I registered to vote as a Republican the same day I turned 18. I registered so I could vote for Richard Nixon's re-election in 1972. I was excited to join the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Goldwater and Reagan. For one year before leaving for college I served on the Westchester (NY) Republican County Committee. At George Washington University I joined College Republicans and Young Americans for Freedom (YAF).
A Goldwater zealot in grade school after a neighbor gave me Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative, I was attracted to Goldwater's belief in individualism and his "live and let live" philosphpy as well as his skepticism about big intrusive government. Barry wanted government out of the boardroom and out of the bedroom.
While living in Washington's Virginia suburbs, I served on the Arlington County Republican Committee and later the Alexandria Republican City Committee. I served as Young Republican National Chairman from 1977-1979, having been elected in Nashville to follow in the footsteps of Congressman Herbert Warburton, Congressman John Ashbrook, Congressman Donald E. "Buz" Lukens, and Governor Don Sundquist.
I have worked on the campaign staff of Republican candidates in twelve national Republican presidential campaigns. I was the youngest staffer at President Nixon's 1972 re-election committee, famously known as the Committee to Re-elect the President, or CREEP, as it became known.
In 1976, I was appointed National Director of Youth For Reagan by Senator Paul Laxalt, chairman of Citizens For Reagan. In 1980, I served as Northeast Regional Political Director for Ronald Reagan serving with skilled political operatives like Charlie Black, Frank Donatelli, Drew Lewis, J. Kenneth Klinge, Lou Kitchin, Paul Manafort and 1968 Reagan campaign veterans Frank Whetstone and Anderson Carter.
In 1984 I reprised this role in the Reagan-Bush re-election campaign, taking on Ohio in addition to the northeastern states. I worked for Jack Kemp for president in 1988. Later in 1988, I took the title of Senior Consultant and flew to California at the direction of Bush campaign manager Jim Baker to salvage California where George H.W. Bush beat Governor Mike Dukakis by a thin one percent.
I'm happy to say I sat out the Bush 41 re-election campaign. It was a total fiasco. Without Roger Ailes the campaign fizzled. In 2000, I went to Miami-Dade to supervise recount efforts, again at the request of James A. Baker III. The rest is, of course, history.
In 1976 conservative activists like National Review publisher Bill Rusher, direct-mail genius Richard Viguerie and former Harvard College Republican Chairman and Nixon administration OEO Director Howard Philips began arguing for the abandonment of the Republican party for a new third party, largely because of the influence of the Rockefeller-Ford wing of the GOP. I argued in barrooms across Washington against this plan because I remembered Barry Goldwater's admonition to conservatives at the 1960 Republican Convention that "this Party's our historic home. If we want to take this party back, and I think we can someday, lets get to work."
I have always enjoyed being in the party of giants like Roscoe Conkling, Eisenhower, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert A. Taft, Thomas E. Dewey, Joe McCarthy, Henry Cabot Lodge and his brother Governor John Davis Lodge, Everett Dirksen, Caleb Boggs, John Williams, Homer Capehart, Bill Jenner, Nelson Rockefeller, George Murphy, Barry Goldwater, Walter Judd, Bill Scranton, Strom Thurmond, Jack Kemp, Bob Dole, Tom Kean, and Hamilton Fish Sr. and Jr.
Like every good Republican I hated FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, Tip O'Neill, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, and Teddy Kennedy. I have a tattoo of Richard Nixon on my back not because I admire his policies, but because I admire his drive and resilience.
On Monday, I left the Republican Party, changing my Florida voter registration to the Libertarian Party. There are 25,000 of us registered Libertarians in Florida.
Sadly, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan wouldn't recognize today's Republican Party. The GOP went from being a Main Street party under Ronald Reagan to being the Wall Street Party again under both Bushes. Bush 41 broke his "no new taxes" pledge and President George W. Bush's new entitlement programs and reckless spending made us the party of big spending and big government.
Meanwhile social conservatives in the party demand litmus tests on issues like abortion and gay marriage equality from those who share their conservative economic and foreign policy views, making a cohesive coalition of social and economic conservatives ultimately impossible. Barry Goldwater himself, Mr. Conservative, decried the religious right in the party before his death.
Sadly the difference between the two major parties has become rhetorical. Under the Democrats you're going to hell. Under the Republicans, you are still going to hell, but you are going more slowly.
To real conservatives the freedom of the individual is paramount. No one should be able to tell you what you can eat, drink, smoke, or marry, or what kind of gun you can own. We don't want to be snooped on by an all-knowing big brother government. That is the essence of liberty. The Republican Party has become both a party of big government and also an authoritarian party that would tell us how to live.
That the Republican Party can only produce Mitt Romney, who was an independent during the Reagan-Bush years (and only converted to conservatism after serving one term as governor, never intending to run for re-election while always planning to run for president), Newt Gingrich, a thrice-married egomaniac with delusions of grandeur and Rick Santorum, a religious fanatic, who would tell other people how to live, as presidential candidates proves the GOP may be going the way as the Whigs.
I fervently hoped that Donald Trump would run for president. Trump is a big thinker, with the kind of toughness and guile you need to be a successful negotiator and a successful president. While it is popular among elites to snicker at Trump, his connection to average Americans and working people cannot be denied. As Neil Cavuto of Fox Business News said, "No one draws ratings like Trump."
To put it bluntly, the Republican Party is hopelessly f*cked up.
My first experience with the Libertarian Party was in New York where a small faction of anarchists held a state convention while refusing to allow all candidates access to the rules and a list of the voting delegates. Joe Stalin would have been proud of the tactics used to nominate a non-libertarian registered Republican who had only recently run as a candidate for the left-wing Green Party. But these childish tactics are not the norm in the largely democratic Libertarian Party. I have found Libertarian Party activists in California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Colorado, Washington, and Michigan have proven to be democratic, reasonable, dedicated and interested in victory.
The Libertarian Party stands for both economic and personal freedom. Libertarians oppose spending, debt, taxes, big government, and costly foreign wars where our national interests are not clear. We support a woman's right to choose an abortion, gay marriage equality, and the legalization of marijuana.
The Ron Paul revolution shows me a Libertarian moment is coming. It will gather momentum in 2012 and most likely manifest itself in 2016. Ron Paul's incredibly strong support among young voters is the tip-off. American voters have never been offered a presidential candidate who took conservative positions on fiscal issues like spending, debt, and taxes, while taking freedom-based (i.e. liberal) positions on choice, gay marriage, and drug-law reform. This is clearly where a majority of Americans are.
I voted for Ron Paul in the Florida Republican Primary in my last official act as a Republican. I leave the GOP with a heavy heart. Theodore Roosevelt left the party in 1912 and he came back. Ron Paul left the party in 1988 and he came back. I don't think I will have the opportunity to come back. As the Republicans were to the Whigs in 1852, the Libertarians are to the Republicans.
Goodbye Grand Old Party.