“I didn’t leave my party; my party left me.” That’s what Reagan always said, about his break with the Democrats in the early 1960s. Reagan was in his early fifties at the time. I grew up hearing this expression. And I grew a little weary of it, frankly: It seemed too pat.
I never thought it would be relevant to my life. Because when you’re younger, I think, you think things are forever. The Republicans were Reaganites (with a few oddballs, mainly in the Northeast); the Democrats were McGovernites (with a few oddballs, who still hadn’t switched to the GOP). That’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Well, the Democrats are still McGovernites. We can call them Obamites now, or Hillaryites. Berners? But the Republican party is now represented by Donald J. Trump. He is the presidential nominee, or will be. And the presidential nominee is the face — the brand, the spirit — of a party. He is synonymous with the party both at home and abroad.
A few weeks ago, I was talking to a man I greatly respect, a cabinet official in the last Republican administration. I said to him, in sort of a shocked tone, “I’ve left the Republican party.” He shot back, “You didn’t leave it — the party left you.” I was relieved and grateful to hear it.
Anyway, I write about all this today in my column: “#ExGOP: The shock of disaffiliation.” Here on the Corner, let me excerpt a paragraph toward the end:
Why does my party affiliation, or non-affiliation, matter? It doesn’t at all, not even to me, all that much. The fate of the Republic does not hang on one man’s outlook and angst. But I offer these jottings because my fellow conservatives and classical liberals might find them interesting, in this weird, dislocating time.