The Party Left Me

For as long as I can remember, I was always center-right on the political spectrum. My earliest political memory was disliking John Kerry in the 2004 Presidential election and being upset that John McCain lost to Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election. Throughout my adolescence I lamented the fact that New York was not a Republican stronghold, and I admired figures like Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher. Although I was always progressive on social issues such as LGBT rights or race, I was a conservative through-and-through on fiscal issues, foreign policy, as well as crime and justice. This reached its high point when in high school I served as the President of the Young Republican Club, this being at the height of the Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street, perhaps a prelude to what America would transform into just less than five years later. Several events after that point led to my abandonment of the political party that I identified with and hurled me into a political wilderness.

On November 6, 2012, I was able to vote for the first time in my life. It was my eighteenth birthday, my first year in college, and as I was filling out my ballot, I was confident about my choice. Mitt Romney was the Republican nominee, a bona fide center-right candidate who appealed to my moderate sensibilities. His fiscal policies were conservative, with lower taxes and responsible government spending. The economic recovery was slow, and while I respected Barack Obama for trying to help the country, I thought Romney was the better choice. I was not an Ohio or Iowa or Florida voter, but I thought that my vote should still count, even in a state as blue as any could get. Romney survived an onslaught of Tea Party politicians in Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, and libertarian Ron Paul. His businessman demeanor and looks reminded me of the old Rockefeller Republicans, and his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts made him an appealing choice to a fellow northeasterner, who held similar values. Although he was largely quiet on social issues, he was not the arch-social conservative that people feared would win the nomination.

When Romney lost the electoral vote and the popular vote that night, I was surprised. Although I was disappointed that my preferred candidate lost, at least I knew that President Obama would remain a faithful public servant in his second term. My initial dislike of him as an adolescent was gone, and upon seeing the conspiracy theories about his birthplace, his college transcripts, and bizarre claims of connections to George Soros, I began to move away from the Republican Party. Rather than embrace what made Mitt Romney the most viable challenger to Barack Obama, they instead embraced the far-right. Congressional Republicans obstructed the re-elected President in every way possible, and their embrace of radicals such as Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, and others disheartened me. In 2014, I interned for my first of three political campaigns, the re-election of Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop. Although I did not hold any special position besides making phone calls or knocking on doors, it was a reaction of sorts to the direction the Republican Party was going. I wanted no part in the Tea Party’s rise to prominence. The election obviously saw different results, the Republicans expanding their majority in the House and winning control over the Senate. The 2016 Presidential elections were next, and while I still voted for Republicans at the local level, the last national Republican I voted for was still Mitt Romney. One would think that after a good performance in 2012 that he would run again in 2016 against a flawed candidate like Hillary Clinton, but he chose not to. Some moderates in the same vein as Romney did run, like John Kasich, George Pataki, and Jeb Bush, but they lacked the name recognition and popularity of the former candidate. I assumed that it would be another dud, a Bush v. Clinton race once again, but then in 2015, Donald Trump announced he was running for President of the United States.

He stood against everything I believed in. Trump was crass, unpresidential, and not to mention a bigot. His comments about Megyn Kelly were shocking, as were his denigrating speeches about Muslims, Latin Americans and Hispanics, and African-Americans. His desire to build a wall was reminiscent of other historic examples such as the Great Wall of China or the Berlin Wall, both of which failed. He constantly villainized entire groups of people, a religion consisting of nearly a fifth of the world’s population and spread the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not an American. When Trump further urged his supporters at rallies to beat up protesters, I was disgusted. Perhaps the worst was denigrating veterans like John McCain, who served as a POW in Vietnam. To top it all off, his Access Hollywood tape further degrading women and later the nearly nineteen accusers spoke to his character. These values were not my values. I voted for John Kasich in the New York primary, but when Trump won the nomination I decided to vote for Hillary Clinton, which was simply a vote against the so-called Republican candidate. When he won, I decided to register as a Democrat. Although I was hardly a liberal, I could not be a member of the same party as a man who judges people based on their race or gender, rather than their character.

Since then, Trump has only affirmed those feelings. His attempt to ban transgender people from the military, the passage of a flawed tax plan, his three attempts to push through a Muslim travel ban, his refusal to fix Obamacare, his conflation of white supremacists being equal to those who protest Nazis marching in the streets, his support of keeping up statues of Confederate leaders, his lack of knowledge of American history, his rash and emotion-based foreign policy, and not to mention his obstruction of justice in the Russia investigation as well as even more accusers coming out against him have only confirmed my views. The steady growth of support among Congressional Republicans has led me to decide for the time being not to vote again for another Republican at any level, until Trump resigns, is removed, or is voted out of office. Although I still hold to my fiscal conservatism and hope for a balanced budget, the Republican Party no longer represents my values of equality of the races, equal treatment for LGBT people, and equal treatment of men and women. Some of my views have changed over the years, but for the most part they have been constant. In 1962, actor Ronald Reagan announced that he left the Democratic Party. He said that “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the party left me.” In that same sense, I must say that I did not leave the Republican Party, the party left me.

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