While most of my Republican friends and family eventually became supporters of Donald Trump, even though most of them didn’t initially start out that way, I still know a few who refused to put party loyalty over what’s best for the country.
That said, most of them do still call themselves Republicans.
One of those individuals, let’s call him Mike, messaged me the other day to vent his frustrations with his party’s continued defense of Trump.
Before going forward, I want to make it clear that Mike is most definitely a conservative. He’s a Reagan-loving Baptist raised in rural Arkansas who doesn’t like Barack Obama, can’t stand Hillary Clinton, and thinks Bernie Sanders is a kook. So he’s certainly not what somebody might call a “Republican In Name Only.”
That said, he’s also one of the few Republicans I know who can handle having civil and rational debates. He actually listens and, though it sometimes takes an incredible amount of convincing, will admit if he’s wrong about something.
Mike vented to me the other day about the GOP’s continued defense of Trump, in this instance how many conspiracy theories they’re pushing to back him (he’s an unapologetic George W. Bush voter who has a great deal of respect for Robert Mueller and law enforcement). He also expressed disgust at how Republicans were ignoring the fact Trump not only had an affair on his current wife just after the birth of their son, but that it was with an adult film star he paid to stay silent just prior to the election.
After a little back and forth, I decided to ask him why he continues to call himself a Republican.
He didn’t really have an answer other than to claim that he was a real conservative and the people backing Trump were frauds.
That’s when I made sure to point out that, at some point, when enough of “your side” supports something — that’s what it becomes. And as it stands now, the vast majority of Republican voters support Trump.
Then I tried a different tactic.
Knowing that he thinks Bernie Sanders is a “socialist kook with radical ideas,” I asked him if he agreed that Sanders was the far-left’s version of Trump? By that I meant, while Trump’s rhetoric pandered to the “base” of the conservative movement, Sanders is the populist favorite of the far-left.
Then I asked him, “But do you think Sanders is a bad person?”
“No,” he answered.
That’s when I pointed out some of the huge differences between liberals and conservatives. He might disagree with nearly all of Sanders’ policies and philosophies on governing, but even as much of a “radical leftist” as Mike felt the senator from Vermont was, he still agreed that Sanders seems to be a good person. He’s not a vile, petty, mentally unhinged sexual abuser who lies with nearly every breath, attacks our Constitutional rights, slanders U.S. intelligence agencies, pushes conspiracies against the FBI, and embarrasses this country on a daily basis.
Is Bernie Sanders flawed? Sure. We all are.
But Democrats would have never embraced someone as terrible as Trump — yet most Republicans were all too eager to do so.
Then I brought up Al Franken, someone who many feel should still be a United States senator, who resigned after several women accused him of sexual misconduct. Franken resigned largely because of pressure from the Democratic party to do so.
That’s when I reminded him that, despite facing much worse accusations than Franken, Trump was not only elected by Republicans, but his support among conservatives remains high — even with the newest allegations that he had an affair on his current wife with an adult film star he paid to stay silent prior to the election.
So with that said, I asked him the question I had been building to throughout our discussion: “Do you think Democrats would have continued to defend and support a candidate or politician on the left who had done even a fraction of what Trump has said, done, or been accused of?”
“No,” he said after a brief moment of silence.
“So, then what does that say about your party — the Republican Party,” I asked.
“That it’s no longer the party for me,” he said, much to my surprise.
He then declared himself an “independent,” saying he’d return to the GOP if they ever actually embrace true conservative values again, though he admitted that he fears that’s never going to happen.
While I didn’t convince him to change his worldview and embrace progressivism (I’ll keep working at it), the fact that I convinced him to renounce his loyalty to a party he was raised to support is a victory in my book. Even if it’s just a small one.