In 2008 I found myself feeling, for the first time, conflicted about my vote. Not because I was uncertain that I didn’t want Barack Obama to be president, and not because any of my underlying principles were in question.
As I went in to vote, I hesitated to push that “all Republican” button. It felt like mindlessness. Like intellectual vacancy.
The Republicans, the party I had called home my whole life, had just participated in fleecing the public out of almost a trillion dollars and had assured us it was born from a desire to save the free market, despite how counterintuitive that may seem.
The candidate I would be voting for had participated in this robbery and now here I stood, ready to not just support him, but to support the entire party all the way down the line.
Their punishment for having abandoned the core tenets of conservatism was exactly nothing.
Like a good little cog I was now headed in to reaffirm for them that there was simply no reason to fear the public’s wrath. They could do what they wanted. As long as they gave some type of “difficult vote” speech later, everything was cool.
I pulled that lever.
The next 8 years was a back and forth struggle between those like me who felt the party of conservatism had become the party of “not sucking as much as the Democrats,” vs those who believed each individual electoral battle in front of us was the most important thing to be concerned with and that optics, no matter how far they strayed from what is the right thing to do, were most important.
But even as some politicians started to say what I wanted to hear, I still saw that debt clock going up. I still saw that spending increase.
But I kept pulling that lever anyway. That “all Republican” lever that sent the same message every time to the GOP: “Do what you want. I am your slave.”
Then 2015 happened.
I watched as a movement erupted under our feet. But instead of it being a movement of those I considered my ideological kin, it was something different. Something old, but something new at the same time.
The underbelly of my party, that those across the aisle had promised me was there the whole time, blew up right in our faces and started pushing a sociopath to the front of the primaries. Riding on a tidal wave of decades of outrage, Donald Trump channeled rage by being the conduit of indecency for all those who felt they had been treated unfairly in the political sphere for too long.
The desire to “fight back” had morphed into a sick and twisted desire to maim. Regardless of the cost to society or to our future.
As he continued to rise, common sense told so many of us “no way. This can’t happen.”
That common sense was based on the idea that decent people with large microphones would surely inform the masses they were being used and taken advantage of. That their righteous rage had become the toy of a billionaire and his nationalist base.
But they didn’t. Instead they embraced him to save their own careers. And as Alexander Hamilton famously said “A nation (in our case a party) that can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master. And deserves one.”
Trump has become that master. Commanding the allegiance of the party faithful who are more than prepared to sell out the last vestiges of their morality and credibility in a vain hope that he will lead the GOP to victory.
I predict that Trump will lose, but even if he were to win, victory is impossible. His candidacy has all but assured that.
#NeverTrump has become the face of the movement that opposed Trump from within the party ranks, but it’s almost a disingenuous hashtag. Trump is just the byproduct of the stench that too many of us held our noses for in the last several years. All in the hopes that we could drag our bleeding party over the finish line and reverse America’s course away from oblivion.
That dream needs to die.
We can’t drag a party across the finish line that is unwilling to change. And change we must.
There are hard choices to make in the coming months and years. Who will ultimately be the voice of what was once known as conservatism will be decided, not by shutting down dissent at an overhyped convention, but by the sweat and passion of those still standing after the dust settles this week.
We can’t pull that “all Republican” lever anymore. And when those we want are in office, we can’t pull that “no to everything” lever either.
We can no longer be a party that preaches to the faithful and condemns those outside our walls as lost causes.
We have to be better than we’ve been. Better than our opponents. And better than this man that is asking for your vote.
The Tea Party existed for a good reason, but our linear way of looking at things made us believe it needed to rise up, seize power, and institute change.
But the change that needed to happen was not in Washington D.C. It was inside us. And Donald Trump’s ugly image is the reflection of our politics, finally coming to stare us in the face and ask us if we can live with what we’ve become. To pull that all Republican lever and reward them for failing so magnificently to adhere to the conservative principles we assigned them to protect.
I can not. And neither should you.
I’m #NeverTrump today. But after this election, the most important thing to me is that we #NeverGoBack.
Never go back to putting the desire to fight ahead of solving the problem.
Never go back to closing my eyes when the worst among us are becoming more visible.
Never go back to confusing winning an election with winning an idea.
Never go back to being a dying party.
Never go back to compromising my principles.
Never go back to who I was. Never go back to helping create the problem.
Tomorrow I will not pull the All Republican lever.
Tuesday is the end of yesterday. And the beginning of tomorrow.
Let’s #NeverGoBack to what we became this election.
Don’t forget what we’re not going back to.