Trump Is Why I Quit the Republican Party
I have always been good at spotting trends. Growing up with crazy parents, I learned to recognize the warning signs when either of them was about to engage in irrational behavior. It was a survival skill. That skill carried over into the rest of my life. For example, back in the late Eighties and early Nineties, every school district was investing heavily in Apple computers for their classrooms. I convinced my school district to start migrating to PCs instead. Teachers loved Apple products and with good reason. Apple had a superior product for education. But I could see that every district would soon need a main server that connected all classroom computers. And PCs were better positioned for that configuration. Following my advice saved the district a lot of money and put them ahead of the curve in the changeover that every school eventually had to make.
Now that Donald Trump is in control of gaining the Republican nomination for president, many Republicans are freaking out even worse than they were before Super Tuesday. As well they should. Long time party members are desperate to stop Trump, but they will fail. Their playbook is outdated, and the more they attack Trump, the more support they generate for him. Whether Trump wins or loses the nomination or the general election in November, the Republican Party, as it is constituted, is doomed. A victory by Trump will be the end of the current party elite. Most are on record as either being opposed to him or silent. Their last ditch attempts to stop him will fail or alienate large numbers of voters. Either way, Trump is well known for holding a grudge, and he will punish them severely. Sitting presidents wield a lot of power in a political party. That’s why Chris Christie jumped on the Trump bandwagon. He had nothing to lose since the elites already abandoned him for working alongside Obama after Hurricane Sandy. It’s partly that kind of petulance that made me quit the Republican Party many years ago.
If Trump loses, a more likely scenario, the extreme conservatives, possibly led by Ted Cruz, will revolt and try to seize control of the party. There is ample precedent for this. The Democratic Party tore itself apart in 1968. After the failures of the 1960 and 1976 campaigns, the Republican establishment was thrown out by Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, respectively. The 2016 blood bath will be even worse in my opinion. After 1964, Goldwater conservatives latched onto Reagan who had the patience, foresight, and bipartisan attitude that Goldwater himself lacked. Exhibit A is the 11th commandment that Reagan added to the tablets of Moses: “Thou shalt not attack fellow Republicans.” He adhered to that principle even as he starved the Rockefeller and John Lindsey wing of the party into irrelevance. It’s a lesson modern Republicans have abandoned.
They have also forgotten what Reagan understood and Bill Clinton copied. “It’s the economy, stupid.” Reagan made a devil’s bargain with Evangelical Christians for their tireless grass roots work and support. But his core support was founded on the votes of blue collar workers. He spoke their language, addressed their economic concerns, and they rewarded him for it with two terms and sainthood. He knew that jobs drove elections and his military budgets pumped trillions into the economy and everyone benefited. He threw the Christians a bone now and then, mostly through Supreme Court nominations, but in general, he avoided the culture war and obstructionism that has consumed modern conservatives. Reagan understood how to balance principles and politics in the same way as the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln. He was a pragmatist who understood the value of compromised action over stubborn inaction.
Today’s GOP insists on being the party of stupid. Some Republicans have recognized this and even coined the phrase. These reactionaries reject science, facts, and even their own principles in pursuit of power and ideological purity. Sure, they claim to put principles first like when trying to destroy the nation’s credit rating in order to downsize a government they themselves created. But they refuse to make the hard votes to cut middle class subsidies, end military adventures in nation building, or raise taxes on the one percent whose Kardashian lifestyles are buoyed by the lowest tax rate in history.
But it’s the betrayal of conservative principles that caused me to leave the party. I first saw it during Bush one’s presidency. Then Bush II shoved me out the door. Endless wars, massive debt, and economic collapse are just some of the consequences of neoconservative policy that ignored historical conservatism. They want a strong military not to protect us, but to attack other countries. These foreign entanglements are often in defense of both Israel and Saudi Arabia which is the very definition of futility. They want religious freedom but only for the “right religion.” They want limited government except when it comes to marriage, abortion, and the NSA. They want to cut the budget except for farm subsidies, military pork, and their own bloated government cocoons.
I left the party because they abandoned the middle class and have for most of the last forty years. The middle class has lost trillions of dollars in wealth since 1970. The rich have seen their wealth increase by the same amount. Coincidence? I don’t think so. The role of government in a free market is to ensure a level playing field and protect consumers. That way, winners and losers are based on merit not status. Republicans suck up to the rich and powerful and ignore those who put them in office in the first place. The party has been stunned repeatedly by voter support for Bill Clinton, Obama, Sanders, and now Trump. Voters usually vote with their pocketbooks. And party leaders are shocked by this. For decades, Republicans have used racism, gay marriage, abortion, and gun rights to gerrymander their way into power. And the people they got elected are usually dumber than rocks. Recent examples are Utah Senator Mike Lee, who is preventing funding from addressing the water crisis in Flint MI because he thinks it’s a local issue, or soon-to-be Texas school board member Mary Lou Bruner, who thinks evil spirits inhabit her IPad and that Obama was a gay prostitute.
Republicans convinced people in election after election that trusting their agenda would improve middle class life. And it hasn’t. So voters will continue to punish the GOP by supporting anybody who at least appears to address their economic concerns. Trump is not the first or the last false savior. History teaches us that bread and circuses triumphs over principles when all else is equal. A political party that breeds candidates like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz is just not one I can associate with. To do so would violate my conservative conscience. Hopefully, out of the ruins of 2016 will come a party I can be a part of. In the meantime, I’ll stick to independence.