I was a GOP candidate for the Virginia legislature. After the Capitol riots, I said 'goodbye' to the party.

  • I used to be a member of the Republican party.
  • After the Capitol riots on January 6th, I started to see things differently.
  • The goal of a political party is to increase the size of its constituents, but the GOP has only divided theirs into moderates and loyalists.
  • Matt Walton was the 2015 Republican nominee for the Virginia House of Delegates (74th District).
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Earlier this month I decided to say goodbye and leave the Republican Party. This decision was not easy, but it came after months of thought. After my decision, we saw insurrection at the nation’s Capitol, where, because of GOP lies, people died.

The loyal base of the GOP is striving to maintain Trumpism in the Republican Party. Unless you support Trump, you are called a RINO (Republican In Name Only) and purists want to purge RINO’s from the party. In Congress there are members in the House Republican Conference that want to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, the conference chair and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, from party leadership because she voted to impeach President Trump. 

Now some GOP Senators could have it out for the Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell should he vote to convict Trump. According to CNN, one senate Republican stated that if McConnell were to vote to convict,”I don’t know if he can stay as leader.”

On Tuesday, 45 out of the 50 Republican senators decided to stand with President Trump and declared that the impeachment trial of the former President is unconstitutional. The vote is an early signal that the effort to convict Donald Trump is more than likely going to fail since at least 17 GOP Senators are needed to join democrats to convict.  

Rather than attempt to expand the party and make the tent bigger, the GOP is going to become smaller. Many Republicans still support Trump in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, but others are fed up with the party’s far-right swing and its response to what happened on January 6th. They are leaving.

Read more: Trump’s gone, but the GOP’s conspiracy theory cesspool is here to stay

RINO exodus 

In three Florida counties — Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas — 2,025 people changed their party registration and left the Republican Party since January 6th.

Within deep Republican Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, 225 Republicans changed their affiliation within 36 hours after the storming of the Capitol. Similar voter changes took place in other counties in the Keystone state. In Arizona, a state that made a dramatic shift towards the Democrats, 3,317 Republicans changed their registration from Republican to “party not designated.” In the wake of the Capitol siege, more than four dozen people in Linn County, Iowa, where Cedar Rapids is located, walked away from the GOP and changed their party affiliation. 

The goal of a political party should be to expand and attract new voters and members. Ever since the Tea Party wave of 2010, the GOP has focused more and more on political purity and has purged people from the party that don’t follow a far-right philosophy. 

Once Trump entered the equation this purity test has become a loyalty test. In 2015, I was the Republican nominee for the 74th District for the Virginia House of Delegates. I was a proud Never Trump Republican, and in 2018, I was kicked out of official membership of the Virginia Republican Party since I didn’t subscribe to Trumpism.

After the events of January 6, this litmus test for being a Republican has become even more powerful. The GOP is intent on purity. They would prefer a smaller tent where everyone follows the lead of Trump, rather than a tent where those who disagree are welcomed and embraced.

The future of the Republican Party will be bleak if they are intent on purity, which is exactly what is playing out across the country. In a push for purity the Arizona GOP recently censured current Republican Governor Doug Ducey, former Republican Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the wife of former Republican Senator and 2008 GOP Presidential nominee John McCain. The censure was because the party deemed that these individuals were not loyal to Trump. Furthermore, the state party also opted to narrowly reelect Kelli Ward, a Trump loyalist, as party chair.

Failing to show adequate support for Trump has shown to be a costly decision, something that the 10 GOP members of the House are now experiencing. Those 10 are already facing pro trump primary challengers or party censures. For now, the party has decided that if you are not pro Trump then you aren’t Republican enough and should be purged and punished. 

Even Illinois Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who voted for impeachment recognizes this. Kinzinger said regarding his political future as a Republican, ” The only hope you have is to accept the fact that you’re already dead.” 

In order to win elections, a political party needs to multiply its coalitions and add to its members. It’s clear though that the Republican Party has decided to divide the electorate and subtract party membership in a drive for purity.

Matt Walton was the 2015 Republican nominee for the Virginia House of Delegates (74th District). In 2016, Walton was on the Virginia leadership team for the John Kasich Presidential Campaign. Recently, Walton worked with the Lincoln Project and was on the Virginia Leadership Team and the National (Collective Rapid-Engagement Wing) Team. Walton is also a Senior Contributor to BearingDrift.com and is a high school teacher in Virginia. 

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