THIS WEEK was a tough week for me because I had to make a difficult decision after the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday. A lifelong Republican, I went to my town hall the day after the attack and put in a change-of-party form to change my affiliation to undeclared.
The party that I’ve been tied to ever since I registered to vote at the age of 18 has let me down in a huge way. But now I feel free to not have to do the mental gymnastics to try to defend actions that have been making me angrier the longer Donald Trump has been in office.
I will admit, in 2016 I did vote for Trump, but it was while holding my nose. I was less of a fan of Hillary Clinton, so I just put my vote in and hoped that Trump wasn’t going to be as bad as people were saying. I’ve never been one of his supporters, but there were times early in his run I would say to myself, “He’s a little rough around the edges — far from what we would consider a president — but he’s getting some stuff done.” But I still felt the need to tell people that I wasn’t a Trump supporter despite me being a Republican.
Then the pandemic hit, and Trump impressed me less and less in his handling of this crisis that we are still in. He made us more divided in his stance on not wearing a mask in public most of the time, making the issue of the pandemic a political issue. His supporters were using the idea of not wearing a mask as a sign of our freedoms being taken away from us when they were just showing the world that they didn’t care that they were potentially spreading the virus to other people. Then when Trump got COVID, he tried to play it off as no big deal. That emboldened his base even more. Meanwhile, we have people dying.
Then the election happened. Again, I wasn’t impressed with either candidate, so for the first time in my life, I put in a protest vote. When Trump finally lost, I was happy. Then Trump started his conspiracy theories about how Biden cheated and that he was the real winner of the race, and that was when my distress started to kick in. His constant spouting of conspiracy theories about the election cost Georgia Republicans the wins to retain a majority in the Senate.
But I think my biggest reason for changing my party affiliation was the day of the Capitol building attack. Yes, I am calling it an attack because that’s what it was. These people who decided to break into the Capitol were attempting a coup to try to keep Trump in office. Watching the footage of the takeover was distressing, and when I heard how it happened it made me even madder. The President of the United States and his cohorts encouraged these people to attack the Capitol to disrupt the vote. And, from reports I’ve read, Trump just went back to the White House after riling these people up and watched the whole thing happen on television, proud of what he had done and upset that other people on his staff didn’t agree with his sentiment, according to Sen. Ben Sasse, who talked with staff afterward. Trump kept stoking the flames on Twitter, calling his vice president a “traitor” enough times that people in the crowd were overheard to be planning to kill Mike Pence for treason. This isn’t America.
My biggest disappointment in all of this is the number of Republicans who were too concerned about their jobs to speak out against Trump for what he had done. Some of them were complicit in his actions. Instead of speaking out and fighting for what was right, they tried to justify his actions. They tried to defend him. They are just as guilty for enabling these delusions of his.
There were some Republicans who didn’t go along with this (if I ever meet Mitt Romney again, I’m shaking his hand), but I feel like the party let me down by letting this happen.
Being independent is kind of freeing — I no longer have to do the mental gymnastics required to try to defend the actions of people in my party. But I hope that the Republicans will see this as a wake-up call that things in the party need to change if they are to survive.