Opinion | Tony Jones: In search of a Republican tutor

I am submitting this column on election day, when all signs are that, despite some earlier indications that Democrats would show well, Republicans may win both houses of Congress. While things may turn out otherwise, I can’t help but worry about a future under the rule of the modern Republican party. 

I find it troubling that fully half of our nation would vote for continuing down the path today’s Republican party has blazed for us. This is a path that is authoritarian, restricts voting rights and is anti-environmentalism. These Republican voters include people whom I love and respect. They’re not deplorables. They’re savvy and they’re entitled to their points of view, but to my thinking they should know better. As an unaffiliated voter who is willing to vote for what I see as the best candidates and policies for myself and my country, regardless of which party is proposing them, what am I missing? 

In an effort to figure that out, I’m thinking of putting an ad in the Summit Daily News for a supporter of today’s Republican party values to tutor me on modern Republicanism. This would be someone who votes based on extensive study of the issues, not on 30-second attack ads that leverage a lack of context and outright lies. 

Here are some issues that I need my Republican tutor to educate me on.

  • Why isn’t preserving social safety net programs like Medicare and Social Security the most important issue to a party that considers itself populist? No doubt there is trouble ahead for these programs and it needs to be addressed. But holding the global economy, and these programs, hostage at such a precarious economic time, ostensibly due to Republicans’ rediscovered fiscal austerity values, seems hypocritical to me. Let’s remember that under Trump, Republicans passed tax cuts that primarily benefited corporations and wealthy Americans. The trickle-down economic effects these cuts were to engender didn’t pan out as they suggested they would. Now, to help address a deficit their tax cut exasperated, they are threatening these programs that most of us already use or will need in the future, including lower- and middle-class Republicans.
  • The experiment that is the USA was built on the premise of anti-authoritarianism. The current leader of the Republican party openly admires authoritarian regimes and has “joked” about being president for life. Meanwhile, Republicans have refined the art of dirty politics with their masterful manipulation of nominees for the U.S. Supreme Court and in taking over state legislatures and governorships who will legislate and gerrymander themselves into power for the foreseeable future. At what point did Republican virtues start aligning with regimes like China and Russia, including on social issues such as the rights of LGBTQ communities? How does this authoritarianism align with the religious values that they often cite in defending their policies and positions on equal rights?
  • Democrats may take a beating on inflation and the economy. They have admittedly been on a spending spree with the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, both of which invest heavily in America. They’re also guilty of increased spending to help stem the tide of COVID-19, as was the Republican regime before them. But I’ll need my Republican tutor to educate me on why investing in American infrastructure, working towards affordable access to health care for our citizens and finally putting our money where our mouth is in addressing climate change is a bad thing. And, conversely, they can also educate me on how making deep tax cuts that favor corporations without addressing the fiscal holes those cuts create makes fiscal sense.
  • As an unaffiliated voter who would like to get back to my Republican roots, I wonder where politicians like Liz Cheney fit into the party. Are current “RINOs” the last vestige of yesteryear’s Republican party? If you want to identify as Republican nowadays, must you bend the knee to MAGA candidates and their anti-democratic policies? 

My tutor will need to provide reasonable answers to these questions that are consistent with American values of equity and democracy for me to comfortably vote Republican again. Or at least vote Republican in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m drinking MAGA Kool-Aid, a brew laced with anti-democratic poison.

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