8 Former Republicans Who Ditched the Extremist GOP
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With the Republican Party at historically low approval ratings, seemingly unable to win major national elections, and suffering a continuing string of embarrassing statements on women, some GOP figures are deciding that the R after their names is more a hindrance than a help.
Here are eight politicians who have decided the GOP is too extreme, too intolerant, and too cringe-inducing to bother with anymore (three of them left just in the past couple of weeks).
1. Jimmy LaSalvia: “Today, I joined the ranks of unaffiliated voters,” the founder of GOProud announced on his website two weeks ago. “I am every bit as conservative as I’ve always been, but I just can’t bring myself to carry the Republican label any longer.”
LaSalvia labored for years to preserve a space for LGBT conservatives within the GOP’s shrinking tent. But watching the Romney campaign tack right in the primaries only to flail about during the general campaign was too much for the Republican to stand.
Lambasting the party for its “tolerance of bigotry,” LaSalvia said he gave up hope that party leaders would ever be able to squash the intolerance in its ranks. Until it did, LaSalvia said, it stood no chance of winning elections.
“I am an independent conservative,” LaSalvia wrote, adding: “That sounds much better than ‘gay Republican.’”
2. Pablo Pantoja: LaSalvias not alone in objecting to the Republican Party’s “culture of intolerance.” That was exactly what convinced former Republican National Committee Florida Latino outreach director Pablo Pantoja to ditch the party only a year after attaining his position. Born in Puerto Rico and a veteran of the Iraq War, Pantoja rose quickly through the ranks of the Florida GOP before the immigration debate brought out a nasty streak in his compatriots.
“The discourse that moves the Republican Party is filled with this anti-immigrant movement and overall radicalization that is far removed from reality,” he wrote in a letter to the Florida Nation, referring in all but name to Jason Richwine’s Heritage Foundation study that connected conservative immigration policy to claims about Hispanics’ lower IQ rates.
“Republican leaders have blandly (if at all) denied and distanced themselves from this but it doesn’t take away from the culture within the ranks of intolerance. The pseudo-apologies appear to be a quick fix to deep-rooted issues in the Republican Party in hopes that it will soon pass and be forgotten…When the political discourse resorts to intolerance and hate, we all lose in what makes America great and the progress made in society.”
It wasn’t just party leaders, either. Pantoja said his average conversations as outreach director were turning ugly. “I did have conversations about immigration where increasingly I had to defend the fact that the people most affected were human beings,” he said in an interview with Salon.
Pantoja joined the Democratic Party, and commemorated his departure from the GOP with a contribution to the ACLU.
3. Sue Wagner: Former Nevada state senator and gaming commissioner Sue Wagner was a Republican for 73 years before she decided last week she’d had enough. The first woman in Nevada ever elected to lieutenant governor changed her registration to “no party” after the GOP charged too far to the right.
“I did it as a symbol, I guess, that I do not like the Republican Party and what they stand for today,” Wagner told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “I’ve been a Republican all my life. My dad was active [in the GOP] in the state of Maine where I was born. It was more of a moderate, liberal Republican Party.”