15
Sat, Jun

My Voting History As A Republican & How Trump & the Republican Response to Jan 6th Helped Shed My Absolute Party Loyalty

GUEST WORDS

GUEST COMMENTARY - I'm 39 now, and I grew up as a Christian and a Republican. Since 2016, I've struggled to reconcile my Christian way of life and American duty with a Republican party, and the people I know in it, that reshaped itself around Donald Trump, whom I see as the antithesis of the way of Jesus and antithetical to the core American freedom story and constitutional power structure of our country.

I don’t embody these ideas perfectly myself, so the question is not about perfection, but more about whether we’re moving towards the ideal (which requires accountability) or actively tearing down these ideals.

Simply put, are we becoming more like Al Capone or Mister Rogers?

As I've wrestled with this — and continue to publicly do so here and on social media, in light of my own brokenness, issues, and hypocrisy — I've had to reconcile what’s happened (and continues to happen) in our country, particularly with those I personally know and care about. I write my story to help me work through the experiences and I share it as inspiration to others even as I differ from many in my community who are on different journeys.

For those who are also broken like me, but share these aspirational values, we are not alone. Together we can make a difference. By sharing our stories, we grow and help encourage others by providing more of the complete story. Perhaps it will inspire you, me, and others to change in positive and helpful ways that make our world better for us all.

The Upcoming Election Tension

This November, Americans will choose between two primary presidential candidates, Donald Trump (Republican) and Joe Biden (Democrat), along with other third-party candidates, including Cornell West, Robert F. Kennedy, and Jill Stein.

As a lifelong Republican, I’ve been on a windy and messy road. One way to work through this is to write out and share the journey I’ve been down, where I’m at now, and why.

We'll dive into my voting history and the reasoning behind my choices. I’ve been incomplete and mistaken along the way, but it’s the journey I went on and my story of moving towards the vision.

Surveying My Voting & Early Political Activism History: 2004 to 2012

In short, I grew up a Republican, often hearing my parents listen to talk radio, including Rush Limbaugh. This political affiliation, as far as I could tell, was the makeup of most of the people in our community.

In 2004, a year before I moved to Atlanta, I voted in my first presidential election. I cast my vote for the Republican candidate, George W. Bush, who won re-election.

A year later, I had a conservative satire political site (Save An Elf - about the Christmas culture war) in 2005 inspired by Neal Boortz (a libertarian talk radio commentator in Atlanta). I regularly listened to talk radio and even called into many of them, including Michael Savage, Michael Medved, Glenn Beck, and Bill O'Reilly. I knew all the talking points for Republicans and against Democrats.

I launched another more serious pro-Republican political news website in 2006 (Save The Soldiers) which lasted a few years and is the season I considered to be my era of political zealotry. The Marine Corps flew me to Parris Island for a media event, which I covered. This era involved radio interviews, political partnerships, and a lot of wild political experiences including many regrets. I helped a friend create a music video called, “I’ve Been Hannitized!”. It is during this season I learned a great deal about the political news ecosystem, websites, and internet marketing.

During that adventure, I was involved in political fundraising for the Iowa Presidential Watch. I  remember going to this rich man’s house, in Atlanta, to collect a $5,000 political donation. It was the first time I ever saw an elevator in a home! This fundraising was part of a political attack campaign on a Democratic congressman, Jack Martha. The group got access to the FBI’s 1980 footage of Murtha turning down a $50,000 bribe but also of him keeping the possibility open that he would take the bribe later (all staged by the FBI as part of the Abscam investigation and due to suspicions of him corruptly funneling money to friends and family).

Fast forwarding to the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, I voted again for the Republican candidates, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

While I don’t remember the details, I voted Republican down the ballot regardless of whether I knew anything about the candidates. I didn’t think much about it, I just did it.

While I inherited the Republican Party, I certainly embraced it for myself and was active in it as an adult — even attending the Young Republicans on multiple occasions. By all accounts, I was a Republican who said, acted, and voted accordingly.

Things began to shift for me. In 2009 and 2010, I went through a personal transformation that led to a business transformation from 2011 through 2014.

My path changed. And the path of the Republican Party was changing too. As I got off the train to hell, the Republican Party decided to jump on it.

2016: Breaking My Party Loyalty & Voting Against Trump Because of His Pattern of Brokenness & Relational Wreckage

"2016 felt like a fork in the road for how we treated each other, how we talked about each other, how hopeful we were able to feel about our common life, and how we could live together when we're so different." - Elizabeth Oldfield, Ayaan Hirsi Ali: A New Atheist embraces Christianity

In 2016, I voted for John Kasich in the Republican primary. I probably would have ended up a lifelong Republican if the party had not embraced, defended, and valorized Donald Trump. He quite quickly transformed the Republican institutions into his image and surfaced deep-seated attitudes already in existence.

This was a fork-in-the-road moment for me, which came two years after entering freelancing and shutting down my marketing company. It was a blessing in disguise because it would be the starting process of shedding my carte blanche loyalty to the party — which I expect would be a much more difficult challenge for those entrenched in the party for multiple decades.

Trump’s history of exploiting others and his moral and relational wreckage — without apology — from before he ran for president was why I didn’t vote for him in 2016. His horrible treatment of others during the campaign reinforced how highly problematic his leading the party would be — which has sadly and comprehensively demonstrated to be true.

My choice was also informed by my personal experience with people like Trump along with my past experience of political zealotry.

This was also 11 years after my move to Atlanta, and I had changed and matured a great deal. God was doing a work in me and that was now intersecting with the political environment.

America was about to choose a horrible person who treats people terribly, for their president, and many Christians led the way. The moral authority of the church would quickly become the sacrifice of that choice. It was another disappointment for me and a macrocosm of things I'd personally experienced in life at a small level. It had me questioning their core values and how genuine they were when they espoused them.

So, in 2016, as a lifelong Republican to that point, I committed the unforgivable sin of Republicanism; I voted for Hillary Clinton, in protest. If I were NOT going to vote for Trump, I would not just abstain, but rather I'd pull the lever the other way. And I did.

I expected Trump was going to carry Georgia, which he did, so it wasn’t about changing the outcome. For me, it was a symbolic act of breaking my Carte Blanche allegiance to the Republican Party which had left me in the dust with their choice. I wasn’t going to go along with their corruption. Few people I know knew how I voted, making it a private protest.

Even though I voted against Trump, I did expect him to win the presidency, winning a burrito in a bet with a friend. It wasn’t what I wanted but it was what America wanted.

The Access Hollywood tape came out right before the election and that was one of the only times I’ve ever seen Trump somewhat remorseful. It probably got him over the hump because it even gave me pause.

It wouldn’t last, and we’d later find out that during that window of time before the 2016 election, Trump paid off Stormy Daniels to suppress their alleged sex story until after he had won the election. It’s a story, that had it come out at the time, in tandem with the Access Hollywood tape, may have altered the outcome.

But most importantly, this was one sin among many that many Republicans and Christians would passionately ignore, dismiss, defend, or valorize further alienating me from the tribe.

If we always vote for our political party, we have no leverage to affect change. I’ve been pulling the lever to change the party and plan to continue doing so until the Republican Party goes in a healthy direction. A healthy Republican party helps create a healthier country.

Anyway, back to the 2016 presidential election… I remember that night. I was watching the New York Times needle of probability that had Clinton at 80% or 90% and slowly moving to Trump as the final votes came in. Twitter was on fire. It was a wild night.

In retrospect, it’s an ironic moment because these types of vote shifts during the counting were ones Republicans would later say meant the 2020 election was stolen. None of the 2016 electoral problems were an issue for Republicans, because they won (as is usually the case; losers gripe).

I understood, even if I disagreed, why some voted for Trump in 2016. Particularly those who did so for specific testable reasons and clear lines. If their allegiance was not Trump and they drew lines around their collaboration, I can appreciate that type of choice. But if their morality was not simply tribal, it would require they hold to that line and not give in. Whether they’d hold or cross the line would be clarified in 2020, and now 2024, as the cover stories — like Supreme Court picks — that many used in their justification were and are no longer available.

After Trump became president, I watched his daily press conferences with Sean Spicer. I saw firsthand how the media misrepresented the Trump administration. I thought this was a major mistake because Trump was bad enough on his own, but exaggerating or twisting things was going to break trust and make things worse. In part, I hold the mainstream media responsible for Trump’s electoral success, because it had a mutually beneficial relationship and gave him large amounts of free press that helped him get elected.

And this is not to say Trump is any better. In fact, he is usually much worse, lying, twisting, and exaggerating information like a little child trying to manipulate his parents and get out of trouble. Trump is often doing the terrible things to others that he deceptively says others are doing to him.

And lastly, it’s not to say I’ve been perfect at representing my rivals either. There are times I’ve not been accurate or generous in my representations of others, as I would expect others to have of me. This is one of my regrets during the season of having my political news site.

In a way, we’re all in the swamp. What I want is for us to make our way out of it, instead of staying inside of it.

2020: I Voted For Biden Because of Trump’s Firehose of Falsehoods and Concerns About Trump Inciting Political Violence

"Whenever there is an abuse of power, there is deception. Deception both precedes and protects abuse of power. As we practice it, the deception grows and our capacity to see it, lessens." - Diane Langberg

The Trump administration was chaotic, but things seemed on the surface, and at a distance, to be tolerable for the first three years.

Maybe Trump wasn’t so bad, I thought. And then 2020 and the pandemic hit (soon followed by mass social unrest).

in the first several days, I was impressed with how Trump was handling things but then he spiraled into nightmare mode, right in line with his selfishness, moral poverty, and lack of character. Few people divide like Donald Trump, and he accelerated and scaled division in our country, unlike anything I’d ever seen.

And then, a few months before the 2020 presidential election, he began spewing his firehose of falsehoods. It became clear to me that this was going to end badly.

After clearly losing, Trump doubled down on his lies, attempted to consolidate state and federal power, and unconstitutionally tried to stay president — of which he's now under multiple criminal indictments.

I took claims of election fraud seriously, investigating and watching the press conferences. It became clear that Trump was conducting a persistent deception campaign carried forth by his cronies. Lies upon lies upon lies, to cover his own corruption.

So, I gamed it out. If I believed all these lies, what would I do?

From there, I anticipated and feared something like the Jan 6 violence happening.

If the election had been in 2019, I would probably have ended up voting for Trump. If Trump had not launched his incessant campaign of lies, I may have just not voted. But because of his deception, I knew we needed the outcome to be crystal clear for the sake of the republic. Trump needed to lose as big as possible as a 2000 close election would have resulted in a nightmare scenario — which we may now face, in 2024.

So, I voted for Biden. There were 28,000 Georgians who voted down the ballot for Republicans but did not vote for Trump. I was one of them. Trump lost by less than half that amount. That’s why he lost Georgia; enough courageous Republicans either didn’t vote for him or voted against him.

Biden won the 2020 election and Trump continued with his lies.

I was monitoring Trump’s words, the interwebs, the FBI reports, and extremist group messaging. Everything was pointing to something terrible happening on Jan 6.

And something horrible happened on January 6th. On that day, I watched live through Twitter as things unraveled, something I learned to do during the 2020 American riots. It was intense. 

January 6th for me was much more personally traumatic than 9/11. It was a defining moment for me and many other Republicans. This is important to bookmark because Trump and many Republicans have since minimized and justified that day of violence. Trump, and many of his most devoted, goes so far as to valorize it. This energizes me to speak out.

Imagine if, after 9/11, people started justifying the Twin Towers and Pentagon terrorist attacks against America (the terrorists were mostly peaceful, they didn’t have guns, etc…). That's what Trump and the Republican Party have been and continue to do. Trump calls the criminals of that day hostages. He’s redefined what is good as bad and bad as good. And most Republicans are going along with it. Many don’t see the deception they’ve embraced and actively perpetuate. Some don’t care while others deeply disagree. 

For a half second after January 6th, Republicans seemed to break the spell they were under but then they quickly and largely went back into the big lie following Trump’s lead.

Trump should have been impeached and removed after January 6th, barred from ever being president again. That would have been the easy way to solve several of our 2024 problems. It seemed for a moment that might happen. But Republican senator Mitch McConnell thought Trump was done politically and he believed that if Trump tried to run for office again, Republicans could bar Trump from the ballot using the 14th amendment.

Instead, after Jan 6, Republicans still opted to overturn the 2020 election.

“…stop saying this was not about overturning an election: This was quite literally about overturning an election…” Republican Congressman, Dan Crenshaw

Almost all, but a handful of Republicans, were cowards. They voted against impeachment and they voted for the lie (objecting) that the election was stolen. They chose to participate in the unconstitutional overturning of the election without consequence. A few Republicans did the right thing, like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, voting against this unconstitutional act. Those are the real heroes in the Republican story, something Republicans will eventually see in 10-15 years.

And so it was Jan 6, when I majorly shifted away from voting for a candidate just because there was an R next to their name. The wolves are in the hen house and we let them in.

The good news is that Trump helped me break my allegiance to the party with the presidential candidate. Republican leadership, in their response to Trump’s election lies and Jan 6, helped me break it down the ballot. I’ve been liberated. It feels great.

Jan 6 and the reactions to it illuminated the deep moral rot in the Republican Party, something I’m not interested in participating in or enabling. And so for this clarity, I’m grateful to be free to do what is right when my political party does what is wrong.

"heavy whiff of end times when neither buying a porn actress's silence to win one election then trying to overthrow the republic after losing another... counts as an obstacle to vying for the presidency of the united states" - Philip Gourevitch, via X

2020 Runoff & The 2022 Midterms: Voting For The Republic and Against Lawlessness and Presidential Election Lies

After Jan 6th, I realized intuitively that the corruption of the Republican Party went much deeper than Trump, even if I didn’t know all the details at the time.

The cancer had spread. Feeding the cancer was not an option so I chose to stop it instead.

Georgia had the Senate runoff after the November 2020 election and after the insurrection on January 6th. I switched my Republican vote and voted for Democrat senator Raphael Warnock while abstaining on the second seat. If Republicans were willing to torch the constitutional power structure, I was going to go with the party that still submitted to it.

Fast forward two years, to the midterms. In 2022, I voted for a mix of Republicans and Democrats. I voted for Republicans Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger because they pushed back against the lies and Trump’s pressure campaigns to change the election results (I want to reward good and truthful behavior which I want more of). I even voted for Raffensperger in the primary because MAGA Republicans were trying to get him out because he didn’t go along with Trump’s election deception.

I voted for Democrats who were running against Republicans who propagated the lies about the presidential election. I voted for Raphael Warnock because I wanted to ensure less power for the Republican party and ensure Hershel Walker was not a senator during the future 2024 presidential election. 

In the 2022 midterms, the red wave never came and Republicans massively underperformed. That was a milestone moment in the Republican Party throwing away its principles and further losing my support.

I thought and hoped losing in 2022 would break the Trump spell on Republicans, and it did seem like it did, for a small window of time.

But, then Trump started talking about retribution and the criminal indictments came. And most Republicans got back in line behind him soon nominating him as their presidential candidate.

All but a few of the Republican presidential candidates in 2023 vocalized their willingness to support a criminal for president. The Republican electorate chose Donald Trump, among other options. The lawlessness of the Republican Party would continue.

The Republican Party is now the party of a morally impoverished Trump, mimicking his words and actions.

Republicans were once the party of responsibility and now it’s about victimhood and blaming others. It was about law and order and now Republicanism is about lawlessness and chaos. Deception and denial are now requirements to be a part of the party leadership and dissidents are not welcome.

Abandoned By the Republican Party: Stopping Our Downward Descent

"All men can be criminals, if tempted; all men can be heroes, if inspired." - G.K. Chesterton, Paganism and Mr. Lowes Dickinson

From my perspective, the Republican party has abandoned me and its principles for selfish pursuits of power, often grounded in villainizing their enemies and fighting against them in ungodly ways. It's been deeply disappointing for me to watch this unfold. For me, their morally problematic justifications and enabling, make it even worse.

It doesn't feel good to be abandoned or alienated. And, I think in many ways, a large number of Republicans, particularly those a generation or two older than me, feel this way. What I hope they see, is that they're doing the same thing to me and others that they say was done to them. We're all caught up in this cycle. We can keep it going or break it for something healthier and better.

Going back down memory lane and seeing how I got here, doing so publicly, lets you see and learn from my journey, hopefully inspiring those who feel the same way to speak out publicly and vote accordingly.

It’s the corruption of the Republican Party, and its godless justification of why that corruption is actually good (or not so bad), that motivates me to speak out and be so transparent with where I’m coming from.

We don't have to go along with the corruption of our group, just because we're a part of it. If we love those in our group, we'll boldly speak the truth as a way to provide accountability which can drive positive change — in us and others.

We don’t have to be perfect to move towards a good and true vision and set of values. But, by moving towards them, we’ll reveal and work out our own imperfections. 

This creates a tension. And, that’s where growth happens. We have a small role to play nationally, but our transformation is one that can have a major impact on our personal and communal lives.

Anyway, that's my story. What is yours?

(Jason Montoya is a freelancer, blogger, podcaster, and author (Path of the Freelancer: An Actionable Guide to Flourishing in Freelancing and the Jump: From Chaos to Clarity for Your Striving Small Business). He shares his good, and not so good, stories from his journey to process ideas and inspire others.)

This article was originally written and posted on Jason Montoya’s Blog, here. It's been published here with permission.