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Op-Ed: Why I Registered as Independent and Am No Longer a Republican

Sayonara, GOP. My wife and I are now officially Independents.

Ten years ago, I knocked on doors for Mitch McConnell and John McCain. In 2010 I interned with Trey Grayson’s U.S. Senate campaign. In 2011 I served as campaign manager for Bill Johnson for Kentucky Office of Secretary of State. I have gone door to door for countless Republicans in the interim and most recently for Kim Moser. I have no regrets in any of this.

We are especially blessed in Northern Kentucky to have great Republican elected officials representing us. While I cannot exhaustively list all of them, I would be remiss not to express my continued support for people like Senator Chris McDaniel, Reprentatives Diane St. Onge and Kim Moser, Kenton County Commissioner Beth Sewell, and Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann. They are individuals who I thought represented the Republican Party values best.

Apparently, I have been self-deceived. The aforementioned officials are exceptionally wonderful, but far from being the poster-children of a Party that has lost its collective mind.

I did not want to believe Donald Trump represented us. I thought the Party would surely turn on him quickly after he took office. It did not. To my naive surprise, an overwhelming majority now defend an administration that has changed the GOP into what I believe is the U.S.’s mainstream nationalist party.

What was the straw that broke the camel’s back? In a name, Donald Trump.

Too many Republicans have bought into Jeff Sessions’s perverse use of scripture to defend this administration’s anti-immigrant agenda. As a Christian, it is a regular annoyance to hear politicians cherry-pick Bible verses in defense of national policy, but it is no new practice. Vice President Mike Pence did this in Texas this past week in front of thousands of Southern Baptists, and Sessions cited the Apostle Paul in order to convince Christians that they should not question our nation’s immigration laws.

My party change is also about contradicting worldviews. Do I choose Christ fully or do I choose to live in the tension of belonging to a Party that manipulates Christians for political gain? On the other hand, it is about being humanitarian, but not wholly unrelated to my religious convictions. Will I welcome the sojourner, visit the prisoner, aid the needy, and support widows and orphans? Or, will I support a Party that prefers to mistreat those most in need of our help?

I do not wish to communicate that Republicans are deplorable people. There are wonderful people from all walks of life. I call many of them friends and my greatest hesitation over time as I neared this decision was that I did not want to hurt those who have helped me so much in my own political endeavors and professional development. But the Party itself is no longer what it once was.

Nor am I so naïve as to believe that my family leaving the GOP will create any meaningful change on its own. The President and GOP leadership will not so much as read this. While some of my close friends may sigh, they will be largely unaffected. Change comes not from our individual actions, but in the collective, and through leadership by example.

With that I again say, “Sayonara, GOP.” If you sincerely want to “make America great,” begin by looking inward, then work toward public policy that illustrates your love for your neighbors.

Stuart Warren is CEO of Transforming Jail Ministries