In 2002, I became President of a small minority group at my liberal arts university: our chapter of the College Republicans. I had come of political age during the exciting time of a Texas Governor being elected to the highest office. George W. Bush was a successful governor who met regularly with Democrats and accomplished much of his agenda for our great state. I was proud to be a Texan, and being a conservative meant reasonably limiting government and encouraging innovation and private enterprise.
But September 11, 2001 came and impacted our generation and changed our country forever. Conservatives and Republicans somehow progressively lost touch with the majority of Americans and continued in power by playing the game well enough – dividing Americans through social stances and then courting and securing their extreme base.
Limited government was the principle, until it came to women making decisions about their bodies or about people being able to marry whoever they love. Compromise gave way to obstructionism, solely based on party lines. Leadership meant sound bites to appease the far right or to ensure support by a small transient Tea Party force. Enacting policy no longer required facts based on evidence or science, because fact is no longer something to be proven or disproven but rather something to be heated, molded, and pointed in the desired direction by a think tank or a lobbyist to fit a narrative.
That was just the tip of an apparently growing ice berg in the face of the overwhelming evidence pointing towards the existence climate change. That ice block was swelling and hardening to buoy the candidacy of Donald Trump. Rising inequality has left many Americans feeling left out and Trump successfully harnessed this sentiment and crafted it into a message of xenophobia, insulation, and hatred.
The Republicans had the opportunity to squash his candidacy. At one point there were 15 other primary candidates, and I’m sure others on deck, and the party leadership could have found a way to ensure Trump was not their man. But, they did nothing, or not enough. And thus, they deserve any landslide coming their way. In fact, deep Republican losses all the way down the ballot may be what is necessary to ensure the Republican leadership hears the message loud enough to force an honest look in the mirror to inspire change. A Democratic landslide victory could even make way for a brand new, ideally centrist, third party or a completely rebranded Republican party.
Some argue that the Trump candidacy will damage the Republican party for at least a generation. Whatever the case, to win back any semblance of a diverse or young coalition of support, multiple transplants, far beyond a makeover, will be necessary.
Yesterday, I entered the beautiful and secure US Embassy complex in Kampala to take the Foreign Service Officer Test, and I thought about how our next President will guide and protect our interests around the world. Following the test, I went home and completed my absentee ballot and, for the first time since I was old enough to vote for President, did not vote for the Republican candidate. In an increasingly more complex world, the last thing we need is a President Trump.