By Harry Sutton ’20
On April 26, Max Boot visited The Gunnery to speak about his political views and his opinion of the current Republican party. Boot is a former foreign advisor to John McCain, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio; Pulitzer Prize finalist; refugee from the communist Soviet Union; op-ed editor of the Wall Street Journal; and “recovering Republican.”
Boot described his upbringing and his despise for the Soviet Union, as he grew up in the depths of the Cold War. Boot was raised idolizing the likes of Winston Churchill and the very anti-communist Ronald Reagan. He was a Republican for almost his entire life and stated his support for many Republic figures, from Reagan to Bush to McCain to Romney. But in 2016, he voted against his lifetime party.
That November, Boot voted for the Democratic party for the first time in his life, backing Hillary Clinton. Boot refused to vote for President Donald Trump, and registered as an independent the day after Trump won the election. The Russian native was appalled when he found out that Trump was running, perturbed by his early comments on Mexican immigration and McCain.
Boot said that Trump was spreading “bigotry” and “hatred” from the very roots of his campaign. He denounced Trump’s unusual policies and expected the Republican party to completely reject the candidate, recounting his shock when Trump won first the primaries, and then the presidency. He recalled Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rick Perry outwardly criticizing Trump before the election, but once he got the nomination, they all supported him. Boot said that he couldn’t find a single Republican with something good to say about Trump at the beginning of his campaign, but couldn’t find anyone who would criticize him after the election.
He touched on his unearthing of “tribal voting,” the idea of voting for candidates only from your party, regardless of your opinion of them. He described the fact that Trump has become the “tribal leader” of the Republican party, and that he was supported by the party for just that reason. Boot admitted to having voted tribally in the past but discouraged people to do so in the future.
Boot’s main message was that Trump is not a real Republican because he is against true Republican values. While Boot did defend his dislike for Trump and his opinion on Trump’s un-Republicanism, he also focused on Trump’s racist, bigoted and xenophobic conduct. Much of the audience disagreed with Boot’s focus on Trump’s actions, because he spent more time talking about Trump’s rhetoric than about his policies. Many members of the audience expected Boot to delve deeper into Trump’s politics, but his main message was overlooked by many as he emphasized his disdain for Trump and his hatred for the current state of the Republican party.
During the Q & A portion of his presentation, Boot said that he wishes “nothing but harm on the Republican party.” While this particular quotation is extreme, Boot was trying to convey his short-term belief. Boot said this because he believes that the only way that the Republican party can learn from their “mistake” in electing Trump is by losing by a landslide in 2020.
Overall, Boot defended his points well but spoke with a hostile and defensive tone, which led to some drastic statements. Boot was trying to convey his message that the Republican party has made a huge mistake, and can only learn their lesson if Democrats take over the executive branch in 2020. Despite Boot’s reasonable argument, he has received criticism from students and faculty alike, on both sides of the political spectrum, due to the way he spoke and the extremism of his statements. Boot certainly had some great points, but you can’t call him anything other than extreme when you consider his comparison of Trump to Charles Lindbergh, a pro-Nazi American politician, or his generalization of Trump supporters as “grumpy, old white people”.
Boot is an experienced and reliable political commentator, and while his current views of the Republican party and the 45th president are extreme, he certainly has a trustworthy opinion. The foreign affairs expert expressed his opinion with sensible claims, but his reasonable opinions were overshadowed by the fiery and divisive nature of his speech. Boot believes the Republican party has been poisoned, and that defeat in the only cure.