On the morning of my 18th birthday in 1973, I made a special trip to the county seat to register as a Republican. I had been volunteering in GOP campaigns for five years, and was eager to become an official member of the party. I have been a Republican ever since, working at various times for the Republican National Committee and the House Republican leadership, sticking with the party even where it wasn’t popular.
In 1980, I was studying for my doctorate at Yale. On the day after the election, faculty and graduate students gathered at the Department of Political Science to talk about the results. I was the only person in that room who had voted for Ronald Reagan.
In 2016, for the first time in my life, I will not be voting Republican for president. The reason is simple: Donald Trump is a bad man who is unfit for the office.
Many Republicans admit his faults but say we have to back him because he has pledged to name strict constructionists to the Supreme Court. But there is no reason to trust him. His ignorance of the Constitution is comical, his dedication to the rule of law is nonexistent, and his word is worthless. Look at the wretched trail of broken promises he has left behind in his business and personal life. Do conservatives really believe that Trump would be more faithful to them than to customers, contractors, vendors and wives?
To anybody who says that the argument stops with the words, “Supreme Court,” I offer two other words: “nuclear weapons.” The power to nominate justices is important, but the power to wipe out all life on earth is even more important. Maybe he doesn’t pine for Armageddon, but his big mouth could start a crisis that spins out of control.
“Nuclear deterrence is about balance,” John Noonan, a former nuclear launch officer has written. The former adviser to Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush also wrote in a series of tweets: “Trump is an elephant jumping up and down on one side of the scale. So damn dangerous.”
I could go on about things such as his disrespect for POWs and his strange love for dictators, but I have more personal reasons for staying off the Trump Train.
In March, he threatened to “spill the beans” about Ted Cruz’s wife, Heidi. Then he retweeted a meme comparing an unflattering image of her with an old glamour photo of his own wife. When Heidi Cruz was a student at Claremont McKenna College, I was one of her advisers. Heidi combined a Phi Beta Kappa intellect with faith and kindness. The way I saw it, Trump didn’t just reveal his own cruelty, he needlessly hurt someone I’ve known and admired for years.
Trump has promised to ban Muslim immigrants, saying, “I think Islam hates us.” He has insulted Hispanics. During my 30 years of teaching in Southern California, I have had students from all kinds of backgrounds, including Muslims and Hispanics. How could I look these good people in the eye if I voted for the likes of Trump?
Closer to home, I have loved ones with disabilities. Trump infamously mocked a disabled reporter, and then denied it, claiming that he had never met the man. Like so much of what Trump says, that denial was a provable lie; the reporter had covered him many times. Trump also has spread the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. If parents take him seriously and either delay or forgo immunizations, their kids could get the diseases that the vaccines prevent. And some of those diseases are deadly. Through his words, Trump has potentially put children at risk, and he either doesn’t know or care.
In 1992, I enjoyed a high point of my political life when I attended Ronald Reagan’s last speech to a Republican National Convention. Perhaps sensing that he would not be coming back, he said: “And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts.”
Then he addressed the greatness that Trump claims our country lacks. “My fondest hope for each one of you – and especially for the young people here – is that you will love your country, not for her power or wealth, but for her selflessness and her idealism.”
Trump would not say those words. He would not know what they mean.
John J. Pitney Jr. is the Roy P. Crocker Professor of American Politics at Claremont McKenna College. He is the author of “The Politics of Autism.” firstname.lastname@example.org