In May of 2020, Gallup asked a national sample of Americans: Do you consider yourself a Democrat, a Republican or an independent? The replies broke down this way: Democrat 31 percent; Republican 25 percent; independent 25 percent, with the rest presumably scattered among minor parties or none of the above.
Since we know that many who call themselves independents actually vote for one of the major parties more often than the other, Gallup asked again, this time offering the independents a chance to say whether they “leaned” toward the Democrats or Republicans.
That one came out 50 percent Democrat or Democrat-leaner, but just 38 percent Republican or Republican leaner. Of course, that still leaves a missing 12 percent, who were unwilling to cop to even a lean, or are committed to a minor party, or too uninvolved to identify with any of those categories. Nonetheless, and leaving aside for the moment the state-by-state analysis necessary because of the accursed Electoral College, those are daunting figures to any Republican hoping to win the presidency.
And that leaves aside, in the current context, the very obvious fact that there are many long-time Republicans, including many who would still say they consider themselves Republicans, who cannot bring themselves to support the current Republican nominee, whose name escapes me at the moment but who is repugnant to even many Republicans.
Which brings me to Michael Steele, who is actually a recent former chair of the Republican National Committee, a relatively rare Black Republican, and the most recent prominent recruit to the ranks of the Lincoln Project, a group of former Republican or anti-Trump Republican political figures who have been making and airing some of the most withering anti-Trump TV ads.
You can watch the video of Steele explaining his decision below. But it isn’t that hard to understand. Trump has little in common with some of the elements that defined Republicans over recent decades. I’m not talking about Lincoln Republicans. There’s almost nothing linking Republicanism over the past several decades to honest Lincolnism. I’m talking about Reagan Republicanism, Bush Republicanism (either Bush) or Romney Republicanism (either Romney).
Donald Trump hijacked a party with a complicated set of principles and coalition members and managed — with some combination that I will never fully grasp of reality TV celebrity, foreign assistance, “skill” on Twitter and luck — to meld it into a vehicle for his own weird ego trip of a presidency while losing the popular vote by the biggest margin of any Electoral College winner since 1824.
This leaves a small, but smart and stubborn group of Republicans who despise Trump and are campaigning against him, with most clinging to their self-identification as Republicans. Calling themselves “The Lincoln Project” (as you know – and as someone has informed Donald Trump — Abraham Lincoln was not just a Republican, but the first Republican president) the activists have been waging a bitterly brilliant ad campaign against the nominee of the party to which they have long paid fealty. Their anti-Trump ads have been among the most savage, and most effective, of the year.
In the ad titled “Imagine,” Steele makes clear that he is still a Republican and that he plans to vote for Democrat Joe Biden.
In case you don’t watch it, Steele refers to the increasingly likely scenario of Trump disputing the election. He describes Trump as “an outlaw president, clinging to power and defying the will of the people.” The ad ends with Steele facing the camera and saying: “America, or Trump? I choose America.”
Here is the video: