Walking away is hard to do. I have always been a Republican. When I was a freshman attending college in Washington, D.C., I proudly stood on the curb and watched Ronald Reagan come down Pennsylvania Avenue after being sworn in as our new President. The party of Lincoln had a positive spokesman and America was a “bright shining city on a hill”. Reagan had allies on Capitol Hill like Jack Kemp who believed that freedom, free enterprise, and programs that empowered people could raise everyone up in America willing to play by the rules and work hard. It was a positive message worth following.
2016 has been an interesting political year. The raw socialism of Bernie Sanders, the racist nativism of Donald Trump and the manipulative cronyism of establishment favorite Hillary Clinton have drawn some supporters, but for many in the middle of the political spectrum there is no one to support. I had personally been a supporter of John Kasich and went to see him speak when he came to Iona College during the New York primary. Kasich is a good man with a solid record in Congress and as Governor of Ohio, but considered too moderate in this year of extremes.
Right around the time of the primaries, there was an opinion piece in our local paper from Barry Colvin titled “GOP, I’m leaving you”. Colvin, a member of the paper’s Board of Contributors, laid out why he was leaving the GOP. He said he was leaving the party that has left him, but not for the Democrats. I agreed with many of his sentiments. Still, I hung in there with the Republicans through the primaries and voted for Kasich hoping my Republicans would come to their senses, but they did not.
Well now, the conventions are over, the speeches have been made, and there has been some time for reflection as we head to the general election. On the Republican side, the talk of an open convention where Kasich or even Paul Ryan being installed as a consensus, unifying candidate never materialized as Donald Trump took control of the party. On the Democratic side, the revelations of emails indicating a fixed primary process caused some chatter from the Bernie Sanders people, but they ultimately got quietly blended into the background noise of the Hillary coronation.
So where does that leave us? For me, I can not remain in a party that puts forth a candidate that is anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim and clueless on most policy issues. My ancestors proudly came through Ellis Island, my wife is Hispanic, and I have many Muslims who work with me and for me. Donald Trump could have taken cues from his children and put forth a positive message. Instead Trump gave a convention speech that sounded like the angry white guy at the water cooler spitting out a vitriolic stream of nonsense, not solutions. This week Trump decided to double down on his foolishness by attacking the Gold Star family of a fallen US war hero who happened to be Muslim. It is time to go.
Not that I am a fan of Hillary. I will not join the chorus of those who because of the fiasco that is Trump will now turn to Hilary and laud her as something she is not. She is a shameless opportunist who lies when it suits her, changes her positions for political expediency, stands for women’s rights unless that woman was abused by her husband, and followed a naive’-at-best foreign policy as Secretary of State that has made this world less safe. In America, we all must play by the same the rules, but Hillary plays by her own. Her convention speech lacked any of the positive poetry of President Obama or even our first lady, but instead was just another preachy, scowling laundry list of Hillary’s “do as I say, not as I do” agenda.
So today I join that second largest political affiliation in my home county of Westchester County, NY which happens to be Hillary’s home county. That party is ”No Party Affiliation” or independent. On the local level, I work on community projects with Democrats, Republicans, independents, Greens, and others. As they say, it’s people, not politics – there is no Democratic or Republican way to fix a pot hole. Not that I don’t respect and support some of our local Republican leaders, chief among them my friend Rob Astorino, who has done an admirable job as County Executive keeping taxes down and defending Westchester against an over-reaching federal government that seeks to override our local zoning with well-intentioned, but misguided and factually deficient housing policies.
I am liberated by my free agency. I will judge each issue on its facts and each candidate on their positions. I will not be beholden to any party platforms as there are presently no parties that represent my views. Like many in this area of the world, I am fiscally conservative and socially moderate. I am for freedom, free enterprise and personal responsibility. I believe that government exists to keep the peace, pick up the trash, and then leave us alone. I believe in a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy – not one injected with subsidies and crony capitalism. I reject political correctness and the media’s manipulation of our emotions. As a lawyer, I strongly believe we are a country of laws, there should be equal justice under the law, and that we all must play by the same rules. I believe that the Constitution still means something.
Someday, the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan may win back my allegiance, but for now I am free. The party of Jack Kemp believed that the American ideal was to empower Americans – to offer them a hand up, not a hand out with the freedom to go where ever their hard work brought them. That progress was best made neighborhood by neighborhood, neighbor to neighbor, and person to person. That Washington does not have all the answers, and in fact seems to have no answers at all. As Thomas Jefferson once said, and I paraphrase, “if we turn to Washington for when to sow and when to reap, before long we will all be hungry”. Our country is hungry for new leadership.
I believe that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan understands that Republican Party must be the party of Empowerment. The Democrats have become the party of Entitlement. The party of JFK is no longer asking what you can do for your country, but what have you done for me lately. If Paul Ryan leads the Republican Party in the direction it needs to go, I may come back, but for now I am free.