The day after the New Hampshire primary, I walked down to City Hall in Bangor and changed my voting registration from Democratic to Republican.

Why? To quote Hank Williams Jr., it’s a family tradition. I come from a long line of Republicans. My great-great-grandfather James Abram Garfield was a Civil War hero, a Republican leader in Congress and, too briefly, president of the United States.

After a lifetime of wandering in the Democratic wilderness, I’ve come home.

I wonder if I’ll be welcomed with open arms. I’m still the same American East Coast liberal I was the day before I switched parties. I still want universal health care, increased public transportation, better stewardship of the environment, strong labor unions, civil liberties, free speech and an overall reduction in income inequality. I don’t identify as “progressive.” Call me liberal; I’ll answer proudly. Now, I’m a liberal Republican.

Maine’s history is filled with reasonable Republicans: Olympia Snowe, Bill Cohen, Margaret Chase Smith, all the way back to James G. Blaine and Hannibal Hamlin. I’m in good company.

Have you ever noticed that it’s usually the moderates who get things done? The politicians who can work across the aisle and get past ideological alliances? The Democratic Party has plenty of people like that. They don’t need my vote as much as the Republicans do. At this political moment, squabbles with my friends on the left pale in the face of the looming forces of darkness on the right.


In his lifetime, James Garfield was known for a quick mind and the ability to acknowledge all sides of an argument. His political opponents saw this as weakness. His allies saw it as an asset to bring people with differing viewpoints together and work out solutions.

Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, also possessed this quality. No American president ever served at a time of more division. We were literally at war with each other. But in his 1861 inaugural address, he said: We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Contrast this appeal to our better selves with what Donald Trump is appealing to. The devils of our nature? Our proclivity to turn on one another when egged on by a demagogue? The impulse to tear it all down, to drain the swamp, to get rid of people we don’t like? Governments are instituted among humans to mitigate such things.

The Trump faction of the Republican Party – my party, I can say it now – regards the other side not as political opponents but as anti-American vermin. What started as misguided top-down economic policy under Ronald Reagan has morphed into a mob movement that has grown increasingly cruel and uncaringly violent. Inciting a riot is a crime. When you’re the president of the United States and the purpose of the riot is to keep you in power after losing an election, it’s an attempted coup.

Supporting a criminal for elected office is anti-Republican and anti-American. I will write in Chris Christie, the only candidate telling the truth about Trump, on the Republican primary ballot. I won’t vote for Nikki Haley. She has made it clear that she would pardon Trump and govern as Trump Lite. In other races, I will vote for the most liberal, least Trumpian candidate.

In the fall, I shall vote for President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Angus King and Rep. Jared Golden. I’ll support other candidates in inverse proportion to their level of tolerance for Trump and Trumpism.

No doubt some of my fellow Republicans will call me a globalist RINO, a sheep in wolf’s clothing, any number of other things. So why not go unenrolled? Maine now allows voters unaffiliated with a party to choose which primary to vote in. But I think that’s a bit like working in a union shop and enjoying the higher pay and benefits without paying the dues. And third-party candidates are always spoilers.

I plan to remain a Republican after the election, no matter how it turns out. I’ll be another thorn in the side of the Trumpers. I’ll go to meet-and-greets and other events, identifying Trumper candidates for lower office and voting against them. In a world where “primary” has become a verb meaning “to purge,” I’m going to fight from within to bring my family’s party back toward the values of Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield.

Republicans for Biden. Who’s with me?

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