Voice

Why I Hope to Vote Republican in 2024

Face it: Hillary Clinton will be a two-term president, and I’ll vote for her. But a Democratic stranglehold on the White House is bad for America.

Will demographics be the death knell of the Republican Party? I hope not. I've always preferred Democrats, but I'll be disappointed if I never cast a vote for a Republican candidate. Let me explain. 

Times are tough in Republican circles. White men, the mainstay of the Grand Old Party, represent a shrinking share of the American population. Republicans thought they had a chance to recruit Latino voters because of overlaps on some social issues, but their candidates' apparent allergy to immigration may have destroyed that possibility. The Republicans have been able to control the House of Representatives by aggressive redistricting through state assemblies, but that advantage may also be on the wane.

Only a sort of pendulum reaction by young people disillusioned by the Obama administration -- though they are probably as open to other Democrats as to Republicans -- offers any hope now. But young voters are among the Americans most concerned about inequality, which many Republicans refuse to take seriously. Moreover, as younger voters begin to appreciate the benefits of health insurance, they may find new faith in the Democratic Party. 

Of course, political preferences can change over time. There's the famous quote often attributed -- probably incorrectly -- to Winston Churchill: "If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." I'm a few years past 35, but that's not the reason that I hope will push me to vote Republican.

No, I want to vote Republican because I think that more than one party can propose a viable plan for the country's future. The idea that policy can take only one direction, corresponding to a single platform or set of beliefs that isn't better served in any way by any other party's platform, speaks more of ideological zealotry that pragmatic realism. Policy issues are not all black and white or arranged along a single spectrum; they can be multidimensional and require complex solutions. 

Though neither party in the United States seems prepared to give the other credit for good ideas, voters can be more discerning. In the last presidential campaign, I preferred a few of Mitt Romney's views on trade and foreign aid to those of Barack Obama. I've also liked some of what I've heard on taxes from Rob Portman and immigration from Marco Rubio. I still voted for Obama, though -- not because I abhorred Romney so much but because I worried about the people who would surround him.

I wouldn't always have had such fear. When I was a kid, I heard my friends' parents described as Reagan Democrats. At that time, the gap between the parties on social issues, in particular, was much smaller. You could vote for a presidential candidate without fearing that his party would force him into a much more extreme mandate. That's less true now. George W. Bush was seen as a centrist before his election; some commentators even wondered whether there was much to choose between him and Al Gore. In the end, Bush became the servant of one of the most warmongering and economically corrosive strands of so-called conservatism that the nation had ever seen. Gore, meanwhile, became the environmentalist antihero of big business's nightmares. Today, whether through one man's pliability or the other's embrace of a signature issue, the difference between them is clear. 

For me to vote Republican, the GOP will have to shed some of its more odious baggage -- the bogeymen that give even some of their own candidates, like Jon Huntsman, the willies: opposition to gay rights, hostility towards immigrants, hindrances to voting, counterproductive fiscal policy, denial of science, and the like. The sooner they do, the better it will be for the nation.

That's because the nation needs variety at the top, and it's heading for a period of very little variety indeed. Like the bookies, I fully expect Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election in 2016, and I fully expect to vote for her. As an incumbent she'll be hard to beat in 2020, and a victory would mean 16 years of Democratic rule, the longest uninterrupted mandate for one party since Roosevelt and Truman.  

But no matter how much integrity Obama and Clinton may have, entrenched power breeds complacency and often, as in the old adage, corruption. (I'm not even mentioning the family dynasties that could pit another Clinton against another Bush sometime in the next six years.) Moreover, the same leadership is not appropriate for every moment in history. Churchill's Tories led Britain in wartime, but Clement Attlee's Labour Party oversaw its reconstruction.

To back up the point, consider this list of the most functional democracies from the Economist Intelligence Unit. No party has currently held the position of head of government for more than nine years: 

Compare these data to the political histories of countries like Cuba and North Korea, where the same party has ruled for more than half a century; or nominal democracies where a single party dominated for roughly three decades, like Angola and Malaysia; or hereditary monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Brunei. Pluralistic governments need a constant flow of new ideas, and that means turnover. 

So how much variety and turnover are enough, or too much? Arguably, the United States would never have elected Obama if part of the electorate hadn't been so disillusioned with Bush. But would the country have been better off with two presidents whose policies stayed closer to the center? Likewise, are two four-year terms -- at most -- enough for a president to focus on the long term, especially when Congress has elections every two years?

To be sure, a long reign by Democrats in the White House could eventually spell its own end. Complacency and corruption tend to go hand in hand with prolonged periods in power, even in highly democratic countries, and voters might revolt. I'm not saying this has happened yet -- indictments and convictions of high-ranking federal officials are down under Obama versus under Bush -- but it might well happen with enough years of any one party at the top. And those years have a way of multiplying in many countries; they can also lead to consolidation of control, as South Africa and Argentina have recently shown.

I would much rather that Democrats' time in the White House ended because of a strong Republican alternative than because of their own debasement and decay. Hopefully, a worthy Republican candidate -- and a more centrist, up-to-date Republican Party -- will be able to sway me by 2024.

Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

COLUMN

On Israel's Defeat in Gaza

Hamas will dig out from under the rubble and the world will remember the image of four boys killed on a beach.

There is no doubt that Israeli leaders feel justified in their actions in Gaza. Polls show that over nine out of 10 Israelis supported the recent war. Hamas is a very bad actor. Israel has every right to defend itself.

Yet, whenever this most recent conflict is seen to be over, it will not be remembered for the security logic behind it or the speeches justifying it. Nor will it be remembered for the tactical gains that Israel may have achieved. No, the lasting image this war will leave the world is of four boys on a beach, playing soccer and then running for their lives, hurtled from a carefree moment of childhood to oblivion in the blink of an eye.

There is no Iron Dome that can protect Israel from images like that. There is no Iron Dome that can undo the images of suffering and destruction burned into our memories or justify away the damage to Israel's legitimacy that comes from such wanton slaughter. Most importantly, the Iron Dome protects Israel only from the damage others try to inflict upon it; it cannot save the country from the damage it does to itself.

Let's accept for a moment every single argument made by the Israeli leadership for their actions in Gaza: Missile attacks are intolerable. Kidnapping and killing Israeli boys is a horror. Hamas is a terrorist group. It uses human shields to protect its munitions and its fighters. It actively invites Israeli attacks that inevitably wreak havoc upon innocent Palestinians. Every country has a right to defend itself. Other countries have done worse to protect the security of their citizens. It is easy to accept all these things. They are all true.

Also, let's set aside the counterarguments. Set aside the reality that this war was started as much as response to Israeli government anger over the Palestinian unity government as it was to address the security concerns above. Set aside that it was in part an emotional response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens as it was to missile attacks. Set aside that these missile attacks launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza have inflicted relatively limited damage since they started over a decade ago and that Israel's response to these attacks has been -- by any measure -- disproportionate. These things may also be true, but there are counterarguments to the counterarguments.

If you were an Israeli and you had lost one relative, or watched your child huddle in a shelter through even just one missile attack, your concern would be the safety of your family. Further, it would be impossible to look at the threat posed by any individual attack or any series of attacks as being isolated or limited; greater risks still loomed. As Jeffrey Goldberg points out in his well-argued and thoughtful piece, "What Would Hamas Do If It Could Do Whatever It Wanted?" it is a fact that Hamas lists among its stated goals the destruction not only of Israel but of all Jews.

And of course these counterarguments to the counterarguments are no less compelling than those of Gazans who feel that blockading 1.8 million people in a bleak urban environment is oppressive, and who have every right to demand the freedom, dignity, and personal security they are not receiving -- people who rightly feel that no matter what Hamas's tactics, there is nothing that justifies the killing of their children, not to mention their innocent sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers.

That is the horrible reality of this situation. With an open mind, it is easy to see the perspectives of both sides. With an open heart, it is easy to understand the fear and the heartbreak and the impulse for survival that have pushed both groups to the desperate acts they have committed.

But if, in committing this show of egregious force, Israel's primary goal was to enhance its security, it likely achieved only near-term gains on that front. Hamas remains. The populace from which it recruits is inflamed. Its global funders in faraway places like Qatar remain safe and intact and no less inclined to write checks. Indeed, they have gained standing through this conflict and been invited to join the table in diplomatic exchanges where, had they not been funders of terrorism, they would have had no place.

If Israel's goal was to delegitimize Hamas, whatever it achieved during these last three weeks came at the expense of its own reputation. No matter how many articulate, pommy-accented spokespeople Israel rolls out to discuss human shields, they are trumped by the images of dead and wounded women and children, the stories of displaced families, the ground truth of an advanced, technologically sophisticated, militarily powerful nation laying waste to a land it occupies in order to root out a small cadre of fighters who pose little strategic threat to it. In short, Israel was waging a military action against an adversary that was waging a political campaign and thus adopted the wrong tactics and measured their progress by the wrong metrics. In fact, there is no denying that the Israeli tactics (it seems very unlikely there was any real strategizing going on) in this war do not pass the most basic tests available by which to assess them, those of morality, proportionality, and effectiveness.

Strategically, this is about neither missiles nor tunnels. It is, at its heart, like most aspects of Israel's long struggle with the Palestinians, about the terms by which the people of Palestine will get the state that is theirs by every right and precept of international law and decency. Therefore, Israel's action has to be assessed in terms of whether or not it will help or hurt its own standing in that negotiation, in which both sides participate by virtue of their daily actions whether there's a formal negotiating table in place or not. And for all the reasons cited above, it can only hurt. Further, it must be asked whether the bloodshed in Gaza will make it more or less likely that the world will embrace Palestinian efforts to claim independence with or without Israeli cooperation. What is more, even if Hamas is weakened by the actions of the past few weeks, and the world (including perhaps Hamas) realizes the benefits of allowing the Palestinian Authority's current leaders to take the lead on behalf of the Palestinian people, that transfer to a more legitimate leadership takes away one of Israel's favorite excuses for not making progress toward an agreement. Absent Hamas and absent the divisions it brought, you have a more unified and internationally acceptable Palestinian regime.

The situation on the ground in Gaza in the wake of the violence of this past month does not help much to identify a winner or a loser from this knot of absolutes and moral ambiguities, rights and violations, human needs and political agendas. Israel can rightly claim to have inflicted great damage on Hamas, destroying rockets and tunnel complexes and exposing their cowardly and reckless tactics for what they are. Hamas can claim to have won simply because they survived and will live to fight another day, in that instance with a new army of recruits inflamed into action by this last war.

Such claims aside, the reality is that it is almost certainly more true that both sides lost than it is that either won. Israel's standing internationally is further damaged, as is whatever slight credibility Hamas may have had as an advocate for the Palestinian people. It will cost billions to rebuild Gaza. The economic crater created by the conflict will harm both sides.

In the end, Israel lost in large part because despite its massive military and resource and advantages and Palestinian poverty and the comparative weakness of Hamas's fighters, the Palestinians have one secret weapon that, like the images and narrative of the past conflict, trumps the Iron Dome. They have the clock on their side. With each day their population grows as does the injustice under which they suffer. With each day Israel's arguments for delaying the establishment of that state grow weaker.

But for all the care we may and should give to looking at such a crisis in a balanced way, at the end of the day, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that one side actually did come out of this the loser. That is because when the final results and long-term implications of those results are tallied up, they are likely to suggest Israel both won less and lost more than did the Palestinian people.

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images