A Bit of Background.
I have been a Republican essentially since I understood what political parties were. I was never entirely satisfied with all of their policies; I am far too opinionated to fully agree with just about anyone. Until recently I thought the things I agree with them dramatically outweighed the areas where I disagreed with the party.
However, both the Republican Party and my personal views have been changing over the years. Since being a naïve undergraduate, I have both spent time deployed with the Army and attended law school. I learned the world was far more complicated than I thought when I was an. After those experiences, I also became more interested in the possibility of running for office myself at some point. While I have not yet taken any significant actions on that front, it has made me take a much closer look at politics and the parties. During this time, the Republican Party has also been changing. Lately, it has become something much more extreme than what I supported before.
Republican Party Formation
My wife, a historian, continually reminds me that you need to understand history to understand why things are the way they are, and understand what to do about it. Therefore, it is worth taking a brief look at the Republican Party’s Origins.
The nascent Republican Party was formed to combat the proposed expansion of slavery in America. In 1854, Stephen Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which would have helped expand slavery. The Republican Party was primarily an outgrowth of the now defunct Whig Party, coming together to oppose any further expansion of slavery.
The party grew swiftly, and put forth John Fremont as its first presidential candidate in the
1856 election. In that election there were three major candidates from the Democratic, Republican, and American parties. Fremont lost to James Buchanan, but did come in ahead of Millard Filmore from the American Party. However, a mere four years later, Abraham Lincoln was elected the first Republican President. Prior to joining the recently formed Republican Party, Lincoln had run for office as a Whig.
After the Civil War, Republicans led by people such as Ulyssess S. Grant, worked through the reconstruction to help America adjust after the defeat of slavery. It was during this era that several significant Civil rights changes became law, including passage of the civil rights amendments. This included the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery.
The history of the Republican Party is long and rich; its history has filled books. But I want to highlight this part of it for two reasons: First, it helps show how much the party has changed over the years. The protection of civil rights was the very reason it was founded and formed a major part of its initial goals. Second, one common refrain thrown around this election cycle is that supporting a third party would be pointless because they have no hope of winning. the origin of the Republican Party itself shows that this is not always true. The Republican Party itself largely grew out of and supplanted the Whig party, and in the 1860 election the Republican Party beat out a candidate from the Constitutional Union Party (another outgrowth of the Whigs) as well as the Democratic Candidates (there were two that time). Political parties can rise and fall and are not eternal.
My Problems with the Republican Party
While this list is far from exhaustive, here are a few things that have driven me from the Republican Party. I list these here not simply to gripe (all right…maybe a little bit to gripe), but because parties can change. These are things that I think the Republican Party can (other than the first one, it is too late for that), and should, change about itself if it wants to remain relevant.
The Nomination of Trump
Trump’s nomination is certainly the catalyst that finally caused me to leave the Republican Party. Trump has made racist and sexist comments. Some of his racist comments have been directed at a federal judge making a perfectly reasonable ruling. Furthermore, some of his plans are utterly unrealistic. He also wants to expand our defamation laws, which I think could be chilling to free speech. If anything, I think we need to move in the opposite direction and create a national anti-SLAPP law.
Climate Change Denial
There is a general scientific consensus now that climate change is occurring and that it is at least partially driven by human activity. The Pope recently called it a moral issue. Yet, many prominent Republicans continue to deny these facts, including Donald Trump. Fortunately, more conservatives are coming to accept the scientific consensus. Yet, for a topic of this much importance to the nation, and even the world, it is frightening that there are any prominent Republicans at all that continue to deny it.
Republicans continue to fight against homosexual marriage. It is long past time to move away from that. I have yet to see any argument for this that does not rest on religion. I am a religious man myself, but I believe that God is quite accepting of love in whatever form it is found. However, even for those who believe homosexual marriage is a crime against God, do we really want the government punishing or preventing that crime? More than one religious group bans the consumption of pork. I respect those religions, but my religion is quite tolerant of bacon. Do we want a government that could ban bacon (or other pork products) on religious grounds?
Unlike the other three listed above, I concede that there are principled and reasoned arguments against net neutrality. But the currently limited amount of competition in the broadband internet access market and only slightly better situation in the cellular internet access market prevents market competition from affecting internet access providers the way we would like.
Also, internet access providers benefit from government policies meant to encourage the creation of their infrastructure. Given that situation, FCC regulations meant to ensure network neutrality and prevent the abuse of the monopoly or duopoly that internet service providers enjoy throughout most of the country makes sense.
The Way Forward
If the Republican Party begins making major changes, I could consider returning to it. But I am far from the only Republican leaving the party over its recent nomination of Trump and adoption of unwise policies. If it does not make significant changes, I suspect that the party will begin fading in relevance. As history has shown, new parties can rise to power in fairly short order.