Three decades ago, I was proud to lead the Republican Party in Maine. That party no longer exists. What has replaced it deserves to be soundly rejected in this year’s election.

There is nothing grand about the Grand Old Party anymore. It has forsaken its proud legacy and principles and has become a cult that blindly follows an unhinged narcissist who is perhaps the most ignorant, lawless and dangerous person to ever occupy the Oval Office.

The party I once knew stood strongly for civil rights, for the environment, for reproductive rights and, yes, fiscal responsibility. Despite disagreements on deeply personal issues like abortion, the notion of a big tent was widely embraced.

Just as important, Democrats were seen as the opposition, not people to be hated, and the press, although often seemingly biased, was still respected as an important institution in our democracy, not the enemy of the people.

The Republican leaders I was fortunate to know coming of age politically were honorable men and women who helped prevent the damming of the St. John River, fought to protect our coast from oil spills, ended log drives that clogged our rivers, removed unsightly billboards from the landscape and cleaned up our roadways with returnable bottles.

They led efforts to make family planning services available and supported equal rights for women and civil rights for all. They made our tax system fairer and spent our tax dollars prudently. They believed in personal liberty, but also in working for the common good. They supported safety nets and welcomed new citizens.

The party of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, of Margaret Chase Smith, Bill Cohen and Olympia Snowe here in Maine, has been replaced by the party of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell – people who care nothing about civil discourse and the norms that have guided our institutions for generations. The only thing that matters is raw power; winning it and keeping it no matter the cost.

I left the Republican Party during Paul LePage’s first term as governor. It had become a party I no longer recognized or respected. His narrow victory offered an opportunity to bring Maine people together, but in a preview of what was to come nationally, we were instead treated to eight years of turmoil, political extremism and crude attacks on not only Democrats, the media and others, but leaders in his own party.

After beginning his tenure with Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, in the end his political legacy was leaving our state and his party weaker and putting Democrats firmly in control of both the Blaine House and legislature, probably for many years to come.

I hope a similar fate awaits Republicans nationally this November. Maine has recovered well with competent new leadership, and our country now has the same opportunity. I will gladly vote for Joe Biden this year, but like many others who have left the Republican Party I have no desire to become a Democrat.

I long for the principled Republican Party I once knew, but for that party to ever have a chance of re-emerging, the party of Trump and McConnell must be destroyed. The future of our democracy may well hang in the balance.

Nearly 50 years ago another Republican president, Richard Nixon, went off the rails, flouting the rule of law, covering up his crimes and desperately trying to hang on to power. Unlike today though, where our current president is emboldened and enabled by sycophants and cowards, Nixon was brought down by courageous members of his own party – people who risked their own political futures to put the country first.

We need people like that today.

Like a once stately home that has been allowed to rot and crumble through the neglect of its recent caretakers, the Republican Party as it exists today is beyond saving. Still, I know that many decent, hardworking Maine people remain in the party and that its foundation, built on bedrock principles by Lincoln and generations of other statespeople, is still there. Hopefully a new, stronger, more enlightened house can be built upon that foundation someday.

Maybe then, some of us can return to what was once our political home.


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