By Tom Westfall
An elderly couple was taking a country drive one autumn afternoon. The gray-haired woman looked at her husband and with a twinkle in her eyes said, “Do you remember 60 years ago when we were first courting? I used to sit right beside you there on the seat. It was so romantic.” Her husband thought for a moment and then replied, “Yeah, I remember, but you know what? I haven’t moved!”
I was thinking about this amusing anecdote this past week when the Republican Senate majority failed to vote for witnesses in the impeachment trial of President Trump. I’m not certain that there was enough evidence to impeach, but I was truly disappointed that the American public (and the “jury”) was denied the opportunity to hear what I believe would have been compelling testimony about the alleged quid pro quo.
I’ve been disappointed in my Republican party before, just a I have been disappointed in the leadership of both of our political parties, but up until now, I have never contemplated disavowing my association with the “R” beside my name in the voter registration files. I mentioned to a friend that I was going to change my voter registration and this person replied, “So you’re giving up on the Republican Party?”
Just as the aging husband in the aforementioned story, I don’t believe I’m leaving the Republican Party at all. I believe that there is currently no Republican Party; rather it is the party of Trump. The Republican Party essentially left me.
Many of my closest friends are Trump supporters and although they know my private thoughts relative to our president, I have eschewed the opportunity afforded me in this column to really express my thoughts and sentiments relative to this president. For the most part, I’m a consensus builder, or try to be, and for the longest time, I thought I could, in good faith, remain a member of the Republican party; the Grand Old Party that was responsible for the elimination of slavery; the party that believed in fiscal restraint and limited government; the party that believed in the self-efficacy of individuals, valued personal liberties (for the most part), welcomed refugees and promoted the ideal of the American Dream—striving fulfilled.
That Republican party is unrecognizable today. Instead we are saddled with the “Cult of Trump”, a man who is ill-mannered, contemptuous of anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him and lacks what I would call “Presidential timber.”
Someone once said, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything,” and it was to that end that I believed in affiliating myself with one of the two major political parties; it was important for me to “choose.” Sometimes that choice was the lesser of what I perceived to be “two evils” but I consistently made that choice. My voting record over the past four decades is replete with 90% of my votes supporting Republican candidates. But no longer.
Although I am completely disillusioned with the Republican Party, there is something inside of me that resists “going to the other side.” Although several of the issues that Democrats support, such as a pathway to citizenship for undocumented residents, resonate with me, I don’t believe that “government is the solution” most of the time.
There are, of course, exceptions to this—we need laws and regulations, but we all know that you can’t legislate morality and it occurs to me that as a nation we are sorely lacking in morality. The lack of morality of which I opine manifests itself in the value that if something isn’t “illegal” it is all right to do.
Anyone with a conscience knows that this isn’t the case. Many things may be technically “legal” but are unethical and immoral. I don’t think that either party has the slightest notion of what this means and both parties seem to me to be devoid of a moral compass. More laws do not equal a more equitable society. That will require a change of peoples’ hearts and neither side of the political aisle has any concept of what that involves.
In the process of changing party affiliation, I found a pulldown menu (yes, you can change your affiliation on-line) which includes The Green Party, Libertarian, Socialist, and so forth. I probably suffer with libertarian leanings, but the Libertarian Party isn’t known for much, and thus that one was eliminated. I’m certainly no socialist and although I grow hemp the Green Party isn’t compatible with the political realities of the day.
In the end, the best I could come up with was “unaffiliated.” It’s akin to being a political “freelancer” in that I can now choose in which party’s primary election I will vote. In the upcoming primary election, I will choose the most centrist/moderate woman or man running for the office of President. The Elephants have deserted me. The Donkeys never made the cut.
What animal represents the unaffiliated? I’m hoping it’s the wise old owl!
Westfall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tom Westfall