I’m Still A (Uncomfortable) Republican

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Like most Georgia families in the middle of the last century my family was made up of Democrats. It’s OK. I still love them. But when Bo Calloway won the election for Governor in 1966 (three years before I arrived on the scene) my Grandmother pronounced the change.

Why is that? Because her House district went for Bo Callaway, but her State Rep voted for segregationist Lester Maddox when the election was decided in the General Assembly. It was at that moment that my family’s allegiance joined the party of Lincoln.

I was raised in a family that was barely middle class. I was told from a young age that if I wanted something I would have to earn it. Our safety net was primarily our family and our church, and we had a responsibility for these institutions to be a safety net for others.

We supported our military and our law enforcement officers. We paid the taxes we owed but also understood that every dollar we paid wasn’t a dollar available for food on our table, payment for the family mortgage, or investment for retirement.

We believed in and supported our local public school system. Our teachers became like family during the 12 years I and my sisters attended Fayette County Public Schools. Heck, even our bus drivers were well known members of the community and welcome in our home any time.

In my 2nd grade class I was picked to be Gerald Ford in my class’ mock debate. It wasn’t exactly popular to be going against the home grown candidacy of Jimmy Carter. I was routed.

In 6th grade I got a rematch. I got to be Ronald Reagan. I won that election.

My family members and close friends worked for and volunteered on campaigns for Newt Gingrich (it took three times to get him to Congress) and for Ronald Reagan. In 1988 I got to vote for the first time, and I proudly voted for George H. W. Bush.

In 1995 my dad decided to run for tax commissioner of Fayette County. That got me involved in my county party, and I eventually became the party’s first vice chair. It also exposed me to the world of being a “campaign operative”, though all my activities were still that of a high level volunteer. I worked on Dole for President and John Mitnick’s campaign against Cynthia McKinney in that cycle, in addition to Dad’s primary.

Dad didn’t win the primary. Mitnick nor Dole won in November. But I stayed involved, and kept working campaigns.

Then I became a real Republican. I started a business that went really well for 8 years. Problem was I was in it for 10. Profit isn’t what makes you understand capitalism. Failure is. But the ability to bounce back and rebuild is when you understand both the mercy and grace granted by our creator and the hope and promise of the American Dream.

It was at the beginning of the rebuilding phase that I began to write. The rest has been a very successful accident.

The almost decade between starting and losing the business wasn’t one filled with politics. And when I came back as a writer, I noticed things had changed.

The “Contract for America” had become the K-Street Project. The “Reject Hillary Care and let us fix it” became….silence on any substantive healthcare reform. Fiscal Responsibility became “deficits don’t matter”.

And in 2006 and again in 2008, Voters told the GOP “Enough”. A lot of our own left the party or sat out the election. The result was four years of Speaker Pelosi, and eight years of Barack Obama.

This week our GOP leaders are meeting in Cleveland. Barring a major surprise, they will nominate Donald Trump for President of the United States. Many Republicans – myself included – are not happy with him being the face and voice of the Party of Lincoln. I’ve written much about him during the primary. His nomination doesn’t change any of those concerns.

The reaction of many of my friends is to paraphrase Reagan saying “I didn’t leave the Republican party. The Republican party left me.” I’m not leaving the GOP. The GOP needs people who find Trump offensive now more than ever.

Trump is attempting to redefine conservatism as populism. With the Democrats hurtling toward a full embrace of socialism, an adoption of populism means the two main party infrastructures of our country would be working against free market solutions.

Now is not the time to turn the party over to those who would turn to protectionism out of fear, rather than work harder for economic models that promote prosperity for all. Now is not the time to abandon the GOP to those who used thinly veiled bigotry or xenophobia at a time our country needs to be united more than ever.

Now is a time to lean in to our party, recognizing our faults and finding like minded people with a strong spine who are willing to help fix them.

Republicans are at a turning point. The 2016 election cycle will likely be a stain upon the history of the Party of Lincoln.

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is today. Republicans not happy with the untethered nature of our message and underlying principles need to double down, starting now. This, regardless who you ultimately vote for – or don’t vote for – at the top of the ticket.

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Saltycracker
Saltycracker

If Bill O’Reilly has Trump’s ear, I could get comfortable real quick.

Davo65
Davo65

Really appreciate the fact that you can call out Trump and all, Charlie. But realistically; only your peers and older folks have a clue as to what your talking about. Harkening back to your days back in Mayberry are not going to replenish the GOP brand. You guys need to change at the policy level; and that means some of you will become un-electable. Who is going to do that? Nobody with skin in the game.

blakeage80
blakeage80

It is never a bad idea to recount history in making an point. As a reader that was in about the forth grade (voting for GHWB in a mock election) about the time Charlie was first voting for real, I appreciate the perspective. Getting away from a lot of ‘Mayberry’ principles, as you put it, is partly why we are looking at Trump in the first place.

The Eiger
The Eiger

“Getting away from a lot of ‘Mayberry’ principles, as you put it, is partly why we are looking at Trump in the first place.”

But there is no reason to move from Mayberry principles to narcissistic and pathological liar principals either.

blakeage80
blakeage80

Please, for the love of Pete, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not a Trump fan at all, but men like Trump always appear to try and fill a leadership void. If the country still had its collective head screwed on straight then we’d have a more solid set of (presumptive) nominees.

gcp
gcp

The choices in the presidential race are so bad this year I may write-in my own name.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Psh, write mine in instead. I’ve always wanted to have more than one vote for President.

gsupantherfan1
gsupantherfan1

Great column! Just curious, but where do you stand on voting Libertarian for President? I have a handful of friends who are voting Libertarian for President, then straight Republican for other offices. I disagree with Trump and his rhetoric, but there is no way I could vote for Clinton.

Indypendant
Indypendant

Well you shouldn’t have stood idly by all these years and let these bigots and evangelical clowns take over your party.

On another note, FCHS Class of ’82. There wasn’t a Harper in my class but I just looked at my yearbooks and saw one older and one younger. My favorite teacher was Mrs. Mickleboro, closely followed by Mr. Franklin.

LTWill
LTWill

While I wholeheartedly agree with you, I think the bigger problem with the GOP is that they don’t have a coherent and cohesive message. George W left the national party in worse shape than he left the country. No leadership and no policy left only allowed them to say ‘no’ to anything that Obama/Dems propose.

John Konop
John Konop

…….. I think the bigger problem with the GOP is that they don’t have a coherent and cohesive message. George W left the national party in worse shape than he left the country. No leadership and no policy left only allowed them to say ‘no’ to anything that Obama/Dems propose……

Very well said!

bethebalance
bethebalance

The sentiment to get to work/ work harder is a good one. But I always get a kick out of references to the “Party of Lincoln”. Not only have the parties evolved so much, but have done so in ways that oppose the historical reference. Plus…the Party of Lincoln was not exactly the Republican party during the Civil War-era election of 1864…on the national level, the Republican party changed it’s name- at the convention- to the National Union party to attract pro-Union Democrats, and even put a Democrat (Andrew Johnson) on the national ticket. Thus, the Party of Lincoln was… Read more »

xdog
xdog

The gop’s problems are deeper than indicated by Trump’s ascendancy. If he weren’t on top it’d be Cruz, and would the party be any better off then? More free-market, sure, but also more exclusive with the same rampant self-promotion. In a close call I’d go with the guy who said ‘shut up and do it my way’ over the guy who says ‘shut up and do it the way God want me to do it’.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

Half a year or more ago I said I’d chose Trump over Cruz. It’s a case of choosing an incoherent with an unknown ability to govern, over an orator with proven inability to govern.

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

It’s not as if a majority of the GOP supports Trump (but it hasn’t yet ceased to amaze that an otherworld observer would hardly know it). The only sure way “The 2016 election cycle will likely be a stain upon the history of the Party of Lincoln” will be is Trump is elected.

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

Charlie.. AN uncomfortable republican.
Sorry Charlie…your republican party is long gone. They let the Birches out of the cage and you see the result. Your efforts would be much better spent moving on to a new party with like minded people. There will be no saving the republican party. It hasnt been the party of Lincoln in decades.