I copped a whole lot of flak last year for a piece I wrote in these pages about the leadership spill defending Julie Bishop’s roll in the “coup dis grâce”. To quote my honorable self:
The Deputy Leader ought to be just that: a leader. If Bishop had been elected Prime Ministerial Whip, well that would be another matter, but insofar as the Deputy Leader is a leader in her own right, Bishop has both the prerogative and the obligation to play a major part in steering the party.
Anyway, as a sort of apologia pro vita sua, I’ll say the same thing now as then: whichever side of the hold your nose vs. punch his nose debate you fall on, don’t – and really, don’t – fall for the “party unity” line. No one is obliged to support a politician they don’t like. That’s to say, no politician is owed anyone’s loyalty by sole virtue of his/her office. The office itself, yes, but not the person occupying it. In fact, it’s your civil duty – or, rather, your civil obligation, on penalty of a $100 fine – to vote for the party and individual you feel are best suited to lead the country. If that happens to be Bob Katter, even if you are a suburban sort living far from the big-hatted hinterland, vote 1 KAP. If you don’t tell anyone, no one will laugh.
Quadrant‘s James Allan was right about one thing in regard to punching the latest PM’s nose: Mark Textor’s striking assertion that, “qualitatively,” conservatives “don’t matter” is only true if we waddle like obedient ducks behind the rightmost party’s leader. If that’s your fancy, turn on the oven right now and douse yourself with Peking sauce. It will save someone else the trouble of doing it later.
Republicans in the US are learning that lesson the hard way. Drunk on their first sips of power (or “America”, as Budweiser has been brazenly re-named by the brewer’s Belgian owners), Trump supporters are now demanding that leaders of the GOP establishment unite around the presumptive nominee. Now, I’m not #Trump and I’m not #NeverTrump. I was blind-drunk on election day 2012 and forgot to cast my ballot for Mitt Romney, so it would verge on the hypocritical to tell anyone else how to vote. Of course you might vote while drunk, as I almost did, but that is no solution either. Sober up and you’ll find the dilemma of choosing between the evil of two lessers has been settled for you by abstemious neighbours.
But now I’m leaning toward #NeverTrump for the same reason Trump’s supporters are leaning toward #Trump. I hate smug establishments, even if they’re only two weeks old. I hate people who feel entitled to someone else’s vote. I have an uncle, as devout a Democrat as he is Presbyterian, who says, “I wouldn’t vote for Jesus Christ if he ran as a Republican.” And you know, my uncle is right. While Christians are asked and expected to revere Him as Lord, the Bible don’t say nuffin about politics other than rendering unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. How much Caesar gets to confiscate from weekly earnings and the worth of what he does with it, on this the Good Book is agnostic.
Look at it this way: the Trumpistas hate the GOP Establishment, seeing them as squishy, spineless line-toers. They accuse the party elite of sacrificing conservative principles for the sake of job security and maintaining their “insider” status. Now, with Trump’s presidential candidature at the Cleveland convention 99.9% certain, it’s their line they demand be toed. The best thing about the primaries has been the anarchy – the total reset on traditional loyalties, the war of ideas that brought combatants and their supporters constantly to the brink nuclear war and mutually assured destruction.
Napoleon, the Revolution’s sworn defender, declared himself Emperor. Now it’s more of the same, albeit in the cause of a taller and grotesquely coifed contender. The New Establishment has risen, and is branding all who refuses to do its bidding as traitors. I sure don’t want Hillary to be POTUS, but the only scenario I can think of that’s worse is if conservative-inclined Americans fall back into the same emasculated obedience to a Republican Party rostrum.
Two years ago, all of these Trump foot soldiers were nameless, faceless nobodies who complained about living under a two-party state. In 2016 they realized the two-party state depends entirely on their complacency, that they’re only nameless, faceless nobodies if they allow themselves to be designated as such. I admire every single blue-collar Joe Schmo who this year demanded his dignity as a citizen be recognized. Thank Heaven they didn’t listen to the hacks who said party unity trumps principle. (No pun intended.)
So, yes, up the revolution and all that.
But I have exactly zero sympathy for those who now turn around and tell Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, the National Review writers et al. that they must be paid-up, loyal, dutifully and unquestioning members to the Trump Movement. That’s complete tosh. Either you believe it is the duty of all to oppose corrupt and wrong-headed authority – which is, basically, what the American Revolution was all about – or you don’t. There’s no in-between.
So if the New Establishment keeps up this authoritarian nonsense, no way I’m voting for Trump in November. I drank copiously throughout election day in 2012, and if America’s democracy demands it, by God, I’ll do so again in 2016.
Michael Warren Davis is covering the US presidential race for Quadrant Online