Plenty of Americans — millions of them, in fact — will disagree with the argument made by Jonathan Rauch and Benjamin Wittes in the March issue of The Atlantic that boycotting the Republican Party is "a moral necessity." I am not one of them.
"Metaphysics," F.H. Bradley once wrote, "is the finding of bad reasons for what we believe upon instinct." The Oxford philosopher might have been talking about a certain kind of middlebrow intellectual journalism. After a long self-indulgent parading of their own centrist virtues and hatred of partisanship, Rauch and Wittes argue that no decent American can vote in good faith for any candidate with an R after his name. Not because the GOP is an intellectually moribund party whose only natural constituency is persons whose economic well-being is for them at best a matter of indifference, a party that in the last two decades has been responsible for two failed wars, a party that came within a few votes of handing over Social Security to Wall Street on the eve of the 2008 crash.
No, the reason that Republicans are beyond the pale is that they have the same animal logo as President Trump, whose Twitter timeline they summarize as if it were evidence of a year-long fascist coup instead of a series of embarrassing online temper tantrums.
But if the argument is that this has anything to do with the so-called "rule of law," they are being deliberately amnesiac here. How can a person go in the space of a paragraph from proudly citing his support for the handing over of extra-constitutional powers to secret judges and the continued operation of a base where suspects were routinely tortured to warbling about the "rule of law"? Was President Obama a threat to the rule of law when he remade American immigration law with the stroke of a pen? Was George W. Bush when he authorized torture in secret prisons on the other side of the world, let our intelligence services spy on Americans without a warrant, and, oh, yes, took us to a war that was never declared by Congress? The truth is that the rule of law as it is discussed by Federalist Society types and goody-goody liberals alike is a polite fiction that means whatever the party in control is able to get away with doing under the present circumstances. This reality might well be a horrifying one, but curiously enough it only seems to upset half the population half the time.
As I said earlier, I do not actually disagree with Rauch and Wittes. But this has nothing to do with concern-trolling about the rule of law and everything to do with the fact that the Republicans are reckless, childish, incompetent, and totally uninterested in the common good. Which is why I think that their proposed boycott should apply to the Democrats as well, to whom every single one of these adjectives could be applied with equal force and precision.
Polling from the last election confirms that the average American is socially conservative and economically moderate. Neither political party serves their interests. Your choice right now is between the party that thinks your employer is under no obligation to give you a few weeks off when your child is born and the party that thinks you are a bigot because you define marriage the way that every human being did until roughly the time that Donkey Kong 64 was released. Which one are you going to pick?
This vast country of ours is full of charming minor political parties in need of your support. My own favorite is the, alas, defunct Royalist Party of America, whose laudable goals, if realized, would have saved us from the hassle of ever having to vote again, much less support another kleptocratic political organization. A close second is the American Solidarity Party, which is attempting to become the first American counterpart to the Christian Democratic parties that have existed in every European country since the end of the Second World War.
For those who feel left out in the cold by what was once the party of FDR, there are the Democratic Socialists of America, a principled, across-the-board progressive body that is committed to your right to have an eco-friendly fair-trade abortion on demand — for free. Nor should we forget the Greens, whose bloody-mindedness in the face of liberal whimpering could not fail to win over anyone with a soul. Jill Stein is a far more interesting and decent person than anyone the Democrats have nominated since LBJ. But if you don't like her, don't worry. Because the DSA is an actually democratic organization, you won't find yourself forced to vote for her husband or child decades from now out of party loyalty.
Those on the right who are not committed to monarchy or Catholic social teaching should check out the Libertarians. If your idea of human flourishing is the un-infringed ability of tech entrepreneurs to get high on their crowdfunded Mars bases, they are definitely the ticket for you. Don't like fighting endless unwinnable wars? Their last presidential candidate doesn't even know what the Middle East is. If your preferred flavor of government that does nothing is more powdered wig throwback than "Uber but for robot sex workers," have a look at the Constitution Party. Either way, you'll be supporting people who don't even pretend to think that you should ever have any responsibilities for your neighbors unless you feel like it, in which case, enjoy, because, like, freedom, dude.
There is, in other words, a minor party for every kind of person under the sun except, oddly enough, the lobbyists, tycoons, and defense contractors who control both of the major ones. Imagine the election results in November 2020 rolling in and seeing not just red and blue but purple and magenta and gold and slate grey and ocher and smaragdine, a thousand brilliant colors for the thousand waving banners of a thousand quixotic principled political organizations that actually represent somebody's real-life views.
Making this happen is what should be considered a moral necessity.