My recommendations for the 2018 congressional midterm elections

TL;DR: except for the extraordinary circumstance where a Republican congressional candidate has explicitly taken a stance against President Trump’s actions and rhetoric that weaken our democratic institutions, values, alliances, and norms, I strongly recommend that all U.S. citizens vote and vote for Democratic candidates this election cycle.

Under normal circumstances, I encourage my fellow citizens to regularly vote in elections and choose the option that best matches their policy views. In recent years we have had many honorable candidates from various political parties who present differing choices on political issues while generally agreeing on the broad contours of democratic principles.

Under current circumstances, however, we have elected a president who, while espousing many normal policy positions, has also expressed skepticism and scorn for fundamental democratic values like: 1) accepting the legitimacy of election outcomes, 2) promoting the legitimacy of a free press, 3) promoting friendships and alliances with other democratic nations while not endorsing, legitimizing, or promoting authoritarian leaders of non-democratic countries, etc. etc. (More evidence and examples are available here).

Our political system anticipated that presidents like this would come along from time to time. They designed the Congressional branch to serve as a check on presidents who do not safeguard and protect basic democratic institutions and norms. The majority party of Congress, however, has declined to do so because: 1) they have decided that pursuing policy outcomes and judicial appointments a higher priority than defending basic democratic principles and institutions, and 2) they believe that’s what their constituents want them to do.

Recognizing the legitimate merits of the majority party’s policies and judicial nominations, I respectfully submit that these are less important priorities than safeguarding the basic democratic “rules of the road” which ensure a free democratic system in the United States. Our top priority should be protecting and defending our basic institutions and norms of a free democracy.

Therefore, under current circumstances I *strongly* recommend that my friends show up to vote on Election Day (if they haven’t already) and vote for candidates (especially for Congress) that will not continue to look the other way while the president continues to weaken our global reputation as promoters of free democracy and continues to weaken the institutions and norms of our free democracy at an alarming rate.

Although there are a handful of Republican candidates who have honorably taken stances against the president to promote free democratic values, most of the time this will mean voting for Democratic candidates.

My recommendation is not simply because I sympathize when Democratic party political priorities. Indeed, I have voted for Republicans and Independents as well as Democrats in my voting history. Had President Trump run as a Democrat and won both the primary and general election, however, and proceeded to label our free press “the enemy of the people,” a free democratic Europe as a “foe” and an autocratic Russian president a “strong leader,” and based his platform and megaphone on stoking prejudice against religious and racial minorities while a Democratic Congress looked the other way in pursuit of Supreme Court picks and passing Medicare-for-all, I would today be strongly recommending that my friends vote for Republicans to serve as a check on the president’s actions. This, however, did not happen, and for that reason I am today recommending voting for Democratic candidates in all but a few circumstances.

After all, we cannot continue to have our important and spirited democratic debates over taxes, education, jobs, judges, etc. if the framework and rules for conducing those debates in a fair democratic manner weakens.

As the Washington Post editorial board recently argued:

We believe voters should back any candidate who will stand up to Mr. Trump’s brand of reactionary populism. After Nov. 6, we will have a better idea whether 2016 was the beginning of an extended dark period in U.S. politics or an aberration that shocked the nation’s democrats, of whatever party affiliation, into effective action. Think about that, and vote accordingly.
As moderate conservative columnists have argued:

The rule of law is a threshold value in American politics, and a party that endangers this value disqualifies itself, period. In other words, under certain peculiar and deeply regrettable circumstances, sophisticated, independent-minded voters need to act as if they were dumb-ass partisans. …

the most-important tasks in U.S. politics right now are to change the Republicans’ trajectory and to deprive them of power in the meantime. In our two-party system, the surest way to accomplish these things is to support the other party, in every race from president to dogcatcher. The goal is to make the Republican Party answerable at every level, exacting a political price so stinging as to force the party back into the democratic fold. …

We understand, too, the many imperfections of the Democratic Party. Its left is extreme, its center is confused, and it has its share of bad apples. But the Democratic Party is not a threat to our democratic order. That is why we are rising above our independent predilections and behaving like dumb-ass partisans. It’s why we hope many smart people will do the same.

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