Following the tumultuous events of this year, 2016 seems like a lifetime away. This month four years ago, the election battleground was hot with vicious competition between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The circumstances were unheard-of and the divide was clear. Many individuals struggled to support either of the major competitors, but the parties stood firmly behind their nominees. Within the Republican party, some influential members criticized Trump, but most ultimately endorsed him as the hopeful successor. Now, after nearly a full term with Donald Trump in office, the support from prominent republicans has dwindled as many of those faced with the moral dilemma of another term turn away from Trump.
Earlier this year, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) made headlines as he voted to convict during President Trump’s impeachment trial . Although the two have not had an outstanding relationship in the past, this move was shocking and direct. Many Republicans felt that Romney’s vote was a betrayal of their party. However, if we look deeper into the actions of Republican leaders, it is apparent that Romney does not stand alone in his condemnation of Donald Trump.
The change of heart among conservative leaders is a gradual development that can be seen at all levels of government. Some of Trump’s former White House staffers make up a large portion of those who oppose him. Among them are Anthony Scaramucci, who served as Trump’s communication director, Elizabeth Neumann, Trump’s former assistant director of Homeland Security, and Trump’s former Homeland Security Department Chief of Staff Miles Taylor. These individuals all chose to work in Trump’s administration, but left with heavy concerns over his ability to lead .
Aside from the assessments of Trump’s prior staffers, many other influential party members have felt the need to express their concern with Trump’s leadership. In 2017 Arizona Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) gave a moving farewell speech to the Senate. He eloquently explained his struggle to reconcile the “reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior” he’d seen from the presidency. Deeply affected by these issues, Flake declared, “I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit or silent” and announced he would not run for another term as working under Trump’s leadership would cause him to “compromise far too many principles” . Senator Flake has remained true to his stance against President Trump and officially endorsed Joe Biden this year, saying, “We need to elect someone else in his [Trump’s] place — someone who will stop the chaos and reverse the damage“. Similar to Sen. Romney, Sen. Flake is a man of faith who has been driven by morals and a desire to better the country during his career in government. Their refusal to support Trump is similarly guided by their need to uphold their standards.
As these men have taken a stand against their party’s leader, several other influential Republicans have similarly used their platform to speak out against Trump and endorse Joe Biden. Carly Fiorina, who ran with Ted Cruz for a brief period in 2016, ultimately endorsed Donald Trump in his first election. As of 2020 though Fiorina seems to have had a change of heart as she has turned away from Trump and endorsed Joe Biden saying, “I am encouraged that Joe Biden is a person of humility and empathy and character. I think he’s demonstrated that through his life. And I think we need humility and empathy everywhere in public life right now. And I think character counts” .
In response to this turning away from him as their unquestioned leader, Donald Trump has taken it into his own hands to attack these party leaders. From petty insults to Twitter rampages, the president takes these altered attitudes very personally. And in all fairness, they are. These criticisms reflect very poorly on his character. A character that is only more deeply reflected by his insolent reactions to thoughtfully presented critique of his time in office.
Every election sees individuals who may meander from their usual party alignments, but this turn away from Trump is unprecedented. The politicians speaking out against him from the Republican party are life-long party members and staunch conservatives. Some even endorsed him in 2016 and helped run his administration but saw the need to change their stance on him after his years in office. Their values are firm and it’s those values that have led them to speak out against President Trump. And at such a crucial moment for our country, their actions should make all of us think harder about the distinction between party loyalty and what is morally expedient for the future of our nation.