Back in January of this year, Gallup published their latest survey of Americans' political party affiliations. The poll showed a "record high" affiliation of "Independent". 42% of Americans now claim to be independent of party affiliation. The GOP has seen a steady decline from a high around 34% in 2004, down to 25% this year. The Democrats have not been immune from a drop either, although their numbers have been fairly flat since 1988...but even they have dropped from a high around 36% in 2008 down to 31% today. It is not clear what is behind the dramatic increase in Independents...some have blamed much of the GOP drop on millennials who now refuse to affiliate with an individual party. The drop in the Democrats and GOP would have to be related to a dissatisfaction with the parties' beliefs, principles, etc. And that is where I am today
I've voted for third-party Presidential candidates twice in my life. In 1980, I voted for John Anderson. I was a mush-brained freshman in college at the time and was heavily influenced by my rather liberal grandfather who I loved and respected (God rest his soul). I had just registered for the draft and was terrified that Ronald Reagan would get us all killed in a war. Of course history shows a far different result from Reagan. In 1992, after having children and adopting a far more conservative POV, I voted for Ross Perot because I despised George HW Bush's non-conservative moves as POTUS. And in 1998, I even voted for a Democrat...Glenn Poshard, for Governor of Illinois, against George Ryan, and in retrospect that was absolutely the right vote.
At some point during the Clinton presidency I became a staunch conservative. In 2000, I voted for and was thrilled to see George Bush elected over Algore. I listened to Rush Limbaugh, read his books, listened to and read other political pieces and became a very strong social conservative through my growth as a Christian. While there were certainly things that George W Bush did as POTUS that were not particularly conservative, for the most part he acted in the best interest of the country. As I watched the election season unfold in 2008, it was patently obvious that Barack Obama was a dangerous candidate who was a far-left idealogue. I remember commenting to that effect on the Redstate comment threads and stating at the time that I would have far preferred Hillary Clinton as a candidate over Obama. Unfortunately, the GOP's multiple personality disorder kicked in and the last man standing in 2008 was John McCain...but like a good soldier, I supported him (and I was much more excited to do so with Sarah Palin as the VP candidate). In 2012 the GOP had another lineup of dwarves as primary candidates, but the "next in line" was Romney, and again I got on the bandwagon and was fully invested in Mitt. However, it was obvious even before the election that running a rich white guy was just not going to work. And it didn't
So I am no stranger to independent thought at the ballot box, despite a fairly long run as an avowed Republican. But now, in 2014, I find myself in a very similar position as in my 3rd party years, although rather than being a man without a candidate, I am a man without a party.
I haven't particularly liked what I've seen from the GOP for at least 10 years now, but I stayed in the game. But the events of the past several months have changed my mind. I have become convinced that the GOP may have reached the point of no return. The party is more beholden than ever to the donor class and the party "leadership" is interested in nothing but retaining their own personal power positions. "Leaders" such as Mitch McConnell and John Boehner have nothing but disdain for conservatives. There are a few good ones, such as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Bobby Jindal and some others, but they are few and far between. And those individuals have not been able to move the leadership. The lies, deceit, election games (see: MS Senate primary), and disrespect for the party's base have become more than I can handle.
There is much talk of the GOP's "brand". Some believe that the brand has been tarnished by things such as the government shutdown. But I believe the brand has been damaged by a failure of the party to be conservative. Party leaders kow-tow to big business and the Chamber of Commerce. They spit in the faces of the conservatives of the Tea Party. They conspire in the background to pass legislation such as tax increases and immigration "reform" while ignoring their own party members. They love nothing but money and power. The GOP leadership detests conservatives...and we detest them.
Is there a way to reverse this? Sure. First off, the leadership must go. Boehner, McConnell, and now McCarthy, must either be defeated or removed from leadership. And I'm afraid it'll never happen, especially if we just depend on the entrenched career Republicans in the House and Senate. Yes, Cantor was defeated (by his own constituents!), but now we have McCarthy, who at least on the surface appears to be even worse than Cantor. The GOP members of the House are co-conspirators in this - they failed to support a conservative alternative. Again, they caved...unsurprising, since their track record on caving is so long and storied that no one should be surprised - they should be referred to as the Spelunker Party rather than Republicans. McConnell won his primary and in the process antagonized Tea Partiers and conservatives everywhere by stating they would "crush" the Tea Party. And now the punks in the RNSC and cronies like Haley Barbour led a campaign to denigrate a member of their own Republican party and recruited Democrats to vote for Cochran as part of their efforts to return cardboard cutout Senator Thad Cochran to office. Repulsive.
And that's the end of my tenure as a supporter of the GOP.
I have no desire to claim affiliation with a party that has no interest in acting in the interest of its core constituents. If they want to kiss the butts of the donor class and line the pockets of the members of the US Chamber of Commerce, they can do it without me. Until there is some sign that the GOP is willing to jettison the establishment lifetime Republican politicians in favor of those who seek to represent conservative values, I'll sit at the sideline and wait. If the GOP wants to continue to appoint squishes like McCarthy to leadership, they can do it without my support. Now I'm just one vote, but I suspect that my attitude is reflected by many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of fellow conservatives.
I'm not saying anyone else should follow suit here. If you believe that the GOP is worth supporting with its current leadership and philosophy, my best to you. If a conservative candidate appears next to an "R" box on the ballot, I'll vote for them. But if a Thad Cochran or Mitch McConnell type appears next to the "R", I'll either vote for no one or I'll write in a name of some random individual from the phone book. I doubt I'd ever vote for a Democrat, but if another 1998 comes up where the Dem is more conservative than the GOP alternative (a scenario I once thought was impossible, but now I'm not so sure.), I'll vote "D".
All that said, I'll be happy to return to the Republican fold if and when the GOP shows some willingness to change and dedicate itself to conservatism. But for now, I'm (again) an independent. And I'm not leaving the party...the party left me.