Forty-six years have passed since I first joined College Republicans. Sadly, after decades of embracing (and often defending) my Republican identity, I am re-registering as an independent voter. Psychologically this action equates to a painful divorce, leaving me disheartened, discouraged and alone.
But I am not alone. There are tens of thousands, perhaps even millions, of former Republicans newly estranged from the “Trumplican” Party — aptly named for the man who highjacked what used to be a “big tent” party. That’s the Republican Party I remember joining when those with diverse opinions were still welcomed.
In the Trumplican-era, RINOs (Republicans In Name Only), including those who worked for either of the President Bushes, Sens. John McCain and Mitt Romney, have been routinely demeaned, marginalized and branded with the most “despised” moniker — “Never Trumpers.”
Starting in mid-2016 after Trump won the presidential nomination, the old Grand Old Party whittled away, and the “big tent” was exclusively used for MAGA rallies. Rising from the passion was party leadership with cult-like allegiance to Donald J. Trump.
Organically starting at the county level, the adoration virus spread to the state parties and infected the Republican National Committee. Then came a historic political transformation: After decades of idolizing Ronald Reagan, the faithful started believing President Donald Trump was greater than Reagan. The shift was intolerant and arrogant, and it was not uncommon to hear that Trump was the “best president ever,” even better than Lincoln.
A friend from a swing state who served in Republican club leadership positions grew disgusted by the “blind” Trumplican allegiance. Yesterday in an email, she wrote, “I am saddened by the Republican Party. Donald Trump turned the values of the party upside down and pitted people against each other. He was never a true Republican but a divider who wanted to control it all.”
The notion of “pitting people against each other” eventually turned deadly, turning off some long-time GOP voters. This week, unprompted, a non-political professional told me he has left the Republican Party, as have his associates after holding Trump responsible for the Capitol attack.
Indeed it is comforting to know other former Republicans, but the question is: Where do we go? Certainly not to the Democratic Party, after reading President Biden’s initial avalanche of predictable liberal-leaning executive orders. Among them are controversial “transgender protections” that may effectively end some female sports by allowing biological males to compete on the same playing field. For a newly-minted president who championed and campaigned on unity, many of Biden’s executive orders have inflamed Republicans.
Amazingly, in his inaugural address, Biden asked the nation to “end this uncivil war” with Civil War-era levels of polarization resulting in what he called “a broken land.”
Meanwhile, over at my broken former party, a new civil war has begun between Trump supporters and those who know the party can never win another national election with Trump as the king or kingmaker. Ironically, during the 2020 campaign, the GOP had never been so unified. Such lock-step solidarity was easily explained: Trump ruled by fear, especially with elected officials terrified they would be subject to tyrannical tweets with threats of being “primaried.”
Then came Nov. 3, followed by two months of Trump perpetuating the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen and that he had won in a landslide. On Jan. 6, the day after the GOP blamed Trump for losing the Senate, he incited a deadly insurrection to overturn the Electoral College certification. A week later, the House of Representatives impeached Trump for a second time, and homeless Republicans thought, “now everything will change.”
But never underestimate the power of a cult of personality. This week after a preliminary vote, it became clear that an overwhelming majority of Republican senators still fear the former president and would not vote to convict. Why not erase the Constitution’s impeachment clause at the same time? God forbid if a future president uses Trump as a governing role model.
While many Republicans shamelessly cower to Trump and his loyal base, an inevitable Senate acquittal will further embolden him and his elected acolytes to inflict pain upon GOP leaders who voted for impeachment and conviction. It is ludicrous that Trump threatened to start a third party while he controls a party that chiefly exists to serve and defend him. In the foreseeable future, Trump’s iron rule will continue to squelch any rebel voices of reason.
Ultimately, Republicans can’t live with or without Trump. I can’t live with the Democrats, so for now I live in my tent, politically homeless.
Myra Adams writes about politics and religion for numerous publications. She is a RealClearPolitics contributor and writes a Sunday Bible study on Townhall. She served on the creative team of two GOP presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2008. Follow her on Twitter @MyraKAdams.TAGS 2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONGOPREPUBLICAN PARTYDONALD TRUMPMITT ROMNEYJOHN MCCAINPOLITICS OF THE UNITED STATESNEVER TRUMP MOVEMENTCAPITOL ATTACKS