From the moment Donald Trump came down that escalator in June 2015, the Republican Party has acted in ways I never imagined possible.
I grew up in a Republican family, I registered as a Republican as soon as I was able to at 18 years old, and I have voted Republican ever since, which is now more than a decade. Admittedly, that’s a short time period — but it’s a lifetime for me. I felt emotionally connected to the Republican Party, and more of my identity than I ever realized was tied to being a Republican. I have always been proud to belong to the party that started with Abraham Lincoln.
And so I was as shocked as anyone else when I voted against the Republican nominee in 2016 to vote third-party instead. It was the first time I had ever voted against a Republican candidate in my life.
The last three years have been profoundly distressing. Trump’s first primary victory; Trump’s nomination; people I respected and admired defending or dismissing unacceptable behavior; Roy Moore’s nomination and apparatuses of the national party fundraising for him — all because he had an “R” after his name; the embrace of Russia and then North Korea. And now, both Corey Stewart’s victory and Mark Sanford’s loss last night.
People can argue these people don’t represent the Republican Party, but these are the people the Republicans have chosen to represent them.
Congratulations to Corey Stewart for his great victory for Senator from Virginia. Now he runs against a total stiff, Tim Kaine, who is weak on crime and borders, and wants to raise your taxes through the roof. Don’t underestimate Corey, a major chance of winning!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
It feels as though the party of Lincoln is forever tainted and as if it does not matter if this is a blip in the party’s history or if the party reverses itself in a year or two — there will always be an asterisk next to the Republican Party*.
* Was willing to overlook unacceptable and reprehensible behavior
* Was willing to nominate neo-Confederates and to tolerate the alt-right
* Was willing to support and defend corrupt and cruel people like Joe Arpaio and David Clarke
And that’s why I just don’t have the pride, passion, and excitement about the party as I once did.
I know the Republican Party is full of good people who want America to succeed. But it’s not just personal issues; it’s the policies, too. The Republican Party no longer seems to champion the policies that once attracted me to the Republican Party in the first place, as a proponent of limited government.
Polls and recent events make clear that Republican stances on free trade and free markets are unpredictable; that Republicans no longer encourage limited government; that Republicans view countries that murder journalists and their own citizens positively if Trump does; and that Republicans support picking winners and losers, among other changes. Moreover, Republican leadership seems reluctant to say otherwise for fear they’ll be forced out of the Republican Party entirely, which raises the question: Is the Republican Party’s loyalty to its principles and the Constitution or to Donald Trump?
Meanwhile, the leader of the party is a person who supports government-sanctioned theft from its citizens in the form of civil asset forfeiture; who uses the power of his office to intimidate Americans into obedience and to punish political speech he deems offensive; who is untrustworthy with confidential or classified information and careless with national security; and who treats the executive branch as though it wields absolute power, rather than being co-equal (at minimum) to the other two branches.
It’s also disheartening to see some on the Right accepting hypocrisy and inconsistency as long as it can be used as a tool against the Left. Some on the Right act as though the Republican Party only exists to own the libs and to melt the snowflakes. Civil discussions and debates have fallen by the wayside to focus on composing bumper sticker slogan tweets to gain as many retweets as possible, while compromises to find acceptable solutions that ensure American prosperity seem less important than quote-tweets dunking on the other side.
Meanwhile, Democrat, liberal, or progressive policies don’t represent me, either. I cannot vote for policies with which I do not agree, that will increase the size and scope of the government, that do not actually provide solutions to issues, and that I believe ultimately hurt America and her people. And it’s not just Republicans who are failing to focus on substance, acting inconsistently, or willing to tolerate hypocrisy from their side; the Democrat Party is guilty of this as well.
But I’m harder on the Republican Party because I expected it to be better than the Democrats. There was a reason I didn’t join the Democrat Party; there is a reason I’m still not registered as a Democrat. I thought many Democrat policies were bad for America, and I loathed the intolerance I saw happening on the Left, the constant boycotts to beat dissenters into “agreement,” and the willingness to play the victim and to ascribe the worst intentions to any who disagreed. I always saw the Republican Party as rising above that, being the adult in the room, stating unpopular truths, and setting an example.
But now, the party of personal responsibility blames the Left for its own willingness to throw temper tantrums, to tolerate unacceptable behavior, and to engage in the same behavior for which it criticized the Left just a few years ago. Yet no one forced the base to nominate people like Corey Stewart or Roy Moore.
Trump’s takeover of the GOP can no longer be considered a hostile takeover. The GOP is the party of Trump because it chose to be the party of Trump.
And in doing so, it turned a blind eye to denigrating Gold Star families and prisoners of war who’d served their country; to treating women as objects; to cheating on multiple spouses (at least one of whom was either pregnant or at home with a newborn at the time); to refusing to denounce the alt-right; to brushing off concentration camps and state-sponsored murder; to damaging our institutions to a dangerous degree; to alienating our allies; to using the power of the presidential office to intimidate, among other issues.
I’m still a conservative. I still believe in limited government, in the free market, in free trade, in the Constitution, in individual choice and liberty. And I’ll still vote for Republicans I believe in. I’ll even keep hoping for a Republican Party I can believe in. But with every day, that seems less and less likely to happen.
In October 2016, then-Republican activist Marybeth Glenn warned the Republican Party: “I’m just one woman, you won’t even notice my lack of presence at rallies, fair booths, etc… But one by one you’ll watch more women like me go, and you’ll watch men of actual character follow us out the door. And what you’ll be left with are the corrupt masses… And when it’s all said and done, all you’ll have left is the party the Left always accused you of being.”
Attached to them as well. And when it’s all said and done, all you’ll have left is the party The Left always accused you of being. Scum. 17/
— Marybeth Glenn (@MBGlenn) October 11, 2016
I believe the Republican Party can be saved. But if it instead becomes a party of neo-Confederates, the alt-right, and actual pimps, don’t ask how that could have happened.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.