Wexit: George Will leaves Republican Party

Here’s how complicated the world is, how it resists pat explanations…

Every other pundit in the Anglosphere is writing about how Brexit is the result of the same political forces that gave us Trump. It’s widely accepted as axiomatic.

Meanwhile, George F. Will is writing about how wonderful, how salutary, Brexit is, calling it “Britain’s welcome revival of nationhood.”

And yet George Will has staged his own exit — from the Republican Party. Over Trump:

Conservative columnist George Will has left the Republican Party over its presumptive nomination of Donald Trump.George Will

Will, who writes a column for The Washington Post, spoke about his decision Friday at an event for the Federalist Society in Washington.

“This is not my party,” he told the audience, the news site PJ Media first reported.

Speaking with The Post, Will said that he changed his voter registration from “Republican” to “unaffiliated” several weeks ago, the day after House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) endorsed Trump.

Will did not say which presidential candidate he will be supporting instead….

He added that it was too late for the GOP to nominate someone other than Trump. Instead, he said, Republican voters should just “make sure he loses,” then “grit their teeth for four years and win the White House.”

39 thoughts on “Wexit: George Will leaves Republican Party

  1. Ralph Hightower

    A friend of mine said that he was going to burn his Republican registration card and register as an Independent.

    I said “Good luck with registering as an Independent since there is no Independent Party; that party died with George Wallace.”

  2. David Carlton

    I gave up on Will a long time ago, and this weird conjuncture only reinforces that view. There’s a widespread sort of rancid anglophilia among American conservatives that wants Britain to be preserved as a sort of museum piece of the Golden Age of Empire. It was, accordingly, amusing to see so many of those guys (Rick Lowry, Breitbart, Erickson, etc.) dancing in the streets while I watched my portfolio drop $25,000 (This is what “conservatism” is?). They actually seem to think that this will enable Britain to re-emerge as a great power!! It’s a nostalgia that has very little in common with present-day Britain–or rather, with the Britain that up until last Thursday actually had a future. They actually *want* what Barry Ritholtz over at Bloomberg View fears–that London will become a sort of Colonial Williamsburg, not the world city it is now. Will despises Trump not because of what he promises his supporters–a headlong retreat to a comforting past in which people like them were the only people that counted–but because he’s, well, vulgar. He’s utterly oblivious to the fact that, at bottom, he and Trump really want the same thing–however much it might cost the world, or the next generation, or any number of people who aren’t them.

    1. Juan Caruso

      You say, “…a headlong retreat to a comforting past in which people like them were the only people that counted–but because he’s, well, vulgar. ”

      I say it must be very nice to have a nearly $1 million-dollar portfolio ($25,000 /.03) like yours.

      Rather than stereotypically disparage Trump’s supporters, who are mightily diverse, ex-middle class and blue collar, and have borne the brunt of the elite’s foray into globalism, I would think one might worry a bit more about flaunting his exceptional accumulation of wealth.

      Fortunately, however, not everyone thinks alike. Who is “vulgar”?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Trump is, to such an extent that he’s like a parody of the word.

        And I think that would be a perfectly good reason for Will to oppose him, even if it were the only reason — so Prof. Carlton and I disagree there…

      2. Mark Stewart

        Juan, I understand that there is a group of voters struggling to find a voice. I just don’t see how these “ex-middle class and blue collar” voters as you call them believe that Donald Trump is the vessel to carry them, well, anywhere.

        It’s like pasting a legitimate viewpoint onto a politician who really just doesn’t give a rip for them; beyond what they can do for him. It’s a yearning for something when all empirical evidence points to the contrary.

  3. Harry Harris

    All part of the efforts to dump Trump so that they can run an a more electable conservative to hand over even more of our public policy to the oligarchs. By comparison to Trump, even an extremist like Cruz would let them sell another load of damage to the middle class and working poor.

    George Will has long seemed to me like a mind without a heart.

    1. clark surratt

      I’m glad this was reported by a regular news source. If we had first learned of this through a George Will column, I probably would not have understood what he was saying.

  4. bud

    George Will is the poster child of elitism. No income transfer to the rich is off limits to Will’s mania for plutocracy. Trump, for all his madness, violates the principal tenant of the GOP : more power to the rich, more cynical empty promises to working class whites. Thankfully Trump is succeeding in destroying the diabolical, evil GOP empire. And the country will be better off for it.

    1. clark surratt

      Just curious, Bud. Is Bernie Sanders out to destroy the same empire as Trump? If not, which empire is Sanders after?

  5. Norm Ivey

    I’m no George Will fan, but his response to Trump’s tweet that Will is overrated and lost was spot on: …he has an advantage on me because he can say everything he knows about any subject in 140 characters and I can’t.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Good one.

      It sort of amazes me that Will even has a Twitter account — I suppose the folks at The Washington Post Writers’ Group insisted.

      He is so incredibly retro. I had lunch with him at the Cap City Club many years ago — so long ago that I wasn’t even a member yet; we went on someone else’s account. He told me then how he wrote his columns:

      He said he wrote them longhand on legal pads, double- or triple-spaced to give himself plenty of room for editing. He only wrote one paragraph per page, to facilitate swapping grafs around in the editing process. Then, when he was done editing it by hand, someone would type it for him into the system.

      This was the early to mid-90s, I want to say, and I found it mind-boggling. I mean, journalists had been using typewriters at least (as I did at the start of my career) for about a century at that point.

      I don’t know if he still does that, but he probably does…

      1. Mark Stewart

        I wrote my Master’s thesis that way in the early 1990’s. The only problem was that is was difficult to lay out even a chapter at a time – since my studio apartment was only about 180 square feet. It was probably the last paper I typed into my Macintosh SE; hadn’t yet got the hang of on-screen editing.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Practically nothing should ever be decided by referendum. It’s a terrible way to make decisions, for reasons I’ll go into yet again if anyone insists, and it’s a particularly absurd way to decide anything as complex as E.U. membership.

      And no, the result is NOT binding, legally. Parliament gets to decide whether to implement the decision.

      Unfortunately, it’s pretty binding politically. Unless there’s another referendum.

      There are something like three million signatures already on a petition for a do-over. And indeed, there does seem to be enough voters’ remorse out there to indicate a different result.

      But I fear that there would be such a backlash from leavers at the very fact of a second referendum that they would be overrepresented in the result, thereby rendering a second vote worse than useless.

      Which is another reason why such things should not be decided by referenda…

      1. Mark Stewart

        They just need a new PM who will say, “no, we aren’t going to initiate Article 50. If the voter’s continue to want that, vote out my government in the next election. Otherwise, I will be the lightening rod and let you all out of the responsibility to captain this ship of state.”

          1. Mark Stewart

            He is out because he abdicated his political leadership responsibility. He choose to hand over governing leadership to a single fickle vote of the massess.

            Cameron apparently idolized Benjamin Disraeli but learned nothing from him.

            I meant I hope that the next PM, from whatever party wins, has a firmer grip on political leadership and offers the electorate a different choice.

  6. JesseS

    Ha, so Will is now among the angry and disenfranchised? Kinda funny in a way. The Atlantic had an interesting write-up from a bird’s eye view, not of Will, but the general disintegration of the parties, party machines, and lobbying.


    Personally I’m not totally sure if I buy it. Lobbyist make horrible, ineffective middle-men and as the author admits they’ve done an especially bad job when it comes to race and civil rights. I can deal with a little pork, but it’s the massive, unmoving compromises they reach that break it for me (would Obamacare have been anyone’s answer to the problem other than the insurance industry?).

    As far as the parties go, I’m not sure if they need to be strengthened so much as imploded –not because I want to see the world burn, but I’m not sure if the parties, in their current state, really represent anyone but carefully selected segments of the electorate; whittled mostly out of outdated wedge issues.

    If you talked to a 28 year old they’d react as if 5 years ago were the middle ages. This isn’t entirely because they are young. They’ve lived in world that has changed so much in so little time. Even one year ago same-sex marriages were illegal in much of the country, now it’s the norm. Think about that. One year. And none of these young people would dare go back.

    Meanwhile you have older voters who imagine it’s still 1965 and even worse we have politicians who still run with criminal and social policy from the 1930s, whose views that fly in the face of the young, the old, the left, and the right.

    I don’t want elitism for elitism’s sake, but I do understand that the wheels need to be greased for compromise. I just want more efficient compromise and representation that actually represents. I’m tired of getting cake when I ask for pie (any kind of pie) and I’m tired of $40,000 cakes. Guess that is too much to ask for.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Interesting piece. I like it, in part because it explains to us how essential political professionals, and even parties as they were once constituted, were to our political system when it worked. But we’ve delegitimized the political class, the people who vetted candidates and approved them in their “smoke-filled rooms,” the ones who kept our elections from going off the rails.

      I like this part:

      The middlemen could be undemocratic, high-handed, devious, secretive. But they had one great virtue: They brought order from chaos. They encouraged coordination, interdependency, and mutual accountability. They discouraged solipsistic and antisocial political behavior. A loyal, time-serving member of Congress could expect easy renomination, financial help, promotion through the ranks of committees and leadership jobs, and a new airport or research center for his district. A turncoat or troublemaker, by contrast, could expect to encounter ostracism, marginalization, and difficulties with fund-raising. The system was hierarchical, but it was not authoritarian. Even the lowliest precinct walker or officeholder had a role and a voice and could expect a reward for loyalty; even the highest party boss had to cater to multiple constituencies and fend off periodic challengers.

      Parties, machines, and hacks may not have been pretty, but at their best they did their job so well that the country forgot why it needed them. Politics seemed almost to organize itself, but only because the middlemen recruited and nurtured political talent, vetted candidates for competence and loyalty, gathered and dispensed money, built bases of donors and supporters, forged coalitions, bought off antagonists, mediated disputes, brokered compromises, and greased the skids to turn those compromises into law. Though sometimes arrogant, middlemen were not generally elitist. They excelled at organizing and representing unsophisticated voters, as Tammany Hall famously did for the working-class Irish of New York, to the horror of many Progressives who viewed the Irish working class as unfit to govern or even to vote.

      The old machines were inclusive only by the standards of their day, of course. They were bad on race—but then, so were Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson. The more intrinsic hazard with middlemen and machines is the ever-present potential for corruption, which is a real problem. On the other hand, overreacting to the threat of corruption by stamping out influence-peddling (as distinct from bribery and extortion) is just as harmful. Political contributions, for example, look unseemly, but they play a vital role as political bonding agents. When a party raised a soft-money donation from a millionaire and used it to support a candidate’s campaign (a common practice until the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banned it in federal elections), the exchange of favors tied a knot of mutual accountability that linked candidate, party, and donor together and forced each to think about the interests of the others. Such transactions may not have comported with the Platonic ideal of democracy, but in the real world they did much to stabilize the system and discourage selfish behavior.

      Middlemen have a characteristic that is essential in politics: They stick around. Because careerists and hacks make their living off the system, they have a stake in assembling durable coalitions, in retaining power over time, and in keeping the government in functioning order. Slash-and-burn protests and quixotic ideological crusades are luxuries they can’t afford. Insurgents and renegades have a role, which is to jolt the system with new energy and ideas; but professionals also have a role, which is to safely absorb the energy that insurgents unleash. Think of them as analogous to antibodies and white blood cells, establishing and patrolling the barriers between the body politic and would-be hijackers on the outside. As with biology, so with politics: When the immune system works, it is largely invisible. Only when it breaks down do we become aware of its importance.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        This brings to mind a story my wife told me recently… I’ve been working on our family tree, which has caused me to learn a lot about her family as well as my own.

        She told me about one of her forebears who was part of Boss Crump‘s (that’s Crump, not Trump) machine back in the day.

        He, the Irish Catholic, and a Jewish friend caused a ballot box to, um, disappear from a precinct expected to go for a KKK candidate. Not to put too fine a point on it, they climbed out of a back window with it to keep those votes from being counted. This might have been the election of 1923, since I read here that Crump fought off a Klan challenge to his candidate for mayor in that year.

        Yeah… a bit unsavory… but hey, at least that Klan guy didn’t become mayor… 😉

  7. Harry Harris

    I don’t dig elitism because of the often unmerited and sometimes corrupt pathways to becoming elite. What I decry is the widespread refusal to defer in any measure to expertise or established facts when either points us away from our preferences or self-interest. Well done studies as far back as the 1960’s have established that the best solutions to difficult problems are almost never held by the majority of folks – that’s why they are hard. Deliberative study, with input from the experts who have studied the issues deeply (and often disagree) yields informed consensus and produces better solutions with less accompanying acrimony and broader support. But our preference, maybe as a society, is a quick majority vote, often pushed by those who fell likely to win such contest, gives us quick, wrong answers. It’s like we Baptists, for so long, seeking God’s will by taking a congregational vote.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Isn’t this why we are a democratic republic?

      I have been struck by the “Leave” supporters in the Brexit bungle who say democracy was what it was most about. Translation: No, it was about putting individual voter fears over a nation’s future, over their younger generations.

      Democratically elect political leaders and empower them to vote in the best interests of the people. As with our three branches of government balancing one another, create a buffer between what people say they want and what is actually best for them. That isn’t elitism. It is rational and representative. Yes, politicians are just as fallible as any other individual, but they do tend, on the whole, to make better decisions than the people themselves.

      1. Harry Harris

        In that same vein, I oppose those who promote the “term-limits” mantra. I don’t want a legislature full of rookies with no experience governing – mostly one-issue heroes ala 2010. That would actually put the lobbyists more in-charge as they “educate” the newbees (sorta like the drug reps educate doctors), and I believe and the campaign-funders would gain even even more power.

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