When the GOP handed its presidential nomination to Donald Trump in 2016, I officially became an ex-Republican. For the first time in my life, I could not vote for the Republican nominee for president in good conscience. I knew my moral code, principles, and good sense would compel me to actively dissuade others from doing so as well.
The realization that I no longer had a political home was depressing in some respects, but I soon learned there was a silver lining. Cutting my bonds to the Republican Party once and for all was liberating. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders. I no longer had to tolerate any of the things I disliked about other members of the Republican coalition – and there were a lot of them. I didn’t have to pay lip service to views that made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t have to feign respect for people I didn’t like. My days of toeing the line of Republican orthodoxy were over, and it was a relief.
I used to read the comments section on sites like Hot Air, and I would cringe. I defended people like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly! I denied the hosts of Fox and Friends were idiots! I twisted myself in knots on message boards explaining why conservatives in the grass roots weren’t really as awful as they seemed, all the while knowing the truth.
I disagreed with a lot of stuff over the years, and I held my tongue. But now I’m going to tell you about some of them. I’m sure others in my situation could compile their own lists of opinions that cut across the grain of accepted Republican beliefs, but here are a few of mine.
I have always disliked social conservative attitudes about sex and homosexuality, at least since I became a fully functioning, responsible adult. I found social conservatives judgmental, harsh, and hateful, but I tolerated them because they voted the right way. But I knew better, and to my discredit I never called them out.
I grew up sheltered in a small town, and I had absorbed many of the social attitudes of my parents and the church they attended. I was a typical teenager, and I liked my MTV, but I held some homophobic views. I thought homosexuals were sleazy and perverted. The one gay guy in town was notorious. Everyone knew who he was, and no one wanted to talk to him.
All that changed when I graduated high school and went to college. College exposed me to a wide array of people I had never encountered before. People from all over the world. People of every persuasion. I had to interact with them. I had to study with them. And I began to grow. Still, college was daunting. Luckily, I found a tight knit group of friends who made college fun. We partied together, but we also provided each other with support and encouragement. A few of us graduated because of that friendship.
Two of my friends in the group, I learned, were gay. Of those, one became my best friend, one of the best friends I have ever had. He was compassionate to a fault, and he rarely had a bad word to say about anyone – unless, perhaps, you were a top 40 musician. We talked about music a lot. He introduced me to the Smiths, Marc Almond, and the Pet Shop Boys, gay artists all. Their lyrics expressed the same longings and insecurities I felt as a heterosexual. At a fundamental human level, they weren’t different from me at all – and neither was Bruce.
Sometimes, he came home with me on weekend visits to my parents. I don’t know if my mother ever knew he was gay, but I like to think that maybe she did, because I hope she learned something, too. Because I learned that being gay doesn’t define a person. It doesn’t inform their value as a human being. They deserve dignity. They deserve their humanity. They deserve equal treatment under the law.
What’s more, the First Amendment and religious freedom isn’t a license to deny others their rights. A baker who sells wedding cakes must treat everyone his customers equally. A county clerk cannot use religion as a justification for refusing to grant wedding licensees to gay couples. If doing their jobs makes them uncomfortable, they are free to quit and exercise their religion elsewhere.
I guess I have a real problem with people who think religious freedom confers a right to impose lifestyle choices on other people. Practice your own religion and live by your own values, and let others worry about theirs. God won’t hold you accountable for how other people live their lives. You have enough to answer for on your own.
Here’s another one: I hate the grassroots political dogma on illegal immigration. To be fair, most Republican officials don’t like it, either. The problem is, they have to govern.
We do have legitimate security concerns at our borders, but they are often exaggerated at the expense of far greater challenges at other points of entry at airports and by sea. Nearly half who are here illegally simply overstayed their visas. They didn’t sneak across the border in the middle of the night, so building a “big, beautiful wall” won’t keep them out.
According to Pew Research, of an estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants, over 8 million are attached to America’s workforce, and two thirds of them have been here ten years or more. Mexican illegal immigration has declined, and new immigrants are increasingly Asian and Central American. But to some Republicans, especially Trump voters, illegals are almost exclusively Mexicans who come here to have anchor babies and collect welfare.
To borrow a term from Rick Perry, deporting illegal immigrants who work, pay taxes, and support their children seems heartless. As governor of Texas, he made the right decision when he allowed them to pay in-state tuition rates at Texan universities. The taxes they pay as productive members of society will more than offset the costs. Providing a path to citizenship isn’t amnesty; it’s an opportunity – for them and us.
I support measures that make it easier for people to come here to work and provide better means to screen and track immigrants for security purposes. We should welcome people who come here to seek a better life and make positive contributions to our economy and our culture They aren’t taking our jobs. They move our economy forward. Conservatives mock Democrats for employing zero-sum static economic models in their political arguments. Why do so many of them do the same when they talk about immigration?
I have always thought hostility toward immigration, legal or otherwise, amounts to thinly veiled racism, despite protestations to the contrary. I doubt we would be having the same arguments if Canadians were flooding our borders and hordes of British workers were overstaying their visas. The real problem is that these immigrants are a little too brown and speak a little too much Spanish. But America has successfully absorbed waves of immigration in the past, and the cultures of the people who came here blended into our own, enriched it, and redefined it. This one is no different.
Last, but not least, I object to the Republican obsession with tax cuts for the sake of cutting taxes. The various GOP proposals to cut taxes, will add anywhere from $3 trillion to $7 trillion to the national debt over the next ten years, which already stands at $20 trillion. While tax cuts can promote economic growth, they will not produce $3 trillion to $7 trillion of growth. To address our debt, we have to cut spending, but the GOP employs the Wimpy tactic of a hamburger today for a spending cut tomorrow that will never come.
But, then again, Republicans only care about deficits and debt when Democrat presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama occupy the White House.
The truth is, the Republican Party isn’t really the party of small government. It’s just the party of different big government, like military spending and corporate welfare. They will not introduce serious entitlement reform to address the true driver of our budget deficits. If history is any guide, they will even pile on more when they think voters will reward them for it. Medicare Part D, anyone? Instead, they will cut taxes, blow a bigger hole in the budget, and then blame Democrats for runaway spending.
And they will call it “reform.” Reducing the number of brackets isn’t reform. Eliminate the income tax and replace with a national sales tax. Make it high enough to fund government. Exempt food and clothing to help the poor. That’s reform. But that’s small government, so that will never happen.
I no longer hold out hope that anyone in Washington will address our debt or the size of government until disaster forces their hand. And maybe not even then. It seems both parties think we need a massive, bloated, out-of-control federal government, but no one actually wants to pay for it. But at least they agree we need intrusive income taxes that help big government meddle in the economy and pick winners and losers.
In a purely personal way, maybe Trump was a good thing. I’m free. He is so awful, so unacceptable, so unfit, so stupid, and so malignant, I no longer feel any loyalty to the Republican Party at all. I feel no obligation to tacitly go along with some of the BS they spread in public. Let’s face it: they betrayed common decency by nominating and supporting this racist, semi-literate buffoon, so I don’t owe them a thing. Certainly not my principles. Not to advance a common cause, not for anything.
They’re on their own.