A Short Response to Ben Kleinerman on the Republican Party, Jeff Isaac

I appreciate the attention that both Jeff Tulis and Ben Kleinerman have given to my piece! The topic is an important one, and the discussion here is a good one.

It is clear that Ben and I have a fundamental difference of opinion on a matter of political judgment: the nature of the current Republican party.

We could argue about this for weeks. There is now a substantial body of commentary, by distinguished students of comparative politics, about how the Republican party has become for all intents and purposes an “anti-system party.” I could cite this literature, and explain why I agree with it, why I think that the base of the Republican party is succeeding in dangerously transforming the landscape of state politics, and why I think that even leaders like McConnell are complicit in this, by virtue of the fact that they obstruct any effort to stop it.

But instead, I’ll simply cite my recent collaboration with Bill Kristol, who knows a thing or two about the Republican party, and who shares my view of things. As Ben probably knows, Bill, Todd Gitlin, and I drafted an “Open Letter in Defense of Democracy” back in late October. It was co-signed by 48 pretty prominent public intellectuals, including Charlie Sykes, Mona Charen, Damon Linker, John McWhorter, Ben Wittes, Eliot Cohen, and Max Boot—none a person associated with the left! The letter was also signed by three regular contributors to The Constitutionalist: Laura Field, Jeff Tulis, and George Thomas. And it was published, by design, simultaneously by The New Republic and The Bulwark, a rare collaboration that testifies to the danger we face and to the hopeful possibility of people coming together across previous divides and serious policy differences to defend democracy..

My piece about January 6 is simply an extension of what is said in that letter, which I encourage readers here to read for themselves.

It clearly states that we need a broad, united front in defense of democracy, and that it is essential to include independents and also those very few dissident Republicans and mostly former Republicans who recognize that political action, including federal legislation, is necessary to defend democracy. Such a broad front will of course hopefully appeal to some Republican voters. But the Republican party—the organization, the “brand”—must be opposed.

I could go on about why I think this. But instead, I will simply refer Ben and others who doubt me to The Bulwark, where they can read powerful pieces about this, written by former Republicans in high standing, on a daily basis.

Thanks to all for this fine discussion, and thanks to Ben for inviting me to respond to his comments.

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