Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a Republican even when it was unfashionable.
In high school, I pushed my parents to put a Dole/Kemp sign in our front yard before the 1996 presidential election. I’m sure it was against their better judgment, since we lived in a town where Clinton was the candidate of choice.
One morning, we woke up to find the lawn sign marking my GOP loyalty burned to a crisp.
During the Bush administration, I worked at the United Nations for Republican officials during the years when the Iraq war and other issues created divisions in the international community.
At cocktail parties in New York, when people heard my job and then asked if I was a Republican, I liked to say that I was “one of the last moderate Republicans.”
Today, I wonder if I’m the only one.
The Senate voted today to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice.
In the years ahead, we’ll look back on this moment as a turning point.
But it’s clearly not the first turning point of the Trump administration. Over the past two years, I’ve watched many Republicans go along with the Trump agenda as the political tides shifted. Others distanced themselves from the party, some even going so far as to denounce it.
As for me, I’ve been hoping something new would rise up within our ranks.
I’ve been waiting for an invite to a secret meeting place, a hidden speakeasy where, upon delivering the secret password, I’d find Republican colleagues waiting in the wings to create something different for our future.
It turns out, I haven’t found them yet.
Maybe, like me, today you think we need to do more.
Maybe you agreed with Senator Lindsey Graham, back when he saying things like, “My party has gone batshit crazy.” (Where has that Lindsey gone?)
Maybe, like me, you align yourself with this argument against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
But at the same time, maybe you feel like the country would be better off with two parties whose candidates will treat all people equally, even though they might have different policy prescriptions to strengthen America’s standing in the world.
I’m here to say: you’re not alone.
Today, another Republican probably feels like a lone voice in the crowd: Senator Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican to come out against Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, she gave an explanation of her rationale. She closed by noting a courtesy she planned to extend for a fellow Senator, asking to be marked as “present” in his honor while he attends his daughter’s wedding.
“It will not change the outcome of the vote, but I do hope that it reminds us that we can take very small, very small steps to be gracious with one another and maybe those small, gracious steps can lead to more,” she said.
It’s time for small steps by those of us who still identify as Republicans but want to push for a fundamental change and a return to previous ideals – or even better, an improvement upon the party positions of the past.
Unfortunately, I cannot make an argument that our small steps will help us take the reins from the Trump wing of the Republican party. But we can demonstrate that they cannot count on our vote.
We can speak truth to power. We can call out the president when he behaves outrageously, like mocking a woman who says a sexual assault still impacts her, decades later.
We can choose candidates that align with our views, regardless of their party affiliation, and vote against Republican candidates if they will support the Trump administration.
We can support the voice of every person who has been disenfranchised by the GOP as it exists today.
I understand why some Republicans feel the need to leave the party entirely. But if we don’t push for change from the inside, then who will?
It’s time we join together to push for a Republican party that represents our values. Because waiting around for someone else, anyone else, to take up that mantle isn’t working. It’s time to create our own hidden speakeasy where we can join together and push for change. (Just remember to whisper the password - “Reagan” - when you enter.)
At the UN General Assembly today, President Trump presented a defense of sovereignty and “security without apology.”
While outlining how “America will always act in our national interest,” he also invoked leaders of the past.
“…our thoughts turn to the same question that ran through all their speeches and resolutions, through every word and every hope. It is the question of what kind of world will we leave for our children and what kind of nations they will inherit.”
Some of those leaders directly addressed the importance of looking at the world through the lens of realism.
Today, Trump today called it “principled realism.”
But he was upstaged decades ago when President Reagan addressed the 40th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1985 and offered a more principled version of principled realism.
“The painful truth is that the use of violence to take, to exercise, and to preserve power remains a persistent reality in much of the world. The vision of the U.N. Charter — to spare succeeding generations this scourge of war — remains real. It still stirs our soul and warms our hearts, but it also demands of us a realism that is rock-hard, clear-eyed, steady, and sure — a realism that understands the nations of the United Nations are not united. I come before you this morning preoccupied with peace, with ensuring that the differences between some of us not be permitted to degenerate into open conflict, and I come offering for my own country a new commitment, a fresh start.”
Rather than framing realism defensively as Trump did today, Reagan went on the offensive and made the case for freedom.
…What kind of people will we be 40 years from today? May we answer: free people, worthy of freedom and firm in the conviction that freedom is not the sole prerogative of a chosen few, but the universal right of all God's children. This is the universal declaration of human rights set forth in 1948, and this is the affirming flame the United States has held high to a watching world. We champion freedom not only because it is practical and beneficial but because it is morally right and just. Free people whose governments rest upon the consent of the governed do not wage war on their neighbors. Free people blessed by economic opportunity and protected by laws that respect the dignity of the individual are not driven toward the domination of others.
…Life and the preservation of freedom to live it in dignity is what we are on this Earth to do. Everything we work to achieve must seek that end so that some day our prime ministers, our premiers, our presidents, and our general secretaries will talk not of war and peace, but only of peace. We've had 40 years to begin. Let us not waste one more moment to give back to the world all that we can in return for this miracle of life.”
In seven years, we’ll mark the date that Reagan looked forward to – the 80th session of the UN General Assembly.
What kind of people will be in 2025? Will we go down the path that Trump outlined, and “choose a future of patriotism, prosperity, and pride?”
Or will we worry less about the definition of sovereignty and more about championing freedom?
We’ve got less than a decade to hit the target and live up to our ideals.
As Reagan would put it, let’s not waste one more moment.
Today I’ll cast my ballot in California’s Republican primary and change the course of American political history. Of course, my primary vote doesn’t really matter -- that contest is long over.
I’m looking ahead to November, and here’s something I never thought I’d say: I'm voting for Hillary.
If you’re going into the election with a Never Hillary hashtag, I understand. I followed the Clinton White House scandals of the '90s as a high school student who paid way too much attention to politics. When Bill Clinton ran for president, I planted a Bush Quayle sign in our front yard, even though we lived in a liberal-leaning college town. It didn’t bode well for the GOP that one morning we woke up to find the Bush sign burnt to a crisp.
I moved to Washington as a college freshman and took an internship working in the federal government, which made me feel a little like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Then the Lewinsky scandal broke, and I wondered how the Clinton presidency could tarnish everything in its wake. Suddenly, working in government as a college intern seemed tawdry instead of idealistic.
So if you’re frustrated with scandals of the past or scandals of the present, I get it. And yet, I’m With Her now (even though that slogan deserves an eye roll).
The bigger task at hand is to think about remaking the GOP. Republican leaders shouldn't jump on the bandwagon to endorse the party’s nominee. They should re-imagine what it means to be a Republican. There’s a wave of discontent rising among Americans, rooted in a lack of economic opportunity. In times like these, sometimes we point fingers and assign blame.
What if we did something different? After all, this is the party of Lincoln.
What would he say about this election?
While running for Senate more than 150 years ago, Lincoln took a stand against slavery.
He didn’t win the Senate seat. He lost that battle, but he won the war and changed hearts and minds.
Where’s the longer-term view today? I keep hearing that the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House, but shouldn’t we be focused on winning the future?
It’s time to stop seeing this election as the be-all, end-all. Let’s vote for Hillary and push for change. Let’s rework our party and restore it become something better.
All those years ago, Lincoln had it right. Speaking to Republicans in Illinois as he fought for the Senate seat, he reminded them of the trials they had already overcome.
“Did we brave all then to falter now?…We shall not fail - if we stand firm, we shall not fail.”
If Never Hillary is your mantra, then what are you Always For? An incoherent demagogue is not the answer to our country’s problems.
Let’s rally together and create something different. If we stand firm, we shall not fail.