Preface: A January 11, 2023 NYT opinion piece, probably behind their paywall (https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/11/opinion/republican-party-future.html) had David Brooks and Bret Stephens debating how the Republican Party turned into an obnoxious shit-show and what to do about it. Who better to solve what I’ll call “50 years of accumulated anti-coastal-elitist grievance,” than two 0.001% elite journalists from the Times and ‘Journal’? Reading their musings on our hopelessly ossified partisanship inspired me to finally post the following piece on the real matter at hand, values, not ‘party.’
The recent spectacle of John Fetterman in a televised debate, clearly showing signs of having had a stroke, has aimed a bright spotlight on the exact matter of how we decide who to vote for. Other than in primary elections, voting is not about individual politicians; it is about values. It is a choice between the value system of one party and the other. Your vote is not for John Fetterman or Mehmet Oz, no matter their blemishes or even disabilities; it is for how they will support causes you consider near-and-dear. What is your value system? Starting with the most contentious items and not mincing any words, the list includes guns, abortion, immigration, the environment, crime, and financial security. Or perhaps those are all laughably lofty, and your ‘value system’ is simply being able to pay for the gasoline to get to a job that barely pays the bills? Sadly, that comprises a very large proportion of Americans.
Nowhere has this choice of values — or at least the lofty ones — been made more clear than by the actions of Liz Cheney who is forcefully backing Democratic candidates, to try to save the values that were once those of the Republican party, such as law-and-order and freedom from government overreach. But the values that bring Cheney to this unprecedented act of political martyrdom are not even conservative or liberal, but those more fundamental to our nation: free and fair elections and the peaceful transfer of power. These are two of the four bedrocks without which a free society cannot be constructed here or anywhere. (The others are due process under the law, and the rule of law.) Cheney’s choice tells us that the guns and abortion list is very much secondary, sadly even the environment is secondary. Whatever you think of those contentious items, the bedrock of free society cannot be second to anything. And thus her choice.
But what about those ‘kitchen table’ issues, the price of gasoline, or more broadly financial security? What about crime and the environment and immigration? I could spout the liberal point of view that Democrats are actually trying to solve those problems whereas Republicans offer only tough talk, the endless lie of trickle-down economics, and totalitarian roadblocks. In my value system, none of those have ever worked, and around the world other countries have proven that better solutions are possible. I would also tell you that the economy and workers have fared better under the Democrats than Republicans. And if you really think that Republicans will lower the price of a gallon of gasoline, even burning every last bit of carbon in a blaze of fury would probably disappear in oil company profiteering, rather than lower prices at the pump. But all such arguments, however well substantiated, end up being mere talking points.
We’ve reached such a chasm in American politics, with Republican ‘leaders’ flagrantly abdicating their roles as stewards of our founding fathers’ brilliant creation, that it’s time for a broader explanation. We are at a crossroads — and it is actually all over the world, caused by technology and its impact on the broadest factors of population, global warming, and jobs — where the value system choice is no less than Biblical, and it is this: do you believe that we are our brothers’ keepers? It doesn’t take a religious expert to realize that being our brothers’ keepers isn’t exclusively about handouts but about solving our problems by solving everyone’s problems. The Democrats’ value system is one in which we all thrive if we help others. If you examine all of the issues in American politics, there is a ‘through line’ with this one value in common: whether we seek solutions that help other people or deny their behavior, humanity, or even their existence. That is the value system choice you must make, not the doctor or the one recovering from illness.