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Growing up in a large Italian-American family in upstate New York, I was surrounded by rich Catholic values, a deep sense of pride in hard work and achievement, and perhaps most of all, I was bounded by the loyalty and devotion of a loving family. I grew up in a Republican breeding ground; how could anyone raised in that context not grow up to be a proud conservative and member of the GOP? I have always stood by my Republican beliefs, defending them to anyone who wants to listen. I fought with family, friends, colleagues, professors, etc. about what it means to be a Republican and why I proudly call myself one. Even beyond rational reasoning, there is something special, something grand about the bold GOP-red and the majesty of a goliath elephant. Hell, we even call our-selves the “Grand Old Party.” But something changed.
The date was June 16, 2015. Donald J. Trump of New York declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president of United States. I, like many other Americans wrote Mr. Trump off as a billionaire who found himself bored, looking to stir the pot we call American politics. I was wrong. The months went by and his lead in the polls hardly wavered. Sure, Mr. Trump is a brilliant business-man who built a company from nothing and is a terrific negotiator in the private sec-tor who demands nothing less than the best. He’s also a racist, a sexist, and a liar. The purpose of this op-ed is not to tell you why those things are true; many of the publications that have been circulating the past nine months do a sufficient job of that.It is at this time in March of 2016 that I find myself tackling a political identity crisis. At what point did we stop caring about people? At what point in our history did we become numb to the crippling effects of racism, sex-ism, and white supremacy? We used to care about people—people who were hungry and thirsty, not just for food but also knowledge. When did we stop showing compassion for hard working families and instead begin arguing for their deportation. My party used to be the party of the people, the party that gave us Lincoln, ended the systematic ownership of humans, brought down the era of corporations taking advantage of the American people through monopolies, won wars, re-stored faith to the people of this country. We were the party that used to fight for the little guy in exchange for nothing more than their vote.
We as a party are at a cross-roads. Some would argue that Mr. Trump is galvanizing the party like no other before him. They would say he made people care about politics again. Some would even say they really believe he could make America great again. My fears lay in the beliefs of those people, the people who would perpetuate those arguments. To those people, though I would agree that he has brought people back to politics, I would challenge them to think about what it means to be a member of the human race, what it means to be free from oppression, what it means to wake up everyday in a country like ours, what it means to be an American. If after they consider those prompts they still find them-selves supporting Donald J. Trump, then I will know that the Republican Party as we know it will have ceased to exist. The Republican Party that I know and identify with will be gone, enveloped for-ever by a new party; a party of bigotry, prejudice, and institutional racism; a party lost forever in the dark-ness that is the callous ignorance of its own members. I used to be a Republican.