Tom Nichols was always a staunch Republican – but now, as an advisor to the Lincoln Project, he openly opposes Donald Trump. For him, Democrat Joe Biden is the salvation. A conversation about the disappointment of a conservative.
- Donald Trump outshines the whole Republican Party.
- Moderate conservatives no longer have a home with the Republicans in the United States.
- A conversation about the disappointment of a conservative.
The polls are all in favor of Joe Biden right now. Is Donald Trump Defeated?
Like many American voters, I am still traumatized by 2016. The political scientist in me looks at the data and says it’s over. But many of us who were against in 2016 Trump who voted, still have that shock inside us. We were also very sure at the time. But I think it had a lot to do with Hillary Clinton.
2020 US election: what a conservative says about Donald Trump and the Republicans
Because many who didn’t vote for Trump couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Clinton either?
Yes, exactly, people like me, moderate conservatives, the so-called Never Trumpers. I also found it very difficult. But many Democrats also stayed at home and didn’t vote at all. That won’t happen this time.
You describe yourself as moderate conservatives. What has shaped you politically?
I was actually predestined to become a democrat. I grew up in the working class in Massachusetts, in the northeast. I am the grandson of immigrants. These are traditional characteristics of democratic voters, and my parents were democrats too. My first choice was the 1980 election. I was 19 at the time, and Ronald Reagan was very attractive to me. After four years of Jimmy Carter, the Republican Party appeared to be the party of optimism and common sense. If you were a kid with intellectual ambitions back then, fed up with the hell America had become in the 1970s, Republicans had a lot to offer.
What do you mean when you talk about the “hell of the 70s”?
I graduated from school in 1976. Think about what America looked like back then. We have just been defeated in Vietnam. We were at the beginning of an energy crisis. Cities all fell apart. The great unrest of 1967/1968 was only eight years ago. If you said anything about it in Massachusetts, it said you have to understand, these black communities are poor and angry. I always replied – but what about me? I’m poor and angry too, and my church is being torched right now. At a time of rampant inflation and mass unemployment, the Democratic Party made the oppression of minorities a priority. As members of the white lower class, we could not see that. It seemed to us that everyone’s problems were being solved except ours. Of course, that wasn’t fair of us because we didn’t realize that their problems are also our problems. But we felt that the party had been hijacked by special interests. The democratic party had become the party of a left-wing intellectual elite. Reagan’s message of a fresh start in America was refreshing. And he kept his promises within two years. That’s why he won the 1984 election in 49 states.
2020 US election: Conservatives have no longer had a united movement since Donald Trump became president
When did you start having doubts about the Republicans?
That was around 1994 when the anti-intellectual wing of the Republican Party, with people like Newt Gingrich in the party, began to gain influence. But for people like me who came from New England it was easy to ignore the fact that the Republicans from the West and the South were gradually taking over the party. We still believed that the Republican Party was cosmopolitan, business-friendly and optimistic. The coalition between the provincial, anti-intellectual wing and us lasted a long time, but it became more and more fragile. When Obama was elected, that provincial faction of the party just went nuts. I didn’t vote for Obama, I didn’t think he was a great president. But unlike some of my party comrades, having a black president didn’t make me psychotic. When the primaries began in 2012, I was fed up and left the party.
Comrades! I have some thoughts about the health of the Great Leader and his medical team here at the central Kremlin hospital:https://t.co/wub9pcA9BT
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) October 7, 2020
As a conservative, do you now feel politically homeless?
There is no longer a united conservative movement in the US. I come from a tradition that values federalism and wants to limit the influence of the government. I am in favor of a strong military and a certain respect for tradition. However, other things matter to those who consider themselves part of the “conservative movement”. They are concerned with things like “free choice of school” – that is, racially separate schools – and religion. I have never understood how people who consider themselves conservatives can demand that the government interfere in all sorts of things. For example, I am absolutely in favor of the right to abortion. I also cannot understand that you are now trying to give the executive an immense amount of power. For me, these are not conservative principles. I no longer consider the Republican Party to be conservative today. It has become an statist personality cult. When my Republican friends say today that I am no longer a Conservative, I reply: I have not left the party, the party has left me.
Republicans under Donald Trump: “They are looking for government solutions for everything”
How do you find Republicans statist?
They are looking for government solutions for everything. Take international competition, for example: the state should impose tariffs. Don’t you like abortion? The executive is supposed to overturn constitutional law. Are you concerned about your freedom to practice your religion – in this case code for homophobia? The state should start a war against LGBTQ rights on their behalf. And so it continues. The only difference between the so-called conservatives and the left today is that some want the state to intervene in one direction, while others want the state to intervene in the other direction.
But then you will have the same problems with your new democratic comrades.
At the moment, on the one hand, we have the Trump– Followers there and everyone else on the other. I share concerns about our constitution with well-meaning democrats. The Trump movement has been the most anti-constitutional movement in the US since 1850. And to me, the constitution and the rule of law are more important than anything right now.
Donald Trump and the Republicans: The US President has found the madest minds in the US
Does the Republican Party stand for anything but Donald Trump?
It represents a kind of generalized white resentment that Trump personifies. Of course, this white displeasure already existed in 1980. But the difference is that at that time you still had the feeling that the problems of the white working class were problems that had to be solved together, as a society. Reagan didn’t win 49 states by dividing America. Trump won the election because he mobilized the last remnant of white male anger. For me, America had largely solved its problems before Trump and together. I think we are a much better country than we were 30 years ago. Trump found the most angry people in the country and told them: I am the avatar of your anger over a changing society. And that has nothing to do with conservatism.
People like you are the much touted center of US society. Can this middle still hold the country together, or is it just flying around our ears?
I don’t feel alone I believe that I am part of a broad coalition. I’m looking at my own state, Rhode Island. Our two senators are Democrats. Neither is what you would call the radical left. I voted for both when I was a Republican. I’ve done it all my life. I always voted for moderate Democrats when I found that they represented my interests locally or regionally. Most Americans used to do that, and I think it’ll come back. The problem is that the most extreme voices are always the loudest. Joe Biden has proven that the Democratic Party is not nearly as far to the left as students on Twitter believe.
So you think the Democratic Party’s nomination of Joe Biden was a smart move?
Well, Biden is currently in the lead with nearly twelve percent. He is in the process of building a huge coalition that will range from old white conservatives like me to young African Americans. It’s not something to be despised.
Even if Biden wins by the margins suggested by the polls, future generations are going to find it absolutely disgusting that Trump was even remotely competitive at this stage in his presidency. The stain will be that 40 to 45% of Americans approved of his despicable conduct.
– Brian Klaas (brianklaas) October 12, 2020
Donald Trump – “The Republican Party Must Collapse and Start Over”
Is that your vision for the US?
That was my vision back in 1984. I was working for a Democrat in the Massachusetts State Senate who reminded me a lot of Biden. He was a practicing Catholic but liberal on social issues. We had a wonderful time arguing about national politics, but we also did a great job working together on the Massachusetts budget. And we’re still friends today. This is how I imagine this country.
How can the Republican Party recover from this disaster?
The only way a party learns a lesson is through outright voter rejection. That’s why I wish for a superior victory for Biden on November 3rd. The Republican Party has to collapse and start over. When things get tight and a lot of those who Trump Have made it possible for them to survive, they will believe that they need to suck Trump even more.
How do you see your political future?
I’ll fight anyone who’s done anything in the past four years Trump had to do and tried to hold some office. If Nikki Haley or Tom Cotton try to become president, I’ll be fine. When someone has sold their soul, there must be no turning back. (Interview: Sebastian Moll)