Erica Greider of The Week dares to ask the kind of question that gets lesser mortals scolded and blocked by ABC's chief political analyst...
The empty gestures of 'country over party' conservativesConservatives have a "country over party" problem.Consider the case of Matthew Dowd, the political commentator and Republican strategist turned political independent who last week announced that he will not run for Senate in 2018. Dowd is a leader in the "country over party" crowd. And his decision to stay on the sidelines says a lot.Over the past year, Dowd has emerged as one of Texas' more prominent conservative critics of both President Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, who will be running for re-election next year; over the past several months, Dowd has been calling for "independent, country over party leadership" and raising funds for an unspecified initiative to that effect. If he had run for Senate as an independent conservative, Evan McMullin-style, it would have been a real blow to Cruz, who has already drawn an unusually strong Democratic challenger, the charismatic young congressman from El Paso, Beto O'Rourke....Dowd has his reasons for not running, surely, and it's his decision to make. But more broadly, for conservatives who identify as "country over party" people, does sitting on the sidelines count as a contribution to the cause?..in practice, "country over party" conservatives aren't doing anything as bad as turning a blind eye toward the president's increasingly clear obstruction of justice. That distinguishes the "country over party" crowd from all too many of their Republican peers.But it's not clear what they are doing, other than proclaiming themselves to be people of principle, in contrast to the Trumplicans — and also, in some cases, in contrast to the institutions that are making more active efforts to hold the administration accountable: Democrats, the judiciary, and the media....That Republican lawmakers are still putting Trump first is of course bizarre, for a number of reasons, including Trump's manifest disinterest in the institution he commandeered last year. But if your stated position is "country over party," doing nothing doesn't really seem like enough. You can't just tweet and talk about impeachment, or the 25th Amendment. You have to act on that talk.One way to do so is to remember that we have a two-party system. As a result, there's a simpler way for Republicans to repudiate the one that's gone off the rails, even if it happens to be their own. It's not a crime to cross the aisle, according to former Democrat Mike Pence. And there's no shame in doing so: If you're a Republican who leaves the party at this point, you're leaving a party that's already left you.
Although it might have been meant rhetorically, I believe I can actually answer Ms. Grieder's question, and I'll bet you can too.
Conservatives like Mr. Dowd, who went all-in with George W. Bush, got thoroughly scalded by the collapse of that Administration. Now if the Bush Administration had imploded due to some uncontrollable freak of nature or history, well then the inconvenient memory of all the crazy, heinous shit that Republicans said and did during the Age of Dubya might have just faded away on its own.
But the Age of Dubya did not die of natural causes.
It died a slow and agonizing death from repeated, massive and self-inflicted wounds. The Age of Dubya died because of the structural rot and ideological madness that had already been eating through the guts of the Republican party for decades -- a structural rot and ideological madness that Liberals had been warning the Right about for years, and which the Right (and the Mainstream Media) smugly ignored until the whole shebang fall right in on their heads.
And right then and there, millions of Republicans like Mr. Dowd were faced with a choice: they could either own their failures, admit that the Left had been right about the Right all along, reign in Fox News, turn off Hate Radio and kick the gun nuts and bigots and homophobes and xenophobes and misogynists and conspiracy peddlers and anti-science goons and blood-and-soil white supremacists and garden-variety miscreants to the curb...
...or they could make up a Giant Bullshit Rebranding Scam to explain why none of the previous eight years had been their fault and why they weren't really jettisoning every single slogan they had shouted when Bush was president so they could get on with the important business of raging against the Kenyan Usurper from Day One.
Obviously they chose the latter because, let's face it, without the gun nuts and bigots and homophobes and xenophobes and misogynists and conspiracy peddlers and anti-science goons and blood-and-soil white supremacists and garden-variety miscreants...the Republican Party is just eleven rich assholes bitching about Mexicans and marginal tax rates.
And so, in the greatest unreported missing persons mystery in American history, tens of million Bush-regime-dead-enders Republicans mysteriously vanished almost literally overnight and were replaced with tens of millions of newly-minted "independents".
Of course the path each caste of newly-minted "independents" traveled varied according to professional and political necessity. For example, Republican base voters could just slip into the alley after dark, burn their "Bush/Cheney '04" lawn signs in a small, private pyre, and emerge as a noble, patriotic "Tea Partiers" who had never even heard of George Bush, but sure as shit were not happy that some Kenyan Muslim (who was probably cheated into office by ACORN and the New Black Panthers!) was going to murder their grandmother with a death panel, confiscate all their guns and probably make their kids gay!
Which brings us back around to Mr. Matthew Dowd.
You see, the post-Bush way forward for public Conservatives like Matthew Dowd (and David Brooks and David Frum and Ron Founier and Michael Gerson and on and on and on) was always going to be much trickier that just putting on a tri-corner hat and declaring that you'd been politically comatose since the Eisenhower Administration. After all, having gone on the public record for years as bona fide Bush-pimping, Liberal-slandering Conservatives, if they were ever forced to admit that, in fact, the very Liberals they had mocked and marginalized had been right all along on matters about which they themselves had been catastrophically wrong, their public careers would be over.
But they also couldn't just... y'know...come out as...y'know...Liberal because that would be super-duper career suicide.
And so to save their careers, save themselves from having to admit that Liberals had been right about the Right all along and to save themselves from having to genuinely repent and atone for their catastrophic professional failures they collectively invented the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism.
And what a mighty Church it is!
All the best people are there, and the best part about it is that since no one is ever really to blame for anything, no one ever has to atone for anything! In fact, the First Dogma of the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism is a tacit, mutual compact that no member of the Church shall ever make public mention of the heinous shit that any other member of the Church said or did in the past.
Thus all members are spared embarrassing moments like this...
This is possible, because at the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism, there is no Past. Only the glorious, eternal Present in which, for eight years, every act of overt Republican sedition could be lazily counteracted with a chorus of "Why won't Democrats compromise? Why won't Obama lead?" from the amen corner. Eight years during which Republicans were set loose to lie about and sabotage the Obama Administration at will because they knew that any act of explicitly Republican destruction would be dismissed by the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism as the fault of "Washington" and "the Extremes on Both Sides" and the "Corrupt Duopoly".
And the Church prospered for eight years and political "journalism" (which was already a bad joke) shit the bed so hard that it may never recover -- a mindless puppet theater in which lazy frauds were paid insane amount of money to puke up the same an automatic, algorithmic "Both Sides" response to every single act of Republican vandalism and treachery.
And every day in virtually every media outlet in America, the public was told over and over again by by the the entire media chorus of the Church of that "Washington" was hopelessly broken because of the "Corrupt Duopoly" and that only radical "Disruption!" that would bust The System wide open could save them from certain doom.
And thus did Don The Con come waltzing right though the door that the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism held wide open for him.
This was the cult that Mr. Dowd hooked up with after he fell from grace from Dubya. And this is the cult which Mr. Dowd can no longer leave because, like so many of his colleagues, his career and his self-image depend on staying a loyal Both Siderist no matter how objectively ridiculous it makes him sound.
And so, in obedience to his New True Faith, Mr. Dowd now does what passes for missionary work in the High and Holy Church of Both Siderism: mouthing meaningless platitudes, accomplishing nothing and forever looking for the next fence to straddle.