A Reflection Written One Month Before I Left the GOP
While I might give in and agree with you that bourbon, cigars, and fried chicken are some unhealthy vices I may need to reconsider, I would argue that my most masochistic vice, indeed my most addictive one, is an obsession with politics and political identity. It sounds like a stupid comparison because, well, it kind of is. But, while it seems that the American political stage has become more dramatic, more interesting, and received more media coverage, political dialogue has almost certainly become a polarized dystopian tale of two political monologues talking straight past each other. The late senator John McCain warned us a little over a year before his death in 2018, telling his senate colleagues that, in their rancorously partisan actions, they were “getting nothing done.” Today, however, my party is doing worse than nothing. The Republican Party has been abased by mindless fanaticism years in the making, and we have seen with the exoneration of Donald J. Trump from his charges of “incitement of insurrection” that this fanaticism has become institutionalized within the party. The preponderance of the evidence (as agreed upon not just by senate Democrats, but by seven GOP senators as well) indicated that Mr. Trump incited the mob who would eventually physically invade the United States Capitol.
When a party gives a voice to those who believe Mr. Trump is the head of a massive fictional heroic conspiracy to destroy a fictional pedophile ring, where do we go? When the party gives voice to insurrectionists who crushed Capitol police officers in doorways, beat them with fire extinguishers, stabbed them with metal posts, called officers of color the n-word, and desecrated the Capitol building, where do the rest of us go? As a Catholic Christian, I view inciting this type of behavior as objectively immoral in the sight of the God I worship, the Christ who came speaking peace. As an American, I view the harm this causes to our democratic republic and its people to be substantial and unequivocal. As somebody who is pro-life, I view the violence of the insurrectionists as reprehensible, unacceptable, and deeply morally compromised. Conservative Judeo-Christian values normatively dictate that what Mr. Trump incited, the violence that transpired on January 6, is something which has no place. And yet, as I write this on February 13, 2021, it seems these events have, writ-large, been vindicated by congressional representatives of my party.
I could surely spend time, as a law student and an M.B.A. graduate, doing an in-depth analysis of the political, economic, constitutional, and social factors involved in how the cult of Trump found its footing, or how the events of January 6 came about. But instead being interested in the thousands of studies and think pieces written to try and understand the phenomenon of Trumpism and Christianist Extremism, I am just sad. The party of abolitionism, of civil rights, the Party of Lincoln, has become the party of radicalism, falsehoods, and Q-Anon. As someone who was a Republican for Biden, hoping that reason would one day prevail amongst my fellow Republicans, I am now finding myself a Republican without a party. It seems, also, that this political takeover has not just impacted our national politics, but our local politics as well. Property has been stolen from me, Trump-supporting extended family members have berated me, and friends and strangers have laughed at me because I, as a social conservative, had the nerve to vote for and support a Democrat, or “Demoncrat” as I have seen stylized on Facebook. If many of these insurrectionists, Q-Anon believers, and others are of a similar religious persuasion to me, I cannot help but wonder if their priest or pastor ever talked about loving one’s neighbor as themselves. We do not have to compromise or give up our own opinions, identity, or way of life in order to empathize with or understand the other side of an argument. It costs us nothing to recognize the fundamental human dignity of the other person. Yet it seems so difficult to acknowledge, in a society consumed by polarized identity politics, that whether we believe it or not, whether we like it or not, that person berating us, insulting us, or belittling us is made in the image and likeness of God. They have a soul. They have dignity. And so do you.
My emotional rock, the love of my life, my wife Molly, is a moderate Democrat and protestant Christian. We disagree on a number of political and theological issues, but I can tell you for certain that one thing we have never disagreed about is the Capitol insurrection. We do not have to keep talking past each other as Americans, pretending that our party membership means it is compulsory to hold certain opinions or conspiracy theories to be true. The Republican Party will never put Mr. Trump behind it if we continue to have blind faith in falsehoods. We will never put Mr. Trump behind us if we continue to protect and defend him instead of protecting and defending our Constitution and our nation; interests which, I assure you, are quite mutually exclusive. And until the GOP can dispense with Mr. Trump and his ilk, then I am afraid that I, for one, must leave the Republican Party behind. My individual voice may not matter very much, that is true. But, there may just be enough of us who leave and maybe never come back, that the GOP will finally start to listen and act.
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not proport to reflect the opinions or views of the Gordon Review, editorial staff, or its members.