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The Dartmouth
May 18, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Paul: The Fight to Save American Democracy Starts in the New Hampshire Republican Primary

Conservatives and liberals alike should vote against Trump and those who refuse to stand up to him.

Ever since I was a middle schooler, I’ve identified as a conservative, inspired by former President Ronald Reagan’s vision of optimism, limited government and military strength. When I was a child, I dragged my parents to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, Calif. because I was enamored with the 40th President of the United States. That same night, I bought a copy of Jon Meacham’s book, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush.” The book taught me about how the Commander-in-Chief of the Greatest Generation lived a life of service and conducted his presidency in a bipartisan fashion: what conservative governance can accomplish at its best. In my mind, it was the optimistic, conservative vision of these two presidents that revitalized America and brought a peaceful end to the Cold War — no small achievement. Now, however, the party that won the Cold War is taking policy positions that remind me of the Nazi and Soviet leaders that oppressed my grandparents and murdered millions in the name of an ideology.

The MAGA hijacking of the GOP, led by former President Donald Trump and his supporters, has forced me to leave the Republican party. It breaks my heart to see the political party that revitalized America after the malaise of Jimmy Carter’s presidency transform into an anti-democratic, racist, transphobic Trump-worshiping cult. If Reagan and Bush were around today, they would no longer have a place in the GOP. Instead, they may find themselves leaning towards the policies and standards of moderate Democrats. In a world of political polarity where one side has firmly planted itself behind Trump politics, it’s no shocker that Bush Sr. called Trump a “blowhard” and voted for presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 — more than 20 years after he left office as a Republican president. History will tell the story of the tragedy that is the Republican party’s fall from grace, something author Mark Updegrove captures in his book, “The Last Republicans: Inside the Extraordinary Relationship Between George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush,” in which Updegrove recognizes the Bushes as the last of a dying group of politicians.

You might be asking, why am I writing this right now? Isn’t it already obvious that the Republican party has become Trump’s party? I’m writing this article because Republicans running against Trump are still reluctant to criticize him, and the rhetoric of his opponents is in many cases as bad, if not worse, than Trump’s. Even if you are not a Republican, voting for a candidate critical of Trump in the primaries is a service to our democracy. It’s important, to avoid election-day violence and a Trump re-election, that both major party candidates respect the results of the election. Our democracy depends on it. 

I was disgusted by Nikki Haley’s transphobic rhetoric at an event on Dartmouth’s campus on July 8. At said event, Haley said that calling people by their preferred pronouns is somehow a sign that America will be unable to compete with the Chinese Communist Party, which isn’t wasting time focusing on — in her view — trivial issues. Furthermore, a few days before the former South Carolina Governor and United Nations Ambassador made her way up to Hanover, Haley was quoted by CNN, stating: “How are we supposed to get our girls used to the fact that biological boys are in their locker room? And then they wonder why a third of our teenage girls seriously contemplated suicide last year. We should be growing strong girls; confident girls.” What a bigoted, transphobic and hurtful statement. Blaming transgender youth for increased teenage girl suicide rates isn’t just a false statement, it fills our political dialogue with hate and transphobia that has no place in the United States of America. Recently, Ron DeSantis also made the racist, outrageous claim that African Americans benefited from slavery by acquiring skills that allowed them to learn specialized skills, including blacksmithing and tailoring. 

Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis have both spoken at Moms for Liberty — an organization recognized as an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, that has made public calls for book bans on topics related to LGBTQ+ issues and critical race theory. This policy agenda becomes even more startling when one realizes the parallels with the Nazis who banned and burned books before the Holocaust and the Second World War. Republican presidents from George H.W. Bush to Dwight Eisenhower dedicated their lives to fighting fascism and communism in the twentieth century. During his 1953 Commencement address to Dartmouth College, then-President Eisenhower said, “Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed.” The current Republican party led by Donald Trump is advocating for book bans, a policy that goes against everything Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush stood for. Republicans would be well served to follow Eisenhower’s advice and stop this madness before it gets out of hand; before we lose our democracy. 

My maternal grandparents survived Nazi persecution in Romania and fled when the

Communists came and stripped them of all their belongings — books included. My late grandfather was an immigrant and spent his life working as a dermatologist in a Veterans Administration hospital in New York City. He loved Ronald Reagan because Reagan loved freedom and fought communism. But now, the Republican party is becoming like the fascists and communists that oppressed my grandparents. I can no longer support Republicans if they continue to behave this way. I cannot sit idly by while the Republican party destroys the democracy that granted my grandparents a haven from persecution.

Donald Trump is up by double digits in New Hampshire as we speak and is almost a sure bet to become the Republican presidential nominee at the convention next June. A third party run by  No-Labels Candidates Jon Huntsman or Joe Manchin could take away votes from Joe Biden and propel the most dangerous president in American history back to the White House. It’s that serious. In 2017, Trump didn’t know how to govern. Now, he has experience and is intent upon politicizing the civil service with loyalists, refusing to fund government programs he disagrees with and declaring martial law, thereby unleashing the military on American citizens. He can do this now because he will have no one in his inner circle willing to stop him. If you don’t think he’ll do it, just look back at both the Jan. 6 Insurrection and Trump’s tear gassing of protestors on Pennsylvania Ave. after the murder of George Floyd. 

So my advice to my fellow conservatives and all New Hampshire voters is to vote in the primaries, go to town halls, listen to what all candidates are saying and ask yourself if you are willing to let a person with these beliefs sit behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office on Jan. 20, 2025. Only 42.7% of Granite Staters voted in the 2020 First in the Nation Primary. If you’re wondering why the choices are so bad, it’s because of extraordinarily low voter turnout in primaries. One more thing, a vote for Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis is almost as bad as a vote for Trump himself. Both have engaged in transphobia and racism and would likely govern like Trump. Both Haley and DeSantis have expressed their desire to pardon Trump for his crimes — which would send a dangerous message to future GOP candidates who want to follow the Trump Presidential Dictatorship playbook. If more people came out to vote and made sure that the GOP candidate was a respectable candidate and not a wannabe-tyrant, our democracy would be in better hands.

Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.