I joined the GOP when I turned 18, just weeks after Ronald Reagan’s re-election. Since I was unable to vote in that race, I accompanied one of my conservative friends to the polling place as a kind of silent vote. I had become a big Reagan fan in high school and began learning more about conservatism through Goldwater, various books on the Cold War, and National Review. (That made me quite the hit with the ladies, as you might imagine.)
These early studies of policy, patriotism, and civic virtue led me to enlist in the US Navy and, once I got to college, challenge my ex-hippie professors. For years I voted along party lines, donated to Republican candidates, and volunteered for their campaigns. I was proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, and, of course, Ronaldus Magnus. Even when Bush Sr. raised taxes, some GOP congressman floated bizarre conspiracy theories about Clinton, and Tom DeLay’s House spent us into oblivion, I still identified with the party’s higher ideals. Limited government. Peace through strength. Personal freedom.
Nominees like Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney were all way down on my list of preferred primary candidates. (Both Bushes were as well, come to think of it.) But considering the odious Democrats running against them, I voted for the half-a-loaf GOP standard bearer.
But today, after an acrimonious intraparty trench war, I see the GOP as defined less by Reagan and more by Trump. Obviously, a large number of his voters agree. I don’t need to bore you with a catalog of Trump’s personal and policy failures. What’s most distasteful is his contempt for the history and underlying structures of our republic. Ignoring the Constitution while promising easy fixes by a strongman. The majoritarian rule of the “democratic” mob. The base appeals to tribalism.
So the night of the Indiana primary, when Ted Cruz suspended his campaign and Trump’s nomination gained nearly unstoppable momentum, I wondered if the GOP represented me any longer. I obviously was out-of-step with the plurality of its voters and directly opposed to the party’s new leader. I considered waiting until Trump’s nomination was official at the convention, but figured that would merely add two months to the grieving process. Why draw out the disappointment when I could just pull off the Band-Aid and get it over with?
One person changing his party affiliation will make few if any waves among the cubicles at the RNC. But if thousands made a similar decision, I figured it would send a message to Reince Priebus, et al. Maybe over the next month, we’ll see how the party rolls changed.
So, as of Tuesday, May 3, I am an independent voter. I no longer feel the need to champion the GOP’s myriad flawed candidates or spin their horrible decisions once elected. And, although it was rather sad to leave the party of my youth, it’s liberating not to be burdened with their metric ton of bad decisions.