For as long as I can remember, I have identified as a Republican, first because that is how my parents raised me; eventually, I became one out of my own volition and understanding. For as long as I can remember, I have been proud to be a Republican. There were no caveats. There was no need for justifications. There was no fear that my party identification would paint me as hateful, ignorant, or small-minded. Despite recent developments, I have chosen to remain a Republican.
I am a Republican because I believe in a limited federal government and states’ rights—not in taking away essential services from Americans.
I am a Republican because I believe in rewarding hard work—not in trampling the oppressed and perpetuating a cycle of privilege.
I am a Republican because I believe in thoughtfully and meaningfully upholding tradition—not in blindly opposing all change.
I am a Republican because I believe in encouraging economic growth by assisting the private sector—not in creating tax loopholes for the wealthy.
I am a Republican because I believe in maximizing personal freedoms—not in exclusion based on religion, gender, race, or other identifications.
I am a Republican because I believe in protecting American interests first—not in childishly destroying free trade deals and international relationships.
I am a Republican because I believe in military hawkism—not in isolationism and abandonment of our allies.
I am a Republican because I believe in following and respecting the laws of this country—not in the absence of mercy and grace.
I am a Republican because I love my country more than most things in this life, because I tear up every time I hear the national anthem, and because I believe in fighting for my beliefs.
I am not a Republican because I believe in misogyny, racism, fear-mongering, or xenophobia.
I have been a Republican long before, and will likely be a Republican long after Donald Trump ceases to terrorize our political landscape.
But he has done me a great personal disservice. Every time I claim my political identification, I must add the caveat that I did not vote for him, that I strive for nothing less than a unified, tolerant, and loving country.
Over the past few years, I have slowly watched the Republican party morph into an unrecognizable creature, one that exhibits a voracious appetite for inflammatory rhetoric and irrational accusations. In the face of this extremism, I continued to proudly insist that the Republican Party balanced the best parts of tradition and progress; that contrary to many millennials’ beliefs, we were as loving as we were pragmatic.
The election of Donald Trump has largely invalidated my idealistic conception of the Republican Party . It has revealed the fecklessness of my leaders, whom I trusted to stand up to bullies and to uphold the party standards. The Republicans unceasingly market themselves as the party of family values, of higher and greater morals. Where are those ideals now? I have now come to realize that my party had begun to betray me long ago, beginning with the rise of the Tea Party. November 8 was simply the final Judas kiss, the last twist of the knife in my back.
Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. I will respect and honor that, because we must uphold our democratic process. I will not, however, acknowledge the “R” next to his name. He does not represent the Republican values that I espouse. To me, his election is an outright rejection of true Republicanism.
I can only hope that one day he might live up to the best parts of the party label of which he thus far has proven wholly undeserving. Although I may now be in the minority in my own party, I will strive to shape a Republican brand that does not inspire fear, but hope; that does not induce disdain, but respect. I refuse to disavow my party affiliation because I choose to stand and fight for the vision that I truly believe will lead to a better America for all. Someday I hope to enthusiastically and proudly claim this label once again. Until then, I will keep the faith: in God, in the institutions of this country, and in my fellow Americans.
Cheryl Liu is a sophomore in the School of Foreign Service.