Chris Ladd has been a Republican for three decades. He started off in Texas, interning at the state legislature. From there he moved on to work in numerous state and local Republican campaigns, and he even was involved in a state-wide conservative PAC. After Texas, he moved to Chicago where he’s been serving as a Republican precinct committeeman.
This guy’s a serious conservative. Not one of those “Born Again Conservatives” that came to realize how much he loved freedom only after America went all “black man/white house” on itself. He’s what used to be called the real deal, among Republicans. Now he’s a guy without a home, politically speaking.
If you spend a little time reading the material on the blog he runs, GOPLifer, he almost sounds like a Democrat at times — actually a lot of the time. “But what does it all mean?” you may be asking.
It means that Conservatism in America has been “upgraded” to where it’s now officially incompatible with older technology, such as common sense and pragmatism, and there will not be any updates to fix it. It also means that Chris has had all he can stand and now this decades-long Republican is bidding a perhaps ironic “adios” to the party of what used to be Reagan.
This letter that he wrote announcing his resignation to his political boss, Anthony Cuzzone, who is Chairman of the York Township Republican Committeeman Organization, says what so many Republicans have been feeling. It isn’t just a 2016/Trump thing either.
Chris’s letter exposes something that not enough people are talking about. It exposes the slow creep of internal rot that started within the Republican party in the later 90s with hateful jackasses like Newt Gingrich and was made manifest with the election of our first black president after an 8-year abusive relationship with our own government.
Trump didn’t just spontaneously appear and alter the Republican party in some cascading and uncontrollable chain reaction. He can’t even be classified as a cause of their problems. He’s the product of a decades-long, poorly played Republican chess game that suddenly got an unexpected checkmate by reality.
There’s really no need for a further explanation. Chris’s words are simply perfect on their own.
We come together in political parties to magnify our influence. An organized representative institution can give weight to our will in ways we could not accomplish on our own. Working with others gives us power, but at the cost of constant, calculated compromise. No two people will agree on everything. There is no moral purity in politics.
If compromise is the key to healthy politics, how does one respond when compromise descends into complicity? To preserve a sense of our personal moral accountability we must each define boundaries. For those boundaries to have meaning we must have the courage to protect them, even when the cost is high.
Almost thirty years ago as a teenager in Texas, I attended my first county Republican convention. As a college student I met a young Rick Perry, fresh from his conversion to the GOP, as he was launching his first campaign for statewide office. Through Associated Republicans of Texas I contributed and volunteered for business-friendly Republican state and local candidates.
Here in DuPage County I’ve been a precinct committeeman since 2006. Door to door I’ve canvased my precinct in support of our candidates. Trudging through snow, using a drill to break the frozen ground, I posted signs for candidates on whom I pinned my hopes for better government. Among Illinois Republicans I found an organization that seemed to embody my hopes for the party nationally. Pragmatic, sensible, and focused on solid government, it seemed like a GOP Jurassic Park, where the sensible, reliable Republicans of old still roamed the landscape.
At the national level, the delusions necessary to sustain our Cold War coalition were becoming dangerous long before Donald Trump arrived. From tax policy to climate change, we have found ourselves less at odds with philosophical rivals than with the fundamentals of math, science and objective reality.
The Iraq War, the financial meltdown, the utter failure of supply-side theory, climate denial, and our strange pursuit of theocratic legislation have all been troubling. Yet it seemed that America’s party of commerce, trade, and pragmatism might still have time to sober up. Remaining engaged in the party implied a contribution to that renaissance, an investment in hope. Donald Trump has put an end to that hope.
From his fairy-tale wall to his schoolyard bullying and his flirtation with violent racists, Donald Trump offers America a singular narrative – a tale of cowards. Fearful people, convinced of our inadequacy, trembling before a world alight with imaginary threats, crave a demagogue. Neither party has ever elevated to this level a more toxic figure, one that calls forth the darkest elements of our national character.
With three decades invested in the Republican Party, there is a powerful temptation to shrug and soldier on. Despite the bold rhetoric, we all know Trump will lose. Why throw away a great personal investment over one bad nominee? Trump is not merely a poor candidate, but an indictment of our character. Preserving a party is not a morally defensible goal if that party has lost its legitimacy.
Watching Ronald Reagan as a boy, I recall how bold it was for him to declare ‘morning again’ in America. In a country menaced by Communism and burdened by a struggling economy, the audacity of Reagan’s optimism inspired a generation.
Fast-forward to our present leadership and the nature of our dilemma is clear. I watched Paul Ryan speak at Donald Trump’s convention the way a young child watches his father march off to prison. Thousands of Republican figures that loathe Donald Trump, understand the danger he represents, and privately hope he loses, are publicly declaring their support for him. In Illinois our local and state GOP organizations, faced with a choice, have decided on complicity.
Our leaders’ compromise preserves their personal capital at our collective cost. Their refusal to dissent robs all Republicans of moral cover. Evasion and cowardice has prevailed over conscience. We are now, and shall indefinitely remain, the Party of Donald Trump.
I will not contribute my name, my work, or my character to an utterly indefensible cause. No sensible adult demands moral purity from a political party, but conscience is meaningless without constraints. A party willing to lend its collective capital to Donald Trump has entered a compromise beyond any credible threshold of legitimacy. There is no redemption in being one of the “good Nazis.”
I hereby resign my position as a York Township Republican committeeman. My thirty-year tenure as a Republican is over.
And so shines a good deed, in a weary world. Thank you, Chris, for reminding us that there’s some residue of sanity left in America that might re-take hold if things don’t quite work out for Republicans in 2016.
Featured image via GOPLifer