I stood in a voting booth on November 2008, my first admittance into the republic’s Holy of Hollies, completely at a loss. Both candidates were excellent choices. John McCain was a national hero, champion of international human rights, foreign policy expert, and all-around decent person who acknowledged climate change and admonished an adherent on live television for supporting a conspiracy theory about his rival. Barrack Obama was a hyper-intelligent and idealistic breath of fresh air committed to shaking up a staid political system. After mulling my options for what seemed an eternity, I bubbled Obama’s name and submitted my ballot.
I do not regret my selection, though I know McCain would’ve also made an excellent President. I faced a bifurcated embarrassment of riches. Both parties nominated outstanding candidates and I felt privileged to choose between them. I cannot possibly say the same today.
I do not pertain to either party and, until very recently, regularly split my ballot. I voted for Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-27) in every election until she retired in 2018. Indeed, I previously interned in her office. I proudly considered myself a moderate Cuban-American, someone who had friends across the political spectrum and could make nuanced decisions about who deserved my vote. But the Republican Party, in its current iteration, unwillingly stripped me of my moderate moniker and options.
The Republican Party stood for a robust foreign policy, strong international alliances, intelligent economic policy, and hard-nosed factual analyses used to dispassionately make the best possible decisions. That institution is long dead, quartered, ground to dust, and scattered by gale force winds. It was once the Party of Ideas, but has since shrunk to a Party of a Single Thought: every xenophobic, bigoted, authoritarian half-baked utterance to fall from Donald Trump’s mouth is dogma.
As the child of refugees, both my parents and I faced vehement discrimination. I cannot fathom supporting someone who reflexively incites hatred and violence against other immigrants and minorities. I was born and raised in Miami, a city that faces an existential threat from sea level rise within my lifetime, and yet my President denies climate change. 200,000 of my fellow Americans are dead because of a chaotic to nonexistent federal response to a global pandemic. Racial animus rocks every major city. The economy is in tatters. International alliances are strained. Geopolitical rivals run roughshod over our interests. My country, the republic that accepted my parents and raised me, seems to be falling apart and the Republican Party is to blame.
Many of these problems existed before Donald Trump, but they have been undeniably aggravated by his presidency. The Republican Party elected and then empowered a malignant narcissist who is pathologically incapable of placing the country’s interests above his own, much less understand the concept of public service. By definition, the conservative party’s mandate is to conserve this country’s integrity—the norms and institutions that make it a functional democracy. Instead, it enabled their destruction. I pray that it similarly facilitates its own defeat. I will vote Democratic down the ballot this November because I do not believe I have a choice. The ability to decide between two qualified candidates was stolen by the Republican Party.
As a moderate Cuban-American, I want the party to implode under the weight of its own self-interested idiocy for the very selfish reason that I would like to vote for it in the future. I hope it suffers such a catastrophic electoral defeat that it must eschew the intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and autocratic streak that transformed it from the Grand Old Party into a personality cult. I do not wish to be beholden to the Democratic Party. I want my choices back. I want to agonize over my vote. But until the GOP returns to its supposed values, I will not cast a vote for a Republican again.
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