Friedman idea no. 2: The GOP died last week

Here’s the less pleasant item from that Friedman column I liked this morning.

I mentioned in my last post his idea that the Democrats should band together in a Team of Rivals that would defeat Trump in a landslide, and I think they would — if they could put aside their differences and do it.

Friedman even spelled out who should play what position on that team. When he was done, he set out another idea. He cited something John Boehner said back in 2018: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”

Taking off on that, Friedman wrote:



It’s actually not napping anymore. It’s dead.

And I will tell you the day it died. It was just last week, when Trump sacked [Acting Director of National Intelligence Joe] Maguire for advancing the truth and replaced him with a loyalist, an incompetent political hack, Richard Grenell. Grenell is the widely disliked U.S. ambassador to Germany, a post for which he is also unfit. Grenell is now purging the intelligence service of Trump critics. How are we going to get unvarnished, nonpolitical intelligence analysis when the message goes out that if your expert conclusions disagree with Trump’s wishes, you’re gone?

I don’t accept, but can vaguely understand, Republicans’ rallying around Trump on impeachment. But when Republicans, the self-proclaimed national security party — folks like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton — don’t lift a finger to stop Trump’s politicization of our first line of defense — the national intelligence directorate set up after 9/11 — then the Republican Party is not asleep. It’s dead and buried.

He’s right. If the party of principled men from Lincoln to John McCain hadn’t died already — when Trump became its standard-bearer, or when the Republican Senate rolled over for him on impeachment — this latest outraged surely would have marked the end.

As we mourn it, I’d like to raise another alarm: If the Democratic Party allows the same thing to happen to it that happened to the GOP in 2016 — letting an extremist with minority support gain its nomination because the majority couldn’t line up behind a single more moderate candidate — it’s going to be on its last legs, too.

If our nation is faced with the horrific choice “between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath,” as Friedman describes it, both parties will have failed the country.

At that point, instead of having two near-center parties that have the potential to govern with something approaching consensus — or at least acceptance by the people — we’ll have zero.

11 thoughts on “Friedman idea no. 2: The GOP died last week

  1. bud

    If our nation is faced with the horrific choice “between a self-proclaimed socialist and an undiagnosed sociopath,” as Friedman describes it, both parties will have failed the country.

    Sometimes you just have to laugh at some of the incredibly stupid things so-called self-described “thinking” people say. Really though this is nothing but elitist bullshi*. THESE are the types of people who really need to be disqualified from voting.

    Everyone is a socialist. We have a huuuuge military run by the government. We have police and fire departments, public education, social security, Medicare, farm subsidies, publicly maintained roads, courts, a national weather service, CDC, ICE and on and on. So this accusation pretty much could describe anyone. Heck I’ve read on this blog opinions that we should bring back prohibition! Now THAT is real socialism they cant drink a beer. I’ve never had Bernie at the top of my list but he’s hardly this crazed Marxist that his detractors would have you believe. He wants everyone to have health insurance and access to college. He also very correctly sees income inequality as a very real problem. He also doesn’t merely pay lip service to the dire problem of global warming. Nor does he cotton to the idea that we need to spend more money on the military than the next 5 countries combined. Imagine that, spending just enough to secure our security.

    Trump is a very dangerous, craven narcissist who really is tearing down our institutions while the GOP members of the senate sit idly by and watch it happen. Brad’s ridiculous false equivalence rampage is both misguided and dangerous. After Saturday it may be time to get behind Bernie whether he’s you first choice or not. Recent polling indicates Bernie having a good chance to beat Trump, probably better than anyone else. This is not the time to rely on “feelings” or “gut instinct”.

    1. JesseS

      Bud, the problem isn’t if Bernie is a “socialist” or not. Not only does Friedman know that Sanders isn’t a “Democratic Socialist”, but so do the Guardian, Jacobin, the DSA, Britain’s Labor Party, France’s Socialist Party, etc. What should be alarming is that 13% of Democrats called themselves “Democratic Socialists” back in Sept.. Why? Because Bernie says he is a “Democratic Socialist”.

      You know what that group, the hard core types who won’t show up to the polls of Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, really are? They are America’s popular left and if Bernie does get the nomination, it will be a battle between a right-wing populist demagogue and a left-wing, true believing populist and both of their populist supporters. That’s not good.

      Do I pick Bernie over Trump? Obviously. Bernie is an old fool, but he isn’t Trump.

  2. Phillip

    False equivalency alert. Sanders is “extremist” only in the context of how warped America’s politics has become. By the standards of most liberal democracies in the world, he would be merely a moderately-left-of-center candidate, as in fact much of what he advocates is more or less in place already in many of those same democracies around the world.

    Then beyond that: in contrast to Trump & the GOP philosophy in general: Sanders is not anti-democracy, not anti-free-press, not seeking to disenfranchise large segments of voters, not seeking to establish unchecked power of the executive branch, not seeking to enrich himself & his family members & buddies through violations of the Emoluments clause & establishment of a general kakistocracy; not a person of the dubious personal morals of a Donald Trump.

    The idea that Sanders is some kind of parallel “on the other side of the political spectrum“ to Trump simply crumbles with any kind of close inspection.

    I had leaned away from voting for Bernie for the same reason I didn’t want Biden—just too old. But the wave of those obnoxious ads flooding my YouTube visits this week, you know, the lady decrying “government-controlled health care that will double my income tax”—-paid for by lobbying group for pharmaceutical industries, just pushed me over the edge. At some point you just have to stand up and at least be counted: so I’ll be voting Bernie again on Saturday. But, I will gladly vote for whoever is the nominee—even Bloomberg—in November.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Phillip, I think you miss Friedman’s point here, and that surprises me.

      There’s no “false equivalence.” It’s false to say that anyone is suggesting an equivalence.

      The PROBLEM here is that we have “an undiagnosed sociopath” in the White House, and many Democrats are seriously considering putting up “a self-proclaimed socialist” against him, instead of someone who can beat him.

      You, and so many who defend Bernie, cite the European-style, internationally moderate policies Bernie proposes — including policies I am very much for.

      That is utterly beside the point.

      This obnoxious guy — no, not as obnoxious as Trump, but that’s the lowest bar in history — INSISTS on calling himself a socialist, in daring mainstream Americans to vote for him.

      If he wants sensible European programs, why not call himself a “Social Democrat?” That’s a perfectly respectable thing to be. Why not use that? I believe it’s because he likes the in-your-face rush of telling people he’s a Democratic Socialist, deliberately wording it so as to be provocative.

      It doesn’t matter that you think he’s sensible, or that the minority — perhaps a plurality, but still a minority — of Democrats think so. That does not lead to victory in November, which is all that matters here.

      Most Americans are not going to vote for a guy who calls himself a “socialist.” They just aren’t. Argue all day about why they shouldn’t be bothered by it; it doesn’t change that fact.

      And yes, being stuck between the nightmare in the Oval Office and an unelectable Democrat (excuse me — a guy who has long insisted he is NOT a Democrat) leaves us “in a terrible, terrible place as a country.”

      There’s nothing “equivalent” about that, and certainly nothing false. It’s dead-on…

  3. Phillip

    It was actually your use of the word “extremist” I was responding to, not necessarily Friedman’s column per se. From my sense of the world, I just don’t see Bernie as “extremist”.

    I agree that perhaps Bernie is sometimes needlessly provocative or perhaps tossing that word “socialism” around too casually, but one thing he has accomplished by doing so is that for younger people anyway (I believe I’ve seen polls showing this) he’s taken away to some extent the aura of taboo associated with that word in American politics. That some ideas are now being at least discussed and debated in the forum of public opinion is a positive thing.

    Also—and we learned this from Trump in 2016—I’m not as sure as you are that Bernie is unelectable. Most people felt at this point in 2016 that nominating Trump would doom the Republicans to defeat. More than one political analyst has pointed out that viewing this election (or the general political/cultural divide in America) along left/right lines is a mistake— the divide is in many ways more about Establishment vs. Anti-Establishment. I’m not so sure that Biden wins that contest or really is the best chance to beat Trump.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      In thinking about this, something hit me: There are NO major political opinion writers who think nominating Bernie would be a good idea. And most of them are very alarmed about it.

      There may be someone I’m not thinking of, but I doubt they’re among the top people with the greatest understanding of American politics. Just as you can find some “conservative” writers who stick up for Trump, but they tend to be people who were previously obscure; the serious conservatives tend to be Never Trumpers.

      As for the thing about “socialism” not being a dirty word among the young. Well, maybe that will help someone win an election when they’re 50 and are reliable voters. What I keep reading is that so far there are no indications there’s going to be a huge surge of first-time youth voting this year — and that’s something that the Bernie-is-electable theory depends upon.

      Make no mistake, I don’t like Bernie. But whether I liked him or not, I would not be able to imagine his getting elected. It just won’t happen. Yeah, the fact that Trump was elected proves anything can happen, but this stretches “anything” until it hollers.

      You mention being pushed to the edge by “those obnoxious ads flooding my YouTube.”

      You haven’t seen anything yet. The Republicans are just hugging themselves with delight that the Democrats might give them Bernie. It will be, as Pete Buttigieg suggested the other night, a year from hell (for those of us who would like a bit of civility and rationality in our politics) if Bernie is nominated.

      And Bernie doesn’t make it through that. He just doesn’t….

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Remember: Those disgusting Republicans — deplorables squared — who plan to vote in the Democratic primary in order to sabotage it have a clear choice, and it’s Bernie.

        These may be appalling people who hate democracy, but they’re not wrong. They’re picking the right guy in order to be sure to re-elect their master.

        They call it Operation Chaos. And that’s what they want to sew in our politics.

        It’s also why the Russians are backing Bernie. If you want to weaken America by undermining confidence in democracy, the best possible matchup in the fall is Sanders vs. Trump…

  4. Mr. Smith

    I stopped much attention to Friedman after he said he wished America could be China for just one day — in order, according to him, to get a few necessary things accomplished.

    I do not want America to be China — even for just one day.

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