This piece originally appeared in The Hill, Contributors Blog on September 13, 2016
I'm a Republican who has worked for President George W. Bush, three Republican Representatives and two Senators. Frequently I am asked by family, friends, neighbors and colleagues why I remain a Republican given its shift from a conservative-based, pragmatic problem solving party that favored limited government and low taxes to one who seems to abhor the very notion of government and rejects the foundation of our country - the art of compromise.
With the ascendancy of Donald Trump it's a question I can no longer answer. The party has left me.
I've been a self-identified Republican since 1968 when I stayed up all night to watch the Nixon-Humphrey returns. I held a sign at a Richard Schweicker for Senate rally. I stayed strong through Watergate because it was a personal scandal about the failings of Nixon, and the system worked. Nixon resigned before certain impeachment and the country and Presidency moved on. I continued through the Reagan years when many thought him a madman willing to wage nuclear war with the Soviet Union when in fact his strategy was instrumental to the eventual collapse of the U.S.S.R. And I have continued through the Tea Party who have turned Republicans into the party of No.
But the end has come.
With Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, the party is no longer the Grand Old Party. It is now a party led by a demagogic, authoritarian strongman whose rhetoric compares with the authoritarian, anti-democratic strongmen of history.
His list of political apostasies is long and well known. But the bottom line is that the party I was once a proud and long member of has left me as its presidential candidate articulates beliefs beyond the pale of acceptable political belief and does nothing to denounce what just a year ago was unacceptable to the party. From his unconstitutional policy statements to his ridiculing of Americans to his desire to abridge our freedom of speech and religion, and his cozying up to the despot Vladimir Putin, Trump is as vulgar and unacceptable a candidate as our presidential nominating process has every turned out.
This is a bridge too far and should be for everyone. Donald Trump violates the fundamentals of our democracy and is a threat to it.
Leadership is often doing the right thing even if the public and political winds are against you and then facing the consequences. At the end of the Civil War there was great sentiment to punish the South, but Lincoln knew better and told the country we must "bind up the nation's wounds." Teddy Roosevelt busted the trusts despite his party's opposition. The public was against our entry into WW I and II, but it was the right thing to do. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the political pressure was great for President George H.W. Bush to do a victory dance through Europe, but he knew better and did not.
While it is heartening to see many Republican leaders, and elected officials reject Trump, it is disheartening to see so many who have embraced him. I do not know how it is intellectually possible to endorse a candidate for the highest office in the country and then almost instantly reject his policy positions, which they seem to do every day. Trump literally represents everything the Republican Party is not nor ever has been.
While it would have been unprecedented and painful for the Republican National Committee to oppose Trump's nomination, in the long run it would have been the right thig to do. But the RNC did nothing and now the RNC has put the entire country on a path of pain, peril and hurt through the candidacy of Trump who has already set Americans against one another and will only continue down this path.
History is a clear judge and often harsh. By nominating Trump, the Republican Party is putting itself squarely behind a candidate who rejects the foundational elements that this country is based on. I feel sad for the formerly Grand Old Party, but also fearful that we find ourselves in a place where we could elect the antithesis of America.
Winning at all costs has its limits and we have reached that limit.
William Pierce has worked in Republican politics directly and indirectly for 30 years. He has served in the George W Bush Administration, worked for Republican Representatives William Clinger (PA), Olympia Snowe (ME), William Thomas (CA) and Republican Senators John Heinz (PA) and Rudy Boschwitz (MN).