In 1964, LBJ’s presidential campaign ran a TV ad entitled, “Confessions of a Republican.” It was a recording of a young Republican man explaining why he chose to cross party lines and vote for LBJ instead of the GOP nominee Senator Barry Goldwater.
“I certainly don’t feel guilty about being a Republican,” says the man. “I’ve always been a Republican.” And yet he explains why his opposition to Goldwater brings him to the decision to vote for LBJ: “I think my party made a bad mistake in San Francisco, and I’m going to have to vote against that mistake on the third of November.”
Half a century later, this time in Cleveland, we’ve made an even worse mistake by nominating Donald Trump. Let’s get something straight: angry, right-wing cultural populism is decidedly not conservatism. Jeb Bush put it bluntly and accurately: “Conservatism is temporarily dead.” That’s because modern conservatism should be a policy-focused, big-tent movement. The bigoted, anti-intellectual, narrow demagoguery of Mr. Trump should have no place in our party. But let’s forget for a minute the claims of a “rigged election,” the misogyny, the name-calling, all the headlines that are disqualifying in and of themselves. Let’s take a look at the actual policy orientation of our nominee. The GOP has an honorable history of promoting coherent conservative principles. Does Mr. Trump live up to that high standard?
The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding no. Donald Trump trashes GOP leadership, opposes free trade and aligns himself with Vladimir Putin. Is this the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan? I doubt I’m the only one who still can’t wrap his head around the fact that the traditionally hawkish party has nominated a virtual Russian puppet for the office of President of the United States. The Republican nominee is effectively running against everything Republicans have stood for over the decades. There’s a reason he’s been abandoned by party leadership, especially in Nevada, where Dr. Joe Heck, Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller and Congressman Cresent Hardy have all either refused to endorse Mr. Trump or have pulled their endorsements. Both Republican former Secretary of State Colin Powell and, based on some reports, President George H.W. Bush have actually announced their intentions to vote for Secretary Clinton.
I voted for Heck and Congressman Mark Amodei in early voting. I voted for Republicans all down the ticket, and I’m proud to be a conservative and a Republican. But when it comes to the presidential race, I had to put my country ahead of my party. I had to vote for a greatly flawed but at least minimally qualified, centrist candidate: Secretary Clinton. At risk of making her sound less appealing to her base, I must admit that I actually find her to have a more holistically conservative outlook than Mr. Trump, especially with regard to foreign policy. Will blind party loyalty, then, still deceive millions of Republicans into voting for the candidate with the “R” next to his name, regardless of his conservative credentials? With options like Evan McMullin, Secretary Clinton, and even Nevada’s “None of These Candidates,” I certainly hope not. As the man in that 1964 ad says, “If you unite behind a man you don’t believe in, it’s a lie.”
Before his capitulation to political pressure, Sen. Ted Cruz wisely advised us during the Republican National Convention to vote our consciences. I know there are many Republicans like me who are dissatisfied with our party’s nominee. And I know if we fail to heed Sen. Cruz’s advice, there will be a price to pay — A political price levied by future generations of voters, no doubt. But more than that, a moral price levied by our future shame and regret. I pray we find the strength to pay that price and rebuild our party in the years to come.