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.)