How and why I finally left the Republican Party over race, even before Trump

There is widespread agreement, apparently, that the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis went too far. Not completely sure what was that different. Maybe it is just the cumulative repetition, or maybe because it’s a freebie because the initial protests have attracted violent opportunists and you can be “moved” by the murder of Floyd while still triangulating against the violence.

In this context, and the context of my engagement through this blog and otherwise with democracy and voting rights in Kenya from my experience working for the International Republican Institute during the waning days of the George W. Bush Administration, let me share my history in finally leaving the Republican Party over race.

I cut the string on being officially GOP when I moved to Florida from Mississippi in 2013. I went to get a Florida drivers license and the clerk asked if I wanted to register to vote, which I hadn’t thought about. This jogged my memory about the “Motor Voter” legislation which passed during the Clinton Administration in the 1990s while I was already registered in Mississippi and said “yes”. Then the clerk asked if I had a “party affiliation”. This question was out of the blue since we didn’t have party registration in Missouri, Tennessee or Mississippi where I had been registered to vote over the years. I hesitated and said “no”. The clerk was was an African-American woman with a Kenyan flag bracelet (I asked about the bracelet and she had not been to Kenya, likely never out of the US).

I had moved into the Florida Congressional district where Trayvon Martin had been shot and killed and legal proceedings were in process then in 2013. People I interacted with in Mississippi were so angry at the kid for getting shot and especially at President Obama for taking notice. There was also at that time a local Jacksonville case getting attention as “The Loud Music Case”.

In Mississippi these days, quite unlike in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the two parties are basically black and white, which makes for single party GOP rule and “yellow dog” national races.

So in Mississippi I could write in McCain over Bush in the 2004 primary because he at least wanted to fire Rumsfeld, and could write in Dick Lugar in the 2012 general election because I didn’t think Obama had earned re-election but Romney wasn’t coherent on things like Iraq, knowing that Romney would carry Mississippi under any scenario. As a Florida voter I figured I had some real responsibility and shouldn’t play around.

Then we had the hostile 2016 GOP takeover by Trump.

I never found Trump attractive back in the late 1980s when he was doing the Central Park Five and The Art of the Deal and [my roommate] wanted him to run for president. I never really knew details of his background as a corrupt operator until I was a young lawyer on the MIssissippi Coast in the early days of our casino gambling adventure. At that point I would not have ever thought about Trump running for public office or associated the casino industry so heavily with the GOP.

When 2015 rolled around I donated to John Kasich for president and supported him even though I could not vote for him as an independent in a “closed” primary. I figure Hilary is not the anti-Christ but as I told a friend, “I don’t see why I should be asked to vote for someone I couldn’t practice law with.” Unfortunately, with the takeover of the GOP by Trump I was left with no choice on the theory that Hillary wasn’t more corrupt than LBJ or Nixon and had the requisite experience whereas Trump was completely out of the box on both accounts.

Separately, even though it is related, I could never knowingly vote for a “Birther” (most especially a completely phony one as opposed to a genuine idiot). Since I was in Kenya working for a GOP nonpartisan organization when “Birtherism” started that whole thing is just 110% beyond decency and patriotism for me. So Donald Trump could not compete for my vote for that reason alone, aside his own record as a businessman.

I think most of the GOP primary candidates in 2015-16 would have won the general election if nominated and I would have voted for most of them over Hillary Clinton. With Kasich I might well have rejoined the GOP. Policy wise at time of the 2016 vote I was about 1/3 GOP, 1/3 Trump and 1/3 Dem, so I could have been a Republican again under other circumstances but may be too old for that to be realistic now.

What do you think?

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