What is a good conservative, appalled by Trump, to do regarding party registration? Former Wall Street Journal editorial page contributor Max Boot is sure: it means leaving the Republican Party. He left the morning after Trump’s victory. There is a lot of recounting of these sorts of moral bone fides in this short work, The Corrosion of Conservativism: Why I Left the Republican Party. That would be fine enough side dish to a meal but isn’t substantial enough for the heart of this meal, which is that the Soviet emigre who appreciated the GOP’s anti-communism seemingly never should have been a part of the Republican Party in the first place.
His departure timing shows a good deal of character, but also a hint of impulsiveness versus all the other available times to act on his principles. Disgust is a bad proximate cause for political positions. In an effort to give a mea culpa for the positions he held unthinkingly before, for the entire team he played on so to speak, Boot uncritically adopts new ones. Boot opposes Trump. So do climate change activists. Therefore, we are to immediately accept climate change activist proposals?
Politics is the art of the possible. What does being an independent enable other than moral satisfaction? There can be good answers to that but he doesn’t give any of them. Maybe the right answer is sheer existentialist purity. Being an independent means you can’t effect change from within the Republican Party nor drive the Democratic Party to positions more in line with your view of the optimal set of positions. Looking for practical steps to disrupt the two party system? Those won’t be found here. There are trade-offs in any of these actions, a better book would have weighed them more carefully.
There is nothing original in the work that sets apart his analysis of Donald Trump from anyone else’s. What is original is the blitheness which Boot smears the entire history of conservatism up to Trump. It is possible that the whole movement really was a set of identity politics. Writers clearly sympathetic to that view, like Rick Perlstein, however are a lot more careful and substantiating of that view in their writings.