I first contemplated leaving the Republican Party on 8 June, 2015, when the Virginia Republicans made it clear they prefer tax hikes and easy rhetoric to spending cuts and the difficult work of convincing their fellow Virginians to reduce government’s size, scope, and cost. Over the last eleven months, I have watched the party at the national, state, and local levels. The data is clear; the Republican Party and I are no longer compatible.
Many will presume that Donald Trump is the reason why I say this, and they wouldn’t be completely wrong. Trump’s nomination for president (assured in the absence of an opponent) was indeed the straw that broke the camel’s back, but there was plenty of other straw involved.
Most Republicans will simply back the nominee, convinced that Hillary Clinton is worse and unable to see past two options. Many will respond to the Trump nomination with the same binary blinders, but hope Clinton wins, so they can go back and attempt to re-orient the Republican Party. A few will do this publicly, most will cynically back Trump in public while hoping he loses in private. Again, however, this assumes Trump is the cause, where in fact he is merely the symptom of the disease.
Yes, I said “disease,” for the Republican Party is sick. It is racked with tribalism, and in no uncertain terms, it has refused the cure. For me, Trump is merely a reflection of his voters, who have revealed themselves to be just fine with Big Government, so long as it helps them and people like them. These voters have ensured that the Republican Party is no longer the party of limited government and lower taxes (if it ever was). It is now, without a doubt, the Other Party of Big Government.
The Republican Party will now present a TARP-backer to voters for the third consecutive time. It is a party that will gladly scream about food stamps without touching the Pitchfork Corporatism that rose food prices, driving the demand for aid in the first place. It is a party now led by a man who would use the IRS to punish business practices he does not like, while taxing the poor to upend imports. It is a party that has chosen to see the nation’s changing demographics not as an opportunity to reform and reduce entitlements by explaining the issue to the young and diverse workforce that must pay for them, but as a threat to the older and far, far whiter recipients of them.
Lest you think the problem is just at the national level, look here in Virginia. I have seen Republican officials bloviate on social issues to hide their economic gluttony for far too long. The GOP-led House of Delegates did more to fight same-sex marriage than same-party tax hikes (indeed, Virginia Republicans have enacted three tax increases in the last twelve years). Indeed, just this spring, they rejected a tax cut presented by Terry McAuliffe – of all people. That’s right, folks, Virginia Democrats are now friendlier to the taxpayer than Virginia Republicans.
Just next door, we saw something even more cynical. Instead of attempting to make the case against minimum wage increases in certain localities (something a freshman-level economics undergrad could do), the party in North Carolina chose to tack it onto the infamous “bathroom bill” in the hope that it could ride a wave of anti-transgender rage. That the tactic appears to be as unsuccessful (the Tarheel State is poised for a Democratic sweep this fall) makes it no less cynical and dehumanizing.
Further down, at the local level, my former stomping grounds of Spotsylvania County inaugurated its first ever Republican-majority board of Supervisors (with two GOP endorsees to boot)…by enacting a property tax increase.
Amidst all of this, there has been the endless personal attacks across the party spectrum, ironically by factions calling each other “RINOs.” Why do I say “ironically?” Because the last eleven months revealed a shocking and painful lesson to me.
I was the RINO.
I was the one out of step with the party: on taxes, on spending, on LGBTQ rights (especially marriage equality), on trade, on corporatism, etc.
Well, no more. I don’t know what the future holds for the Republican Party (and even if I claimed I did, none of you would be foolish enough to believe me). Nor do I believe it to be a carbon-copy of the Democratic Party. Both major parties would damage the country, but the damage would be different. I do know that whatever the Republican Party does in the future, it will do it without calling me a member. Indeed, I am now so alienated from the Republican Party that I feel it is no longer fit for purpose as the American center-right choice, and needs to be replaced in its entirety with a new force genuinely dedicated to limited government.
I will not use the trope that the Republican Party “left me.” Parties don’t leave people. The members decide the priorities, and as individuals, we choose to stay or to go.
I’m choosing to go.
I will continue to advance the cause of limiting government’s size, scope, and cost. Since the Republican Party is no longer interested in those things, I will now do it outside the Party.
I am no longer a Republican.