I have been a Republican for over fifty years. Before I was old enough to vote, at age 8, I went door to door in my Los Angeles neighborhood for Barry Goldwater. I graduated high school early and worked for the Los Angeles County Party as an intern and coordinator. Ronald Reagan inspired me after Watergate. In my fifteen years in the Lehigh Valley, I have served as a committee person, finance chair and two term Party chair. My parents were immigrants and I was taught early and often how rare a commodity freedom is and how a growing and ever more influential government could suffocate it and stifle ordinary citizens' pursuit of their own ambitions.
I have lived through the elevating experience of a visionary President Reagan, who appealed to the best aspirations in all of us. I have experienced the well intended but rudderless leadership of George W Bush. After 8 years of Barack Obama I was hopeful and hungry for a Republican presidential candidate who could recapture the imagination of voters; whose vision and leadership could heal the partisan divide of the last fifteen years and unite the nation behind an aspirational vision that would establish a constructive course for the future. Sixteen candidates stepped forward, the best crop in a generation, and each offered their ideas and policies. I was optimistic that one would rise to the nomination and the others would unite behind him to retake the White House. And then Donald Trump entered the fray and very quickly the nominating process took on all the ugliness of a reality TV show.
Mr. Trump is now my Party’s front runner. He has achieved that status, not by appealing to the better angels of our natures with an aspirational vision but, rather, with a blinding ambition that caters to the lowest impulses that human beings harbor. His leadership, such as it is, is characterized by his narcissism, his amorality and his prevarication. He leads in the same way as Huey Long, George Wallace or Father Coughlin; he appeals to fears without basis in fact, and to emotions grounded in anger.
That anger and frustration is understandable if not constructive. Under fifteen years of George W Bush and Barack Obama, we have had historically low economic growth. Republican politicians did not reform the growth of the federal government under Bush and Republican voters' expectations were raised again when we began to retake majorities in the House and Senate in 2010. Rather than speak unpleasant truths, they told comforting lies about what was possible and how long it would take to accomplish. The GOP as an institution needs to recognize its own role in the morphing of Donald Trump from a crony capitalist narcissist to a Presidential front runner. Trump is a channel for that anger and large numbers of Republican voters are more motivated by the potential to destroy the Party that elevated their hopes than they are of elevating the state of our Party’s politics.
I respect the will of the voters if Trump is chosen as the Republican nominee. I believe in competitive primaries and the governing power of market forces. However, there is a prerequisite that supersedes even that. My first judgement of any candidate is character. Without character, there is no integrity, and without integrity, it doesn't matter what a candidate says he stands for. Flexibility is not a principle. It is a tactic and a useful one in politics. But without principles that can be counted on, a candidate is nothing more than a sapling in the wind and his supporters are nothing more than his saps.
Mr. Trump’s character is deeply flawed. My assessment is based on a close following of his businesses career from his Casino days in Atlantic City to his use of his name to deceive people into parting with their money for products from failed condo projects to phony University curriculums. His principles seem to begin and end in his narcissism. His vision ends in the mirror. His behavior is reflective of an authoritarian rather than an American President. He wishes to “loosen” libel laws so he can use the judiciary to threaten a free press. He says he can get along with Paul Ryan but if not, Ryan will have big problems. That is not the vision that unites the Party or the country. It is, rather, the language of a mob boss running a protection racket. “Nice Speaker's chair ya got there Mr. Ryan. Be a shame if anything happened to it.” The anger of his supporters seems to make all this meaningless. New York may once again have another Teflon Don. However this one will have the potential to do much more damage than a Queens Mafia boss once did.
So while I respect the will of my Party’s electorate I ask for that same respect in return. If Mr. Trump is elevated to my Party’s nominee I will not support him. If Mr. Trump defines what it means to be a Republican then I cannot be a Republican. I will leave the Republican Party to become an Independent. I will not lend my name and reputation to the GOP under his leadership. I will fight for those candidates in the House and the Senate who do have vision and character in the hopes that they will rise to the occasion to defeat the policies of the left that have so damaged this country for so long. I will support those who are willing to resist and oppose a President Clinton or a President Trump, despite his being of their Party. Profiles in Courage is great book but also a thin one; and thin for a reason. Let's hope, like Senator Sasse, more leaders rise to the occasion. I searched my heart and my conscience to reach my decision. I hope I have motivated you to search yours.