As a Republican, the last six years have been painful. On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump formally announced his candidacy for president. And I watched in disbelief as he started to gain traction among Republicans. I kept telling myself that the party would correct itself. But it never did.
To my dismay, Trump won the nomination and then the presidency. I kept telling myself that Republicans in Congress and the Senate would act as a check on Trump — that they wouldn’t let him stray too far from core Republican values. But they never did.
Trump did unspeakable harm to our nation as president. And Republicans backed him at every step. He defiled the Constitution. Trump repeatedly stated that he should be allowed to serve three terms as president, directly contradicting the 22nd Amendment. And he argued that children of immigrants born in the United States should not be considered U.S. citizens, directly contradicting the 14th Amendment. He violently suppressed free speech and trampled on states’ rights.
Trump’s response to COVID-19 was unforgivable. One in 500 people in the United States have now died of COVID. During a two-month span from mid-March to mid-May 2020, over 36 million Americans filed for unemployment, more than the populations of Belgium and the Netherlands combined. It didn’t have to be this bad.
Trump told people the disease was a hoax and that it would go away. He sowed distrust in masks, vaccines and the CDC. Republicans backed this message and have continued to amplify it, which has resulted in wave after wave of infection, death and suffering.
Yet, of all the terrible things Trump has done since taking office, the longest-lasting wound will be his attacks on our democracy. In 2016, Trump made clear that he would not accept an election loss. And in 2020, he stayed true to his word. His baseless claims of election fraud have infected the Republican Party and resulted in a blatant attempt to overthrow the government.
And still, despite the parade of horrors that Trump brought upon this nation, and the unwavering Republican support he enjoyed while in office, I kept telling myself that the party would return to normal once Trump left the White House. But it never did.
Trump changed the party forever. And it’s unrecognizable. It’s no longer a party that believes in democracy, or free market economics, or the Constitution, or the truth. It’s a party that believes in Trump.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is booed at party conventions. Liz Cheney lost her leadership position for acknowledging Trump’s role in the insurrection attempt. And there are troubling signs that questioning the validity of elections will be the Party’s calling card moving forward.
Fellow Republicans need to ask themselves whether they can continue to associate with an organization that is actively attempting to undermine democracy in our country — an organization that is purposefully eroding the trust that weaves our society together. I no longer can.
I should have left the party years ago, but I convinced myself that it would return to normal. But it never did. And it never will. The Republican Party I knew and loved is dead.
Kimball Dean Parker is the founder and CEO of SixFifty, a company that sells automated employment and privacy legal documents. He is also the founder and director of LawX, the legal design lab at Brigham Young University Law School. Opinions expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of either organization.