It was almost exactly 12 years ago today when I found myself in Washington, D.C. as part of a massive crowd converging on the Capitol Building. We were hoping to get a glimpse of profound history: the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
I remember that it was bitterly cold but the crowd was joyous. Beyond optimistic. But here’s the thing: I did not vote for Obama. I voted for John McCain. That said, I knew the impact of the moment. The history being created. I wanted to be a part of that positive energy.
I did not travel to Washington to attend the inauguration. I was invited to a reception held the night before at the New Zealand Embassy. I was working in the public policy arena and somehow got invited to that reception. I was a nervous wreck. What would I wear? What are the protocols? Laura could not join me. Someone had to take care of the kids and pets. I bought a new suit.
I felt so out of place at that reception. It was way beyond my pay-grade. Again, I didn’t even vote for Obama. I went back to my hotel that evening relieved. I fell asleep while watching CNN. I awoke early the next morning. Inauguration Day. I checked out at 6:30 a.m., thinking I could beat the crowd for a “good spot” to witness the ceremony. I was dead wrong.
The mass of people descending on the Capitol was mind-boggling. I don’t think I was able to get within one mile of the Capitol. The cold air stung that morning. I had an open-ended plane ticket to Boston. I could have simply turned around and retreated. I did not. I also did not see the swearing-in ceremony nor the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue.
But I was there. I was part of history.
Four years, later I repeated myself. I did not vote for Obama. I voted for Mitt Romney. I was not invited to any fancy parties. I watched that inauguration from the comfort of my office in Portland.
Flash forward almost 12 years and I could not believe what I was seeing on television. The Capitol Building was breached while Congress was in session Protestors scaled the walls. They broke into Congressional offices. They vandalized the epicenter of our Democracy.
Filled with hate, they continued their rampage. They flat-out refused to accept the inevitable (and official) outcome of the presidential election. Fueled by conspiracy theories and their self-righteous rage, they revealed what we may not want to accept: There are a lot of angry people out there.
Watching that fiasco was painful, to say the least. I was ashamed to be a Republican, even if my connection to the GOP was thread-bare. My first thought was to publicly disavow my political affiliation, to retreat safely into a ring guarded by conservative Democrats: a position of relative safety and protected against public disdain and blame.
But as my own anger about the protestors grew, I came to a conclusion. I would not abandon my party. Instead, I would continue to be a Republican with conservative ideals: a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, a voice for limited and more efficient government, a fiscal conservative. I would not be ashamed to be a Republican. It is possible to be a Republican and still condemn the melee that was conducted by an unhinged mob.
I want to a be a Republican like Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice, former Defense Secretary and Maine senator William Cohen, and the list goes on and on.
Make no mistake, there was nothing patriotic about the events that today still seem like scenes from a nightmare. That said, Republicans of good conscious must rise up and let their voices be heard. It is well past time to cower in the shadow of public opinion.
Some in the GOP will mock me. They will call me a RINO (a Republican In Name Only). I will also be disparaged by Democrats. Some say I will be a man with no country. I call bullshit on that.
I am a Republican, but first and foremost, I am an American.