Editorial: Smerconish Ponders Rejoining the GOP

081025_gop_logoI’m thinking of rejoining the Republican Party. It’s not exactly a homecoming worthy of celebration, but more like joining a run-down country club just to throw out the golf pro. I can’t stand the thought of sitting out the April 26 Pennsylvania Republican primary.

There was a time when I was proud to be a card-carrying member. After following my parents into the GOP when I turned 18, I vividly recall both my enthusiasm and difficulty deciding when casting my first presidential ballot in the spring of 1980: Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush? Meeting Bush at Czestochowa in Doylestown and Reagan in the Italian Market on Ninth Street only added to my quandary. Today, I doubt either could capture this party’s nomination.

The Detroit convention that nominated Reagan adopted a platform that would be anathema to the party today. From abortion (“while we recognize differing views on this question among Americans”) to ballot security (“Republicans support public policies that will promote electoral participation without compromising ballot-box security”) to language (“Neither Hispanics nor any other American citizens should be barred from education or employment opportunities because English is not their first language”) and immigration (“United States immigration and refugee policy must reflect the interests of our national security and economic well-being”), the party changed much more than I did.

Consider the platform adopted in Tampa when Mitt Romney was nominated in 2012. The party had moved rightward on abortion (“We assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed”); ballot security (“We applaud legislation to require photo identification for voting and to prevent election fraud”); language (“We support English as the nation’s official language”); and immigration (“We will create humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily, while enforcing the law against those who overstay their visas”).

I left in 2010, changing my registration to “no affiliation” (Pennsylvania’s version of independent) while renewing my driver’s license. Eschewing a label suited me, but where I’d never missed an election of any kind in three decades, I knew it would be painful to sit out primaries given Pennsylvania’s archaic closed system. But never have I felt like more of an electoral bystander than now.

There were four Republicans in the household in which I was raised. Today, under my own roof, besides me there are two Republicans, two Democrats, and a 15-year-old who says that, in three years, he too will be an independent. It was our eldest son, now 20, who introduced me to strategic voting. He registered as an R even though his sentiments lean D. He did it deliberately, arguing that the R’s need more help with their selection process.

“I want to vote as often as possible,” he told me at the time. He said he thought it in the nation’s best interest to have competition and good choices in general elections, and where the R’s were fielding an increasing number of candidates he found unacceptable, he wanted to influence the GOP nominations for the better. (He said he wouldn’t hesitate to switch if he saw the D’s stray similarly off track.) When he said the goal was to limit outliers, I figured he was onto something. And that was two years ago! Before the GOP contest devolved into a battle over the height of a fence, the banning of an entire religion, and the size of the candidates’ “hands.”

Which is why Monday, March 28, looms large for me. That’s the voter registration deadline in Pennsylvania, meaning it’s the last day I can join a party. The Democratic race seems settled. But there is still time to embrace adulthood within the GOP.

That there is a lot of strategic voting this cycle is evident both in the registration figures and from the telephone calls I field daily from radio listeners across the country. In Pennsylvania, nearly 50,000 Democrats have become Republicans this year, presumably to vote in the presidential primary. In Montgomery County, 1,625 Democrats switched to Republican between November and this past Thursday. Four hundred eighty-two No Affiliates have done likewise. (Registering or changing party in Pennsylvania is easy at www.votespa.com.)

Anecdotally, I’ve heard from voters in such disparate places as Massachusetts and Ohio, who told me they joined the Republican Party to vote for or against Donald Trump. In Massachusetts, 20,000 Democrats dropped their party affiliation to join the ranks of the unaffiliated, enabling voting in the Republican or Democratic primary. Other data support the trend, such as exit polling from Michigan, where self-described Democrats represented 7 percent of the Republican primary electorate.

It’s been 76 years since Thomas Wolfe wrote that You Can’t Go Home Again. Well, maybe just for a short visit.

Michael Smerconish can be heard from 9 a.m. to noon on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124 and seen hosting “Smerconish” at 9 a.m. Saturdays on CNN. This column was originally published at Philly.com.

14 Responses

  1. Although the “so called president” has campaigned on a platform of cleaning out the swamp he has succeeded, for the most part, in immersing himself in a deeper and more dangerous swamp swimming with snakes. Hopefully the cleaning agents of SCOTUS and the press will limit his designs upon the office of the President from further enriching himself.

  2. This is what Rush Limbaugh advocated in the first Obama election to keep Hilary out of the Whitehouse. You see how that ended up? We should all be thinking about what kind of world we want left to our kids in 50 years.

  3. @charles sexton: Why is loyalty to party so important? Are they so loyal to you? You’d support them no matter what they do? Torture? Kidnapping? National bankruptcy? Lying to lead the nation into war?

    Most importantly, isn’t our country more important than our parties?

  4. Changing your registration because someone who you did not agree with was endorsed or won an election is not the answer. I bleed Republican and I like Kasich, he will not be chosen, probably will be Trump who I cant stand. Will I support Clinton, NEVER, will I stay home, NEVER! Changing your party is like changing your Religion, it doesn’t work! If the voters in America pick Trump, so be it. Never walk away from your party, only babies, cowards or opportunist choose that path!

  5. Barak Obama has transformed America; only he did it in a way neither he nor anyone else expected! He has created a climate in which a great number of registered voters and a lot of unregistered voters to once again become active in party politics. Look, even “Independents” want to re-join a group. Thank you Mr. President, you’ve given us the energy!

  6. Welcome back. I guess you can’t see yourself voting for Clinton who is being investigated by the FBI or Socialist Bernie. Republicans have issues but they are nothing like the democrat dinosaurs.

  7. Despite his attempts to remold himself, Smerconish will always be the radio guy who made fun of liberals, led cheers for George Bush (and kissed up to him during a live interview lovefest on Election Day 2000) and was only too happy to be the local face of conservative talk radio…until he saw a way to advance his career by veering to the center.

  8. The GOP has become the party of George Wallace. 50 years of pandering through the Southern Strategy has led to Trump and his moronic fans.

  9. The Republican Party has been in decline since 2000 and the reign of GW Bush. Some could argue it has been in decline since Reagan. Very few under 40 see the party as viable. Trump isn’t the problem but a symptom of a much larger problem of a old party out of touch with much of mainstream America.

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