On the night of March 1, 1996, I stood in the front row at a packed Pat Buchanan rally in Greenville, South Carolina. The state’s Republican primary was the next day, and I was at the rally with a friend as we yelled “Go Pat Go!” and held up signs for the news crew in front of us.
Now I find myself without a party.
Last Tuesday, I changed my Maryland voter registration online from Republican to Unaffiliated. It was not a decision I took lightly. I thought and prayed about it for months. It is a bittersweet decision for me since I had a history that spanned almost 30 years as an activist, party official, and Republican voter.
I started a chapter of Teen Age Republicans at my high school during the late 1980s as the shadow of Lee Atwater loomed large. Even the youngest Republicans in South Carolina had dreams of growing up to be him.
As an 18-year-old, I managed a precinct in the 1992 edition of the “First in the South” GOP presidential primary, which was also the first time I voted. Later that year, I spent my first semester at Georgetown volunteering for the Bush campaign—at the alma mater of Bill Clinton. In 1993, I attended the Christian Coalition’s Road to Victory conference and ended up heavily involved in the campaign of a candidate I met there when I returned home the next semester.
I worked for candidates and party committees primarily as a volunteer starting in 1994. I participated in College Republicans and the local GOP as well. I attended one national convention. In 1998, I started a news site focusing on Palmetto State news and politics that gained national attention—including a Drudge link—ahead of the 2000 presidential primary. I have been blogging since 2003, and I moved to Maryland in 2006, where I was a registered Republican until last week.
I voted for the Republican nominee for president every year since 1992, but that streak ends this year. Donald Trump is not the nominee of any party of which I will be a member.
My initial support in almost every contested primary has not been for the eventual nominee, but I voted for the nominee in November every time. Asking me to vote for Trump is too much to ask this year.
Trump is wholly unqualified for the job of president. On top of that, his character is so fundamentally flawed that he cannot be trusted. On the character issue, I feel the same way about Hillary Clinton so I will not be voting for her either.
As a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the military, I will not vote for Trump based on national security and foreign policy issues. As a former soldier, Trump’s assurances that the troops will follow his orders—even if they are illegal ones to target civilians just because he says so—are troubling. Trump’s vow to violate our treaty obligations to NATO are a major problem as well. I have concerns about Trump and his campaign manager’s connections to the Russian government—whether it was the Republican platform plank that hangs Ukraine out to dry or the Russian connections to Trump corporate finances. That doesn’t include the investigation of the DNC email leaks and where that might lead. Another foreign policy issue that bothers me relates to immigration and religious intolerance.
Trump’s immigration policies play to the basest fears in society. Whether it is his proposed Muslim ban or his criticisms of Pope Francis, it brings out the worst in his supporters online. From Ann Coulter tweeting that the Founding Fathers were right to distrust Catholics to Trump’s own proposal to keep a registry of Muslims in the country, it reminds me of one of the worst parts of American history for religious freedom—the Know Nothing era.
Trump’s appeals to the “alt-right” are nothing but a dog whistle for the fringes of the Republican Party. I have seen them get caught up in questionable conspiracy theories. They post about “false flag” theories after mass shootings that were supposedly were arranged in support of gun control. Jewish critics of Trump have been threatened and ridiculed for daring to question anything the man says. Polls show self-identifying evangelical Christians largely support him—a fact that leaves many observers scratching their heads.
As a faithful Catholic, I have also been active in the pro-life movement both locally and nationally. I do not trust Donald Trump’s pandering on pro-life issues. Being around the conservative movement in Washington for the past few years, I should not have been surprised to see so many conservatives and pro-lifers in the capital who were dead set against Trump in the primaries roll over for him as soon as he became the presumptive nominee. It is about nothing but being team players for access, power, and fundraising purposes.
I do not have a “team” politically anymore and nobody on the other side of any political issue should be considered “the enemy.” I am sure there are well-intentioned people voting for both Trump and Clinton.
I am not voting for Donald Trump, but I also will not vote for Hillary Clinton. At this point there is a very slim chance that I could vote for Gary Johnson. However, I will likely write in someone since Maryland’s ballot access laws are so poor that we have only Johnson and Jill Stein as alternatives.
My vote will not aid Clinton just because I am not voting for Trump. Maryland’s electoral votes will go to Clinton no matter how I vote. While I have left the Republican Party, in the future I could possibly return if there is a major overhaul. Otherwise, I will see what happens with any possible conservative alternatives, or I will remain independent.