Con­fes­sions of an es­tranged Re­pub­li­can

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY LEONARD PITTS JR. Mi­ami Her­ald Email Leonard Pitts Jr. at [email protected]­ami­her­ald.com.

The other day, a woman con­fessed to me that she’s a Re­pub­li­can.

Re­pub­li­cans may bris­tle at the verb, but it’s used ad­vis­edly. The lady ad­mit­ted her party af­fil­i­a­tion the way you would some per­sonal fail­ing. “I don’t tell a lot of peo­ple,” she said, “but ...”

In fair­ness, her ret­i­cence might have been in part be­cause we met in a blue state. But she also made clear her dis­en­chant­ment with the GOP on its own mer­its – or lack thereof. And who can blame her? In gen­u­flect­ing be­fore a ra­bid rab­ble of vul­gar­i­ans, hy­per-na­tion­al­ists and flat-out big­ots – the “base” – her party has em­braced steal­ing Supreme Court seats, “al­ter­na­tive” facts, alien­at­ing al­lies, kiss­ing up to en­e­mies, “good peo­ple on both sides,” tax breaks for bil­lion­aires – and Don­ald Trump. It has be­come a moral train wreck.

She’s hardly the only Re­pub­li­can who feels es­tranged. An­other woman told me, “The Re­pub­li­can Party has clearly lost its way. Ac­tions speak louder than words in pol­i­tics. You can­not cam­paign and say you’re a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive when you al­low the debt to in­crease to the de­gree that it has or to pro­vide the types of give­aways in the tax bill that the Re­pub­li­cans have given away.”

This per­son was not sim­ply a Re­pub­li­can voter, but a for­mer elected of­fi­cial, Clau­dine Sch­nei­der, a Rhode Is­land con­gress­woman who left of­fice in 1991. “I am as­tounded with the lack of back­bone,” she told me by tele­phone. “My as­sess­ment is, the Re­pub­li­cans keep hear­ing how pop­u­lar Don­ald Trump is and I think the House and Se­nate mem­bers are just in­clined to go along to get along. ... It’s all about hold­ing on to power. It’s essen­tially, ‘I’ll do what­ever it takes to get re-elected.’”

So Sch­nei­der has as­sem­bled a group of like­minded for­mer GOP of­fi­cials, Re­pub­li­cans for In­tegrity, to hold the party to ac­count. “Though we are life­long Re­pub­li­cans,” she wrote in a Mi­ami Her­ald op-ed, “we are urg­ing you to vote only for can­di­dates who will res­tore the kind of in­tegrity and con­sti­tu­tional ac­count­abil­ity that our na­tion’s fore­fa­thers in­tended.”

“I’m not go­ing to be one that’s go­ing to ar­gue that we should de­feat all Re­pub­li­cans,” RFI mem­ber and for­mer Ari­zona Rep. Jim Kolbe told me. “But I do be­lieve Re­pub­li­cans need to stand up for prin­ci­ples and for in­tegrity and they need to stand up to a pres­i­dent when he’s not fol­low­ing those prin­ci­ples.”

And doesn’t the group’s name speak vol­umes? Like “Jews for Je­sus” or “Blacks for Trump,” it’s an im­plicit ac­knowl­edg­ment that what it de­scribes is a de­par­ture from the norm. In “Re­pub­li­cans for In­tegrity,” then, we have a group of Re­pub­li­cans con­ced­ing that in­tegrity has be­come rather rare in the GOP.

Party stal­warts such as Ge­orge Will, Jeff Flake and Bill Kris­tol have all com­plained about the stench of rot­ting ele­phant. Now “Re­pub­li­cans for In­tegrity” is a thing.

“I don’t tell a lot of peo­ple ...” the woman said. And it was sober­ing.

“I’m a Re­pub­li­can” should not be some­thing you con­fess.

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