I’m Out of the Republican Party

I am out of the Republican Party. With the rise of Donald Trump, the Republican Party has dumped the last vestiges of conservatism. Though party faithful scramble, spit and stutter to make the best of this intellectual disaster, it pains me to see so many otherwise reasonable people defending the indefensible. Mike Pence isn’t running for president. Trump’s kids aren’t running for president. Newt, Christie, Paul Ryan and other more reasonable Republicans aren’t the Republican nominee. It should tell us something that Trump’s defenders must point to people who support Trump rather than pointing to Trump himself.

So, I’m out of the Republican Party. I changed my state voter registration to unaffiliated. It’s way easy to do. You just re-register online with your county clerk and, instead of checking the “Republican” affiliation, you check the “unaffiliated” box. All it really means, practically speaking, is that I won’t be allowed to vote in state Republican primaries.

I’m a conservative first and a party member second or third. I vote for the person and the office. In Trump’s case, I can’t vote for either – I think he’s a horrible person and would bring disrepute to the office. I also appreciate intelligence and an understanding of history and policy – Trump is vapid and vacant on those counts.

There is no lesser of two evils in the choice before us. Both candidates are politically evil. I will not vote for one evil because I think the other is more evil – a candidate is either evil or not. Bill Buckley famously held that he would vote for the most electable conservative. Neither Hillary nor Trump is conservative. I think building some gargantuan wall on our southern border is un-American. I think rounding up millions of people and isolating an entire religion are un-American ideas. Trump is not America First; he’s cynicism first. He’s fear and anger first.

The obligatory and fawning support of Donald Trump inside the Republican Party is nauseating. He is no conservative and hardly even a traditional Republican. I’m so proud of the Utah delegation to the GOP convention, especially Senator Mike Lee, for standing up to all of the Trump nonsense.

Admittedly, I’ve never been much of a political party guy – not because I don’t appreciate our system to vet candidates but because I’m an introvert. I’m very uncomfortable in masses of people and even way more uncomfortable culturally with how the masses behave when they get together. I cringe watching these conventions with all of their stupid hats and Stepford-wife faces. Add mass cynicism to obligatory loyalty and rah-rah ethics and I can hardly stand to watch it play out, let alone be in the same room.

Conservative was never a political party. It is a tone, temperament, style, structure, and way of thinking. Conservatism has been the bulwark for American freedom standing against liberal and utilitarian ideas that destroy freedom. The Republican Party was founded on conservatism, lost its way mid-20th century and regained its identity during the Reagan years. With Trump, it is now gone. The national Republican Party is no longer conservative. No longer is there any bulwark standing between sanity and insanity. We’re now simply trading between political correctness and fear and anger. We’re trading with our worst selves.

But to unaffiliate on my voter registration really means I’m leaving the state Republican Party. Why would I do that? The majority of Utah delegates to the state convention oppose Trump. Most Utah GOPers are reasonable and rational people. Most of my political friends and great colleagues are Utah Republicans. So, yes, unaffiliating is symbolic. I remain loyal to my friends. I am loyal to people, not parties. I remain loyal to politicians I admire, such as Governor Herbert, Senator Lee and a host of state and local officials.

But I don’t want to underestimate the symbolism. Given the dense populations of Mormons and Republicans in this state, it’s natural that our politics can easily head toward the extremes. As I’ve said before, Utah is the only place in America where I could be viewed as a moderate. The late and great conservative Congressman Phil Crane from Illinois was one of the first converted Republicans who said the Democratic Party of the 1960s left him – he did not leave the Democratic Party. The Utah Republican Party is dangerously close to leaving behind many influential conservative voters. I’m unaffiliating on this basis too.

All of the craziness, the obsession with constitutional minutia, the cultish worshipping of founding fathers, the purity tests, and just plain know-nothingness trending inside the state GOP are deeply disturbing to me. When Governor Herbert and even Senator Lee are accused by state GOPers of committing some sort of apostasy because they chose to gather signatures as well as attend the state convention, I’m flabbergasted. If the crazies continue to rebel against reasonableness and prudence, I’ll not only fight them, if they manage to completely take over the state GOP, though unprecedented, I’ll start a new party in Utah and a return to true conservatism.

I understand completely why many Republicans won’t unaffiliate from the GOP – elected officials really can’t. I get that. But for people who can, I highly encourage you, now that state primaries are over, to unaffiliate. Your intelligence and political integrity will be challenged by Trump. And, here in Utah, the state GOP needs to find itself again and one way you can help it do that is to vote with your feet and leave its company, even if temporarily. You won’t regret it. Now is the time for reasonable people to take a stand.

I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.

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