A week ago, I was feeling a punchy sort of delight in the wackiness of that particular moment in politics. I was noticing a strange phenomenon in my media consumption (social and otherwise): cohesion. A sense of togetherness, a shared purpose. Half the nation seemed to be biting its collective fingernails over a common bogeyman: Donald Trump.
I saw liberals pleading for their fellows to switch party affiliation so they could help select a more palatable Republican nominee. I saw conservatives pledging support for a third-party candidate or even (gasp!) the dreaded Hillary Clinton should Trump receive the Republican nomination. I read solid cases against him and detailed strategies for ensuring he lost the nomination. I saw #NeverTrump, #AnyoneButTrump, #StopTrump, and #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain. I read virtually identical anti-Trump Facebook posts from my most liberal and my most conservative friends.
It seemed ironic to me that the thing to bring so many of us together across party and ideological lines was our shared horror at the thought of being governed by The Donald. Could Trump, in some backwards way, prove to be our nation’s great unifier after all? My poli-sci major brain was half-way giddy at the prospect.
Today, though, those feelings have evaporated. All I feel is dread.
I mourn the loss of Marco Rubio, my favorite of this year’s candidates. But more than that, I mourn the loss of the hope that somehow this race would turn around. That somehow the two-thirds of Republicans who disapprove of Trump would get it together well enough to settle on a strong, honorable candidate for the presidency. And that such a candidate would be able to work towards healing the Republican Party (and later, the country).
Today, those hopes seem lost.
More than that. Today, I think I’ve finally given up hope in the Republican Party. And that is so hard for me to admit.
I grew up in the Party, wearing my Republican granddad’s campaign shirts at parades and fundraisers, urging my elementary school classmates to support George H.W. Bush’s campaign and my college classmates to support his son’s. I defended Reagan and Bush and Dole and Bush and McCain and Romney.
But I think I’m done now.
I’m reminding myself that politics is, at its core, nothing more than the method by which differently-minded people work out how to govern together. And that political parties are nothing more than tools to make that process function more efficiently.
As groups of (ever-changing) people, Parties’ principles, the ideas that bond them together, shift over time:
There is nothing immutable about the way the two parties currently line up. Republicans used to be the big-government progressive party, formed in opposition to slavery and pushing to remodel the South after the civil war; they have also been the small-government party, not only now, but in opposition to the New Deal in the 1930s. Democrats were once the small-government party, opposing those who wanted a more powerful federal government and defending the interests of white southerners against Washington; now they are famous as the big-government party, pushing federal anti-poverty programmes in the 20th century and government involvement in health care in the 21st.
Political parties are not religions. They are not nationalities. They are not perfect and they are not permanent. They are simply groups of like-minded people who band together in the hope of having more of a say in how they are governed.
I am not obliged to support any one of them.
In this time of Donald Trump, this time of discontent and proud disloyalty and redrawn lines, who can say what the Republican Party stands for anymore?
I have no confidence that the Party that will be on the ballot in November will in any way reflect my values or my priorities. So no, I won’t pledge to support the Party’s eventual nominee. I’m tired of feeling bound to a group that seems more scattered, more angry, more dysfunctional every year.
I think I’m done now.