Today, I quit the Republican party.
This decision had been brewing for a while, but after taking a week to absorb the reality that Donald Trump is going to be the GOP nominee for President this year, I decided it was time.
The roots of this decision go back to Election Day 2012. Vanessa and I got up that morning as undecided voters. This was very unusual for us. We are not usually undecided when it comes to politics, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to commit to either President Obama or Mitt Romney. Since we live in a solidly red state where our vote doesn’t really matter, we decided together to vote for the one candidate whom we actually agreed with on most issues. It was the first time I didn’t vote for the Republican nominee for President. I voted my conscious instead, which meant I voted for Gary Johnson. And there hasn’t been a day since that I’ve regretted it.
I am a believer in limited government. I’ve grown to detest American interventionism around the world. I generally think people should be left alone to do their own thing with their lives and their money. But I also think there is a role for government to play in solving real problems that exist in our country.
This tended to be the Republican party I remember. But it’s not the Republican party of today.
I was a kid in the 80s. I don’t remember Jimmy Carter, but I do remember Ronald Reagan – fondly. He was a flawed President; I understand that now. But I loved him as a kid, and I love him now. He brought an optimism that I think helped to transform the country for the better.
Republican politics today is not optimistic. It divides people. It wrings its hands. It does the same fear-mongering and doom-and-gloom that used to be found primarily on the other side of the aisle. Racism, sexism, bigotry, and homophobia are not optimistic. Neither is the coarseness and incivility that has characterized so many campaigns lately.
I want optimism. I choose optimism.
When I was a teenager, I had two magazine subscriptions – Sports Illustrated and National Review. I devoured books like the Conscience of a Conservative and To Renew America. I attended Teenage Republican School at Sienna College in Albany NY where I interacted with other young Republicans and dreamed of the future. I owned a copy of the Contract with America and had an autographed picture of Newt Gingrich on my wall – long before any of you had ever heard of him.
The Republican party used to offer creative solutions to real problems. Jack Kemp came up with Free Enterprise Zones to help revitalize American cities. School vouchers were designed to make better education available to low income families. In the 90s, Republicans were coming up with ideas to address even typically liberal issues like caring for the environment and health care.
But now? Now Republicans are obsessed with what bathrooms people use. They think the future of the country depends on who marries whom. Their most creative ideas to the problems the country faces are slogans not solutions. “Drill, baby, drill” is not a creative solution. Neither is building a wall.
I want creative solutions to real problems. I choose creative solutions to real problems.
In the early 2000s, I voted for George W. Bush. Twice. At first, I was drawn to his campaign promise to privatize social security – a creative solution to a real problem. I also liked the idea of “compassionate conservatism,” a recognition (in theory, anyway) that our policies – especially economic policies – need to work for all people.
And I also believed President Bush about Iraq – not the WMD part, everyone was saying the very same thing he did about WMDs. I was drawn to the part about creating a foothold for democracy in the Middle East that could serve as a model for other countries. The problem was that we weren’t building a democracy in Iraq; we were building an empire. When empires get built, innocent people get trampled while defense contractors get rich.
I don’t want an America that ignorantly throws her weight around the world, enriching the already powerful and further harming the already-oppressed. If that’s what we’re going to do, I’d prefer we just mind our own business.
I want peace. I chose peace.
Truth be told, I don’t like Donald Trump. I don’t like the establishment either. I don’t like the religious zealots using the Republican party to further their theonomist cultural agenda. I don’t like old white guys who have been in power forever. I don’t like boring bureaucrats who care more about getting reelected than solving problems.
And that is what the Republican party has become.
The Republican party is no longer the party that captured my imagination as teenager. It’s no longer the party of Ronald Reagan or William F. Buckley or even Jack Kemp.
And it’s no longer the party for me.