 24,000, compared to about 5,000 more Democrats.
Put another way, Republicans’ share of total voter registration increased by about one percentage point over two years. The same was true in the first and second U.S. House districts, which are historic Democrat strongholds.
How could Iowans continue on with the party of Trump, whose statements seem to rarely square with our own? And how could I, a young person with cool glasses and stupid tattoos, do the same?
That line of thinking carries a dangerous misunderstanding of how political parties are supposed to work. Parties were never intended to be mobs of collectivist unanimity.
There is no serious doubt Republican and Democrat candidates will be the top performers in the coming midterms and beyond. Half those candidates will be picked by Republican primary voters.
Imagine what might happen if all the Republicans who are skeptical of the Trump agenda took the Democrats’ advice and ghosted their party.
Republicans still would be one of two parties enjoying government-mandated perks in all 50 states, like easier ballot access. Republican politicians still would dominate statewide offices in Iowa and elsewhere. And the Republican National Committee still would have multimillion dollar cash advantage over its Democratic counterpart.
The Republican Party won’t go away if Trump skeptics vacate. Instead, the most successful organization in modern politics would be comprised only of Trump supporters.
And what would the Democrat shame mongers have me do instead?
I could become an independent, the second-class citizens of the political process, excluded from primaries, caucuses, and conventions.
Or I could try to fit in with the Democrats, whose platform and candidates I find even more objectionable than the Republicans’. Somehow, I doubt they would value my contributions.
Like it or not, we have a two-party system and the Republicans are half of it. I have consistently advocated reducing barriers for third-party and no-party candidates — often met with intense from Democrat opposition — but high hurdles remain.
Until we have a more open and accessible political system, calls to vacate one party or the other are monumentally stupid. Democrats will have to find some other way to climb out of the deep electoral hole they’ve dug.
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