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Josh Barro leaves the GOP

Josh Barro leaves the GOP

Today Josh Barro posted an explanation of his decision to leave the Republican Party. For those you who followed the old GOPLifer blog, a lot of what he has to say will sound familiar. His childhood background with the party, his acceptance that Trump is a sort of proto-Fascist, and his disgust with the “sane” Republicans who have sold their souls for power are themes that ring true to many new ex-Republicans.

There is one interesting point Barro makes on which we differ. Here’s what Barro had to say about his decision to join the Democratic Party rather than remain an independent:

My editor asked why I became a Democrat instead of an independent. I did that because I believe political parties are key vehicles for policy-making, and choosing not to join one is choosing to give up influence.

He’s right about this of course, but it leaves the entire system with a dangerous problem. It isn’t possible over time to sustain a single party capable of representing the interests of both Josh Barro and Bill Maher. Right now, there is no clear explanation of how our two-party system will survive. Somebody will have to do the work of finding and building that alternative. Someone has to head into the wilderness.

I encourage you to read the whole piece.


  1. Chris, it is with great sadness and utter frustration, that I link this post by Sen. McCain. As I have said more times than I can recall, this Republican Party has no intention of working with Democrats but every intention of blocking a Pres. Clinton, EVEN WHEN IT INVOLVES THE BLOCKING THE WORK OF THE HIGHEST COURT IN THE LAND. (Sorry for caps – I’m pissed.)

  2. As a lifelong but centrist Democrat I have to say I’m not all that thrilled with the idea of former Republicans who are fleeing their old party now attaching themselves to my party.

    I would welcome good-hearted Republicans who wish to bring fresh, smart, agile ideas to the table to help the Dems reach better ways to help solve people’s problems. But as a Dem I believe the government has a proper role in creating useful regulations and programs to protect people against the harsh effects of unbridled capitalism. I believe like most Dems that the government isn’t against us, like Reagan thought. I think the government is us, working together.

    I believe well-constructed programs like social security and medicare are helpful to people. I believe social programs like Obamacare should be reworked, changed, and improved by legislators as people’s problems and conditions change.

    I don’t think these have ever been Republican positions, and I’m nervous that people who have never supported Democratic Party positions are gravitating to our party just because it’s still somewhat intact and still wields power.

  3. V L

    The most interesting thing about the “reform” proposed by so many Republicans will be how they react when that reform inevitably fails.

    Because it will fail.

    Mainly because I have yet to see an actual case being made for reform being made with a focus on appealing to minorities, women or LGBT voters.

    The reforms are:

    1. Complete overhaul with a repudiation of all the bigotry that came before. This is the rarest argument made because it would be the most honest assessment of right wing politics in the last 50 years. It would mean Republican voters themselves would have to take responsibility for the situation the right finds itself in.

    It also won’t work. Given the culpability of all Republicans it will be impossible for any of them to make a case to those voters because they will not be trusted.

    Also minority, female and LGBT Republicans who could better make the case are the most distrusted Republicans of all. There is no way in with those groups.

    2. Libertarianism coming to the rescue. This is a very common argument. A good case can be made for a shift to more libertarian principles if you completely ignore the fact that the most vulnerable groups in this country don’t like Libertarianism. The problem of petty tyrants is a problem we already have to deal with why make it worse?

    3. Putting lipstick on the elephant and calling it something else. This is a case of reform which actually does nothing. This is the most common “reform” I’ve seen. There are Republicans who honestly seem to think they will be able to keep pretty much all of the same policy or outlook, rebrand and create a broader coalition. It’s delusional. People aren’t stupid and they will easily see through it.

    I could have called this view the McMullin because he seems to believe the only issue the GOP has is with racism.

    Also without contrition about the bigotry in the party, it will be hard to win over voters. Pretending things never happened will not work.

    So what happens when Republicans are rebuffed by people who will see nothing new in terms of policy or attitude coming from the right?

    Do the reformers give up and fully embrace white nationalism?

    Do reformers keep pushing the same tired arguments convinced of how right they are and becoming ever more bitter as things don’t work?

    Do reformers press on knowing that they can build that trust but it will take time? After all the Democrats are the party of slavery and win 90% of black votes. Change is possible.

    We’ll see.

  4. Example #8791 on just what kind of an unrepentant monster the Republican Party has nominated for POTUS:

    As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, the GOP office in Orange County, N. Carolina, was firebombed overnight with a vicious message referencing “Nazi Republicans” was left just outside telling them to get lost or else. In the time since, support has poured in from officials on both sides to help raise funds to try and rebuild.

    Naturally, Trump didn’t do any of that and instead decided to lay the blame squarely on Hillary Clinton and Democrats with this gem of a tweet that should be preserved should his staff decide they want to go ahead and delete it.

  5. (Content warning: Stupidity. Also misogyny, but I repeat myself. )

    “Standards, you stand up for moral standards, you’re gonna be mocked and laughed out of the room. They’re gonna call you a prude. They’re gonna call you a Victorian. They’re gonna call you an old fuddy-duddy, an old fogy, and they’re gonna claim you want to deny people having a good time. So a culture which rejects moral standards. In other words, anything goes. You know what the magic word is? The only thing that matters in American sexual mores today is one thing. You can do anything, the left will promote and understand and tolerate anything as long as there is one element. Do you know what it is?


    If there is consent on both or all three or all four, however many are involved in the sex act, it’s perfectly fine, whatever it is. But if the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation then here come the rape police. But consent is the magic key to the left. “How ironic, then, that a culture which rejects moral standards has suddenly become so pure and pristine, sitting in judgment of someone they deem too immoral to become president because of something he said in private. As a logical person, I have to ask these paragons of newly found virtue where this standard by which they’ve judged Trump is found.” -Rush Limbaugh

    Just when you thought they couldn’t get worse, eh? In my older comments I use to leave a note of how I felt about these wingnut ramblings but now that’s not even necessary, you just have to quote them and they destroy their own credibility. Though you can see Jon Chait’s full takedown if you so-desire (

  6. The Democratic party is still one that listens to minority voices. You can make a difference out of its mainstream, although it’s less of a difference than in a party where you’re in or near the mainstream. If the puritarians take over that may change, but it hasn’t yet. As I’ve mentioned before, the norm for the US is a one-and-a-half party system with a very broad coalition for the governing party, so this isn’t entirely unanticipated.

    If the puritarians take over the Democratic party, then we’ll really have a crisis.

    1. I think complacency is more likely than political extremism to lead to the Democrats eventual loss of the White House when a new party emerges, as was the case when they lost the House to Newt Gingrich of all people. Being in power usually means you can fight off the puritans, it’s when you’re out of power they’re more likely to take over. Even Sanders only got so far because the Dems don’t hold the House and he promised a strategy that would take it back (though I suspect it would have failed), if Dems manage to control all levers of government I don’t see a way “in” for the puritans until they lose.

      Though I think you’re right about one-and-a-half parties, such was the case with the Republican party being the party of government from the 1860’s to the 1910’s, the other “half” party has to at least pose a challenge. We’re quickly reaching the point where the Dems could nominate a cinder block and win the election. Frankly I’m amazed (and saddened) the GOP is going to get as many votes as they are this year after everything that’s happened, but hopefully a full implosion is on the horizon.

      1. V L

        Being in power usually means you can fight off the puritans, it’s when you’re out of power they’re more likely to take over.

        I don’t understand this. The GOP had control of Congress and control of significant portions of local and state governments when the Tea Party emerged.

      2. V L

        I stand corrected about the federal level. But my point stands about state and local government.

        Pretty hard to gerrymander things to your favor in 2010 is you are out of power.

      3. Not necessarily, VL. The GOP was in power at the state level prior to the 2010 census for voting districts design. Remember, this is when project REDMAP was hatched. (See post in Off Topic.) Griffin is correct that they were in the minority in Congress for O’s first two years in office. As much as I disagree with the tactics the Republicans have used to gain power, they worked deliberately and steadily on their plan to finally sweep in 2012. O won but the losses at the state and Congressional level were horrendous for Democrats. They were not paying attention and were not tending their flock. They got outsmarted. Unfortunately for Repubs, their REDMAP was so self-centered and their methods so obstructive that it has resulted in the rise of the Freedom Caucus (which is the GOPe’s worst nightmare) and one Donald Trump. I hardly feel sorry for the GOP except for the good people within the organization (like Chris) who maintained their standards, tried to enlighten the organization about what needed to change, and lost.)

      4. But I didn’t say gerrymandering is what initially did it. When the party was out of power it discreditied the (relative) moderates in the GOP who were viewed as being the reason they lost the election and handed the national government over to the Dems, and in the US the major parties health is judged based on their national relevance (since their are only two parties). This gave radicals in the party a greater chance to assert themselves. The GOP added fuel to the fire when it mobilized this radicalized base because they viewed it as a chance to get back into power. That paid off in the midterms due to low voter turnout. It didn’t work so well in with higher voter turnout in 2012.

      5. GW Bush helped give the 2008 election to Dems. Moderates are endangered species in the GOP, which is another reason Chris sees a hard road ahead. This will likely get worse in the 2016 election as the Freedom Caucus ascends/expands. They are going to be the major problem in Congress that Hillary (or even Trump) will have to deal with. Their agenda is incredibly narrow, they do not believe in consensus if it impinges their goals. There is simply no way to work with them. Boehner found out and Ryan will as well. This is NOT how Democracy should work. Democracy works when the needs of all people are at least considered and have a chance at inclusion.

    2. >] “The Democratic party is still one that listens to minority voices. You can make a difference out of its mainstream, although it’s less of a difference than in a party where you’re in or near the mainstream. If the puritarians take over that may change, but it hasn’t yet. As I’ve mentioned before, the norm for the US is a one-and-a-half party system with a very broad coalition for the governing party, so this isn’t entirely unanticipated.

      Listening to minority voices and actually doing something for them are quite different, obviously. Chris knows this perfectly well. It wouldn’t take much for a political party to come in and offer a vision that would cleave African-Americans and Latinos from the Democratic coalition and split the Blue Wall asunder.

      Democrats were pursuing civil rights reform in the 1960s, yes, but it was ultimately Goldwater’s opposition that permanently severed African-Americans from the Republican Party. You can see the same thing happening with Latinos now. They’re not voting for Democrats because their hearts are getting all warm and fuzzy over the idea of raising the minimum wage. We’re going to see the most lopsided Latino exit polling in American history because they despise Trump with a passion. Who can blame ’em?

      Unfortunately for Republicans and anyone who comes afterwards to try and court minority votes, the real problem comes down to trust. Once voting patterns become baked in, it’s increasingly hard to try and change them. That’s true and it’s an advantage for Democrats as Latinos, especially younger ones that are just coming into the political process, vote for them again and again, but the real problem is trust. Like the old saying saying, trust takes a lifetime to build and only an instant to destroy.

      Trump’s legacy goes far beyond just destroying the Republican Party. Anyone who comes after seeming to bear the Republican brand will have to work long and very, very hard to repair a working relationship with the Latino community, and even then you can bet that they’ll be keeping an eye open for any sign that they’re being misled or lied to.

      Can’t say I’m envious of whoever takes up that mantle. It’s a tall order, no doubt about it.

      1. V L

        Thanks for speaking for black people like you know us.

        I’d be willing to bet that you have never actually had a conversation with a black person about why they vote for the Democrats.

        I’d also be willing to bet that you don’t spend time around black people enough to even be able tto ask the question.

        You want to know why we don’t vote GOP. Just read this post.

      2. Thus far, I have seen zero recognition or willingness from the GOPe to address their own internal problems. They won’t be able to do any meaningful outreach until they heal themselves. What if, though, Republicans sweep down ballot and simply lose the presidency? Is anyone so foolish to believe they will count that as anything but a “one-off” situation? To jump-start the process of change within the GOP, a landslide of immense proportions will need to occur.

        You are correct about minority voter appeal. It has to be honest and relevant to “their” needs, not just a pitch for votes. The Dem Party has a real opportunity to expand its base with minorities and Millennials (not all), but they will have to earn their trust through hard, meaningful help. You are correct about that.

      3. >] “

        Thanks for speaking for black people like you know us.

        I’d be willing to bet that you have never actually had a conversation with a black person about why they vote for the Democrats.

        I’d also be willing to bet that you don’t spend time around black people enough to even be able tto ask the question.

        You want to know why we don’t vote GOP. Just read this post.

        With all due respect, don’t force your presumption down my throat. If I came across like I was trying to speak for African-Americans, then I certainly apologize for that and I’ll try to be clearer about it in the future, but I never said such a thing.

        That said, if you have an argument with which to actually prove me wrong, then let’s hear it. It’s fact, not opinion that African-Americans went solidly into the Democratic column after Goldwater in ’64 because they were fighting for civil rights at the time, and rightfully so. Republicans turned away from their legacy and pursued the politics of white nationalism, and the effects of that are plain to see.

        Is any of that to suggest that that’s a uniform reason for the black community voting for Democrats? Of course not, but it’s a big part of it nonetheless.

        That said, I said before and I stand by the belief that if a new political party were to come forth and offer a new vision to the African-American community, one that appealed to their interests in ways that Democrats have failed them on, I believe they would respond with their votes. It would take time and effort, no doubt, but results would eventually show themselves.

        All that aside, if, as an African-American yourself, you have your own particular reasons for voting for Democrats, then I’d gladly hear them. Let’s have that conversation.

  7. The key difference you speak of? I think there are more than one. First, Mr. Barro always held varied political views, voting the candidate rather than the party. He was never a “pure” Republican. His “day job” appears to have been in and around Republican circles which he felt he could work within, but it didn’t drive his every political thought or action. Obviously, the Trump situation forced his hand, as it finally did your own and others. Barro may lack the deep history you have as a Republican operative and thus it may have been easier for him to say, f**k it, I can’t do this anymore – I’m outta here. After all, he clearly notes that he has never been constrained by the party litmus straight ticket requirement. He thought on his own and finally reached his tipping point with the Republican Party’s response to the Trump dilemma .

    Bruce Bartlett, a really old time Republican, offered his opinion on the state of the Republican Party in today’s WaPo. ( ) Like Josh Barro, he has finally had enough. The question for people like yourself, Bartlett, and Barro, is how do you remain politically active without a party?

    It appears that for Barro, the bridge too far was not just Trump and all his baggage, it was how the Republican Party responded. IOW, Trump was the symptom of a far deeper problem within the Republican Party. Barro witnessed fellow conservatives who have been publicly ridiculed by Trump fall on their swords “for the good of the party” while party leadership was dithering. It’s worth asking: who’s more honest here? Barro – who wants to remain politically active, cannot stay in the Republican Party and moves to the Democratic Party, where he can can try to get something done? Or, those who would remain quietly adrift as Independents or in political purgatory, bereft of any functional, morally credible conservative alternative structure that enables them to bring about change?

    Evidently Barro feels enough of a sense of urgency for our country to try to ride this thing out as an independent. He recognizes it will take years to build a conservative party that he can support. He has chosen a vehicle that will allow him to jump-start his participation and I see nothing wrong with that. As noted, the Democratic tent is large and I am certain he will be welcomed.

    There are fine Republicans many of us could vote for, but the party is the problem. Nothing, let me repeat, nothing that I have seen indicates to me that there is any interest or commitment by the leadership within the Republican Party to make fundamental changes in their policies, tactics, and agenda. Maybe this is where Josh Barro and Bruce Bartlett have made their stand. They see the same problems I see and they cannot ethically be a part of it anymore.

    Life is short. Our country is in turmoil. Our world needs a strong America. It is imperative that every person who cares about country first to work within whatever structure they feel comfortable to bring about the hard changes necessary to “make America work again” (-;

  8. No one knows what’s coming as the GOP flames out and Democrats assume national dominance. All Hillary Clinton needs is the presidency (which she’s going to get) and for Democrats to retake the Senate (which they will) to usher in a massive sweeping of the judicial branch and the Supreme Court to roll back Republicans’ efforts to swing elections via gerrymandering and voter ID. Operation REDMAP is a failure.

    Honestly, I’m torn myself. I don’t know whether to re-register as a Democrat or Independent. For me at least, it feels like I should take a while to wait and see what happens after this election. No place really feels like home right now and I feel like any decision I make is going to be a half-hearted one.

    Surely that’s how a lot of people feel right now and, however long it takes, just getting there and talking with as many of them as I can feels like the best way forward, wherever it may lead.

    1. I think that is where Chris is as well, Ryan, hence “political orphans”.

      The problem, especially for young people who care about how our politics works, is that you are probably too young to have seen government actually working. It has always had its problems, scandals, ruthless, vain, narcissistic people, power seekers – but, somehow, consensus happened and the work of the nation proceeded. The last 22 years have been a poor example for anyone who cares about democracy. It probably started earlier than Gingrich, but that is my earliest recollection of when the GOP began its reach for absolute control – through the Contract for America. They never looked back. Ultimately their beautiful plan is failing because democracy works best when it works for all.

      It must be hard to see all this and not feel discouraged. The advent of media doesn’t let anything slide. It’s all hanging out there for the world to see. Chris tells us that most people don’t begin to tune in to the election process until after Labor Day. I couldn’t help but think about that after reading the editorial opinion in today’s Houston Chronicle. Its headline: “GOP Exposed, The Republican Party is in the middle of an existential crisis, and the future is uncertain.” In the article, they make the point, much as Josh Barro and Bruce Bartlett did in their pieces, that is is “disturbing” to hear TX accents among the dwindling band of devotees. They have “made the cold political calculation that they have to remain wedded to Trump…it’s party over principle, raw politics over patriotism. Or, as that TX intellectual luminary, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert told Hannity, “I think we should forgive Trump because he made those comments when he was a Democrat!” Or, TX Senator John Cornyn who confided to the Austin American-Statesman (presumably with a straight face) that “all presidents learn on the job, and Trump would too.”

      I would lay money on odds that most Republicans especially in Texas, don’t know what the H.C. editors are talking about. What GOP problem? Meanwhile, back in GOPlifer and now Political Orphan land, we’ve been hashing out the many problems for almost two years.

      Stay true to your personal values and vote for the best candidates you can. I am not quite as fearful of our Millennial population blowing up democracy as I am people just not caring anymore.

    2. Read this column for EJ Dionne. It speaks to the challenge by those on the left and center left for the anger and fear that this election has unleashed. As Chris has reminded us many times, the Democrats will have their day – or not – depending upon how we react to the issues surrounding us. People communicate differently now, when they communicate at all. Mostly, it’s one-way emails, response not required. I think that’s dangerous and further erodes how we care about others. Dionne gets it right.

      1. The overbearing elephant in the room is that in order for the left to have a chance at addressing any of the issues facing us, we need a functioning government that can actually deliver. Right-wing paranoia and obstruction will prevent any serious attempt to try and reform the economy as the global transition continues apace.

        Unless Democrats can pull a trifecta out of their hat and win both houses of Congress this November, things are going to get worse before they get better.

      2. Sadly, you are correct. Sort of like the old ad: how do you get a job without experience, and how do you get experience without a job? Government can’t function without willing parties and the parties aren’t willing if majorities don’t need to cooperate!

  9. IMO we aren’t balancing those interests now. In our local Democratic club, the Bernie youngsters almost blew us up this year. That wing is growing and in wait for 2020 and will outnumber us. Hillary is the last hurrah for the Democratic Center. I suppose its possible to make the center hold with give around the periphery as long as the Republicans continue to replicate the No Knowthings Party.

    One day soon a good looking, likable messenger (WASP) of course…will come forward from the Republicans, drop the use of racial dog whistles and anti gay bias and maintain focus on economic and budgetary issues and walk away with that center not strongly aligned voter and end the Obama coalition.

    I hope Stephen is right, maybe we all walk from our respective tribes and reach out for a consensus party that represents the best of both parties. You can’t govern and have rational policy amid gridlock.

    1. I have tried to follow what is happening in the aftermath of the Bernie revolution but can’t find any organized effort. I know that Sanders supposedly is working with a residual group to prepare candidates to run for local and state offices. I think that is a great thing. For starters, they will learn a lot. Politics is hard. Rallies are fun. Hopefully, the cream of the group will hang in there and do the hard work to prepare themselves and challenge the political apparatus.

      If, however, Millennials are so disillusioned and turned off that they choose to vote in spite or not vote at all, Sanders will have taught them nothing. Voting is a right and a responsibility. It is serious and important. Just as young people find out when they finally graduate college, jobs can be very interesting but there is a whole lot of “work” required at work. The strength of Millennials as I see it, is their wonderful sense of inclusion, tolerance, and creativity. I am hoping those very special qualities will make them assets in shoring up our democratic process rather than impediments.

      1. After reading EJ’s post in Off Topic, I guess I would see a different type of Millennial if I participated in their forum….I have to admit that I am more comfortable in a more civilized forum and with my naive belief that our young people will grow up and propel our democracy along.

        Rose colored glasses and all that…suits me better than Shitlords ever could.

  10. There are many Democrats who are not that comfortable in that party. I wonder if that fraction may provide the nucleus of a new political party? A conservative and libertarian are different philosophies. As well as a socialist. To gain a governing coalition it is going to be necessary for many compromises . And I am ok with that. I share this country and society with many diverse people who all deserve a say and consideration. The main thing I find repulsive is the current GOP’s complete intolerance and my way or the highway attitude. That becomes gridlock as a governing coalition cannot emerge.

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