President Ronald Reagan famously said of his evolution from New Deal Democrat to supply-side Republican, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me." In this year that has seen Hillary Clinton-campaign donor & racist/sexist demagogue Donald Trump capture the G.O.P. presidential nomination, I echo Reagan's words, with a heavy heart: I didn't leave the Republican Party. The party left me.
I have long considered myself a Republican, proud of the party's lineage, from Abraham Lincoln (president 1861-1865) to Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) to the aforementioned Ronald Reagan (1981-1989). As a kid, I was impressed by the Republicans' strong stance against first Communism & then Saddam Hussein's territorial expansion, reversed by the George Bush-led (1989-1993) Gulf War of 1991. Throughout the '90s, I was dismayed by the Democrats' malign neglect of the post-Cold War world, as well as President Clinton's toxic immorality. In 2000, always being a foreign policy hawk, I support Senator John McCain over Govern George W. Bush in the Republican primaries, & I chuckled when Michigan governor John Engler was unable to fulfill his pledge of delivery Michigan for Bush the younger. After 9/11, I was surprised by pleased by Bush's transformation from a dovish isolationist to a hawkish interventionist. (No one is pleased with how the Iraq War was conducted, but that does not mean that deposing Saddam & attempting to construct a representative democracy, a first for a predominantly Arab country, was a misbegotten idea.) I support the welfare reform & budgetary hawkishness that came to the fore after the Republican Revolution of the '90s, & after the fact, once I was old enough to understand, I supported President Reagan's breaking of the air-traffic controllers' strike & attempts to reform Social Security. Free trade, as part & parcel of economic liberalism, is one of the pillars of the post-World War II international order that has delivery more prosperity & security to more persons in more (& more varied) nations than at any other time in human history, & the Republican party understood this far better than the Democrats, beholden as they are to trade unionists like the U.A.W. & the S.E.I.U. The Grand Old Party was never perfect, but in the broad national consensus of American's remarkably stable two-party politics it was right on more issues more often than the opposition Democrats. In my youth, I was pro-abortion (the label "pro-choice" is risible), but only because I'd never thought about the issue; I held that lamentable position because I bought into the lie that all smart persons hewed to that line. As soon I as put five second of thought into the issue, years before my conversion began & I truly came to know the Lord, I concluded that without the right to life, if I child can be dismembered in the womb on a whim, then no other rights matter. I am pro-life, a position much better represented by the Republicans than the Democrats, who increasingly embrace that multiple popes have called "the culture of death."
Now, I no longer call myself a Republican. I cannot in good conscience belong to a party that is represented by Donald Trump, a boorish, poor man's Mussolini. Even if Trump was not a racist bigot, which he is; even if he was not a sexist oaf, which he is; even if he was capable of conducting himself with a modicum of human decency, which he is not; I would still oppose him for his support for murdering innocent civilians (if through no fault of their own they happen to be related the terrorists), his threats to withdraw from the N.A.T.O. mutual-defense alliance & fawning love for Vladimir Putin, his economic illiteracy & opposition to free trade, & a dozen other reasons. The Trump campaign is a perfect storm: even if I agreed with the man's policies, which I do not, I am repulsed by his personality; even if I could stomach the man's personality, which I cannot, I am opposed to his policies.
The proximal inspiration for this post is a phone call I fielded from the National Republican Congressional Campaign, asking for a donation. I replied that I was no longer a Republican, that I could not be a member of a party headed by Mr. Trump. The young fellow on the found countered that Trump was the people's choice, having won the nomination through the primary process. I replied that this was exactly why I am not a Republican, because I cannot stand in common cause with a party (& a party is not its executive committees, a part is its membership) that supports Trump. I would struggle with my allegiance to the G.O.P. banner if Trump (whose largest-ever political donation was to the Democratic congressional campaign in '06; Trump's money helped make Representative Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House) had been chosen in a rigged convention, through an old-fashioned backroom deal, because that would mean the party's principals had betrayed the party's principles. Instead, Trump was the choice of the plurality of Republican primary voters, which means that at least a plurality if not an outright majority of self-identified republicans no longer agree with the platform of the Republican Party. I still support the Republican platform; but Donald J. Trump does not, & his voters do not. I cannot make common cause with those people anymore than than I can in good conscience make common cause with the Democrats.
I didn't leave the Republican Party. The party left me. Being a Republican was an important part of my self-identity since I was a teenager; so, what now? What do I stand for now that I am no longer a Republican? I stand for the same things for which I always stood. I am sympathetic to the nihilist Millennial declaration, "Nobody for president!," but I will still be voting on 8 November, since voting is the civic responsibility of every conscientious citizen (& for Catholics, a religious duty: U.S.C.C.B.-link). For whom will I be voting? That is another post entirely. For the nonce, this shall have to suffice: