Today, I joined the Libertarian Party. The screenshot of my signup can be found above. For the first time since 1984, I no longer identify as a Republican.
Making this decision was wrenching, much like saying goodbye to an old friend who has been twisted and perverted into something and someone unrecognizable. The 1980 presidential election was the first one that I was conscious of, and that year, I thought that with all of the problems America was facing, it was best to maintain some level of continuity and order, and re-elect Jimmy Carter (in my defense, I was eight years old and immature). In 1984, I avidly followed political events and avidly supported Ronald Reagan’s re-election. The only thing wrong with the 1984 election was that I couldn’t vote in it, but as far as I am concerned, everything else went just fine. My attitude regarding the outcome of the 1984 election might have been summarized by Edith Piaff; je ne regrette rien. Reagan was a titanic figure who achieved titanic things. By no means was he perfect, but his legacy reminds us of an age when giants walked amongst us.
In 1988, despite my disappointment that Bob Dole was not the Republican presidential nominee, I found that I could support George H.W. Bush–who turned out to be the most underrated and one of the best presidents in American history–and in 1992, I proudly cast my first presidential vote in favor of the elder Bush’s re-election. It was and remains the best presidential vote I have cast in my life, and I did it in favor of a president who oversaw and helped bring about the peaceful end of the Cold War, the peaceful reunification of Germany, the ouster of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, the defeat of reactionary forces in the Soviet Union who wanted to oust Mikhail Gorbachev from power, the end of the Soviet Union itself(!), and the initiation of peace talks between Israel and the Arab world. The tide of history was with America, and it was being managed prudently–indeed, brilliantly–by a Republican president of the United States and the best foreign policy team ever to serve any administration in my lifetime.
And in 2016, the Republican party–the same one that nominated Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge, and Dwight Eisenhower, and Gerald Ford, and Reagan and Bush–has given us Donald Trump.
Yes, yes, I know; there were 962,483 other Republicans running for president and the vote got divided. Yes, yes, I know; Trump got only 40% of the vote in the race for the Republican nomination. Yes, yes, I know; #NeverTrump continues to exist, and there are plenty of principled and decent Republicans–Mitt Romney, Ben Sasse and the members of the Bush family (who continue to put principle and country above party and self-aggrandizement), among others–who have stated that under no circumstances will they vote for Donald Trump. That is all wonderful, and as far as I am concerned, all glory to these and other Republicans who refuse to support Donald Trump.
But there are plenty who are already beginning to sell out. A number of them are listed here. More, doubtless, will follow. To put matters bluntly, these people are not patriots. They are not decent human beings. They are willing to cast aside any principles they may have ever had in order to lend their time, talents and experience to a campaign and a candidate that are entirely beneath anything and everything that America has ever stood for. Americans seek hope. Donald Trump and his campaign offer fear. Americans seek fellowship. Donald Trump and his campaign offer hatred. Americans seek maturity. Donald Trump and his campaign offer childishness. Americans seek nobility of character. Donald Trump and his campaign offer baseness and meanness. Americans stand up for the powerless. Donald Trump and his campaign bully, insult and threaten all whom they perceive as enemies.
It is bad enough to see the nominee of my former (it is painful to write that) party abandon and annihilate the principles that made my former party great. It is even worse to see other Republicans sign up to help. It would have been one thing if Trump had won the nomination and then was forced to fight the general election contest alone, as other Republicans, horrified by the sheer un-American nature of his campaign, stood back honorably and allowed him to destroy himself. But it is quite another to see other Republicans offer to help Trump carry out his mission to take a wrecking ball to the American constitutional order. Benjamin Franklin’s words continue to ring in my ears; it is only a republic if we can keep it. And if Donald Trump is president, we may very well not keep it.
Donald Trump is evil towards women. He is evil towards disabled people who have the temerity to oppose him. He is evil towards journalists who have the temerity to state that he may not be as rich as he claims to be. He is evil towards journalists who find any fault with him whatsoever. He is evil towards Hispanics and Latinos. He is evil towards the entire country of Mexico. He is evil towards those persecuted by Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un. He is evil towards facts, truth, knowledge, reality, and all who hold facts, truth, knowledge and reality dear. He is evil towards law, the law-abiding, and those who venerate the laws that make us a free and just people. He is evil towards free speech and those who fight to keep speech free. He is evil towards African-Americans. He is evil towards Muslims (it is worth remembering that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush, who could have made oodles of political hay by making scapegoats out of Muslims, instead stepped shoeless into a mosque and proclaimed that Muslims are not the enemies of the American people. Trump has no such sense of farsightedness or honor). By saying and doing nothing whatsoever while his online horde of mouth-breathing anti-Semites harass and threaten Jews online, he is evil towards Jewish people. And he will be evil towards a whole host of other people too. Just you wait. As Macbeth might have put it, there are tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows that await us, and each tomorrow for at least the next 5 and a half months promises to bring us new depths of Trumpian awfulness. Note the words “at least” in that last sentence; if we do not rally ourselves to face and defeat the Extinction Level Event to the Republic that is Donald Trump and his campaign, we will have to put up with four years–and perhaps eight–of unimaginable damage done to the American political and social order.
And Republicans have signed on to support this nation-destroying garbage. Rick Perry, who once called Trump “a cancer on conservatism” has now stated that he is willing to be Trump’s vice president, or a member of Trump’s cabinet. Bobby Jindal–a Rhodes scholar, mind you–has put his considerable intelligence in deep freeze and has announced his support of Donald Trump. Reince Priebus–the worst chairman the Republican party has ever had to suffer at its helm–never once said a word against Trump or his garbage pronouncements, even as Trump threatened the Republican party and its prospects by stating that he would run a third party candidacy unless people were “nice” to him. And on, and on, and on.
Perhaps if the Republican party experiences the electoral disaster it so surely deserves to experience this November, the Trumpian fever will break and sanity will return to the Republican party, thus allowing the GOP to return to being the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Bush. But even that hope may be a hope too far; as others have pointed out, the apotheosis of Donald Trump means the elevation of Trumpkins to positions of responsibility and leadership in the Republican party. These people-resembling-affronts-to-humanity will shape the nature of the Republican party for years to come, allowing Trumpism to survive in some form for at least some while, even if Trump goes down to the catastrophic defeat he so richly merits this November. Returning the Republican party to some level of intellectual and moral normalcy will take years and years and years. And while I am willing to do my part to make the party of Trump the party of Lincoln, Reagan and Bush once again, I am no longer willing to identify as a Republican until the Republican party is no longer a Trumpian monstrosity.
The Libertarian Party demands that its members pledge not to support the use of force in order to achieve political and social goals. Given that all parties (including the Libertarian Party) use some form of force in order to achieve political and social goals–even if that “force” manifests itself as soft power in the normal political give-and-take–taking such a pledge is a banal gesture. I pledged as the party requested, but my political stances and actions will not be dictated by my filling of a checkbox on a website. I will continue to support the judicious use of force in the furtherance of American interests as my intellect and conscience dictate and as the facts demand, and I am sure that the Libertarian Party will be perfectly happy to accept my membership as long as I pay my dues.
As for this year’s presidential race, it may be expected that as a newfound member of the Libertarian Party, I will support the ticket of Gary Johnson and William Weld, should the two be nominated by the party for the presidency and vice presidency of the United States. To be sure, the Johnson/Weld ticket promises to be much, much, much closer to my political preferences than will be the Trump/Slightly Less Appalling Sidekick ticket, or the Clinton/[INSERT NAME OF BERNIE BRO PACIFIER HERE] ticket could ever hope to be. But Johnson/Weld will only get my vote if (a) I perceive that it has a chance to win, or (b) I perceive that by voting for the Johnson/Weld ticket, even if the ticket loses, I will not inadvertently bring about a Trump victory. Put another way: The most important electoral mission in my mind is to bring about the complete, certain, total, absolute, catastrophic, earth-shattering, Carthaginian peace-inducing annihilation of the Trump campaign and of the Republican party apparatus that has sold out any sense of honor that it may have once had in order to support Trump. All other considerations are secondary.
I have mentioned Reagan a number of times in this post. I shall mention him again, here at the end. When asked why he switched from being a New Deal Democrat to a Republican, the eventual 40th president of the United States said “I didn’t leave the Democratic party. The Democratic party left me.”
I read about that quote nearly two decades ago. I have sometimes wondered since then what it would feel like to have a political party leave you.
I wonder no more. It has happened to me.