Partisanship in Trump’s America: A Swing Voter’s Journey

By Kevin Bailey

There was a time when I was a true “swing voter.” I researched each candidate, for even the most minor positions, and decided on the basis of who I felt I agreed with the most on various political issues. While I was a registered Democrat from 1992 until 2011, when I switched to unaffiliated, I never simply voted party line. My votes for president from the last 25 years clearly reflect that reality:

1992: Bill Clinton

I had just turned 18, and then-Gov. Clinton was the antithesis of George H. W. Bush, whom I found stodgy and stiff. I was excited to vote for him, even though I was in the vast minority at Manhattan Christian College, where I was attending at the time. Election night on November 3 was like a morgue in the MCC dorms, as it became clear that Gov. Clinton had won. For me, though, I was very happy, and had a real sense of optimism about where the country was headed. It was a feeling I wouldn’t have again for another 16 years, at least with regards to presidential elections.

1996: Bill Clinton

In this election, I strongly considered voting for Sen. Bob Dole. For one thing, he was from my home state of Kansas, and I also admired his personal story as a war hero. But the main reason I considered voting for him was because the “bloom was off the rose” for me regarding Pres. Clinton. I found his myriad scandals embarrassing, and even briefly flirted with voting for Ross Perot. (I’m very glad I didn’t do that, though, as I have come to believe that Perot was little more than a court jester, who would have been nearly as big of a disaster as Trump, had he actually won in 1992 or 1996.) In the end, though, I was a good Democrat, and “came home” to Pres. Clinton, though it made little difference in deep-red Kansas.

2000: George W. Bush

I did not particularly care for then-Gov. Bush. I didn’t like how his campaign treated Sen. McCain in the primaries, and if Sen. Bill Bradley (whom I deeply admired) had won the Democratic nomination I would have voted for him. However, I had come to dislike Vice President Al Gore (who had done 180 degree turns on issues about which I cared deeply) even more than I disliked Gov. Bush, so my vote in this election went to Bush.

2004: George W. Bush

While I was fonder of Pres. Bush in 2004 than I had been in 2000 (his post-9/11 actions really won me over), I was still open to voting for a Democrat. My favorites were, in order: Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards (blech, I know), and Howard Dean (scream and all). Had any one of these men won the nomination, I would have had a serious decision in November. Instead, Sen. John Kerry, whom I considered a complete phony, won the nomination, and I decided fairly early on that I would vote for Pres. Bush again.

2008: Barack Obama

This was the first election since 1992 about which I was truly excited. I loved then-Sen. Obama’s stance on education issues (I had been a teacher since 1998), and generally liked the political vision he cast better than that of Sen. John McCain. I did greatly admire John McCain, though, and considered voting for him all the way up until he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Then as now, I considered her to be an ignorant airhead, unequipped for the national stage, and unfit to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

2012: Mitt Romney

Given what transpired in 2016, my concerns about Pres. Obama now seem quaint and trite. I felt he had not reached across the aisle enough (in retrospect, given how the Republicans treated Merrick Garland particularly, this seems laughable, I know), and I had deep concerns that he was out of his depth on foreign policy issues. While this last concern has been borne out as true, in my view, Pres. Obama was a foreign policy sage compared with what now currently occupies the Oval Office.

2016: Hillary Clinton

I considered her sane, and not likely to accidentally put our country at odds with our allies based on fits of pique on Twitter. I also liked her education policy plans much better than what the Republicans put out there, as well as a few other policy-related issues, but everything else took a back seat to the fact that I considered her sane, unlike the sexual predator the Republicans chose to nominate. I considered voting for Evan McMullin, as well as for Gary Johnson, but in the end, I felt like living in a swing state like North Carolina compelled me to vote for the candidate with the best chance to defeat the insane narcissistic sexual predator.

As you can see from this voting history, I have never been a partisan for either party. My votes for state and local elections very much mirror the eclectic voting pattern outlined in my presidential voting history. I have always researched deeply, tried to understand relevant issues, and made decisions accordingly. This led to votes for a mix of Democrats, Republicans, and even a few third party candidates over the years.

That has now changed.

While I still research the issues, I will never vote for another Republican, until the vile stench of Trumpism has been expunged from the party. I will not lend my imprimatur to a party that has put such a despicable man at its head. How long it will take for the Republicans to expunge that great evil from their party, I can not say. Likely it will take years, and at least a few cycles of devastating election losses, for that to happen.

But until it does, the Republican Party has turned this swing voter into a committed Democrat. I have changed my party affiliation back to the party with the best chance of defeating Trumpism. And there I will stay until Trumpism is utterly defeated. Why? Because defeating this abominable stain on modern American history is the cause of our time.

Defeating the party that foisted this evil man onto the nation is the most important issue facing our nation today. It supersedes everything, and allows me to make common cause with even people with whom I disagree on many (or even most) political issues. We are in the midst of the greatest existential crisis our country has faced since, quite possibly, the Civil War–which Trump, famously, knows almost nothing about, of course.

Who are we as a country? Are we willing to sacrifice our most basic core values at the altar of a lunatic sexual predator, simply to make sure unpopular initiatives on things like education, health care, energy policy, etc. are forced through? The answer to that will one day be the answer to the question, “Were you on the right or the wrong side of history?”

I will be able to stand and say, “I was on the right side of history.” And to do that, I must cast my lot with the Democrats, until Trumpism is utterly destroyed.

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