Charles Jeter: Still a Republican, no longer believe in president

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 5, 2020

By Charles Jeter

Gone, baby, gone.

Did Trump lose me or did I lose Trump? It’s almost a Dickensian question of conscience in today’s political environment. In my heart of hearts, I am a Republican. But that fact does not change this one: I do not agree with my president. 

You will notice I did not say I don’t support the president. I support the president and want him to be successful. At the end of the day, a successful presidency benefits our nation. In addition, he is my president, just as Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Carter were my presidents. 

This is not a matter of emotion for me. I am neither a “Never-Trumper” nor an “Always Trumper.” I just don’t understand how the party that I love has been hijacked by a huckster who cares more about personal power than he ever will about America. I don’t understand how the religious right that has such influence in my party can fully and without hesitation support a man who’s paid off porn stars, who brags about sexual assault, who cheated on his wives … not one wife, not a few times, but all three wives and countless times. Had any Democrat come close to living the lifestyle that Trump has, the moral majority would be filling their pews and coffers blasting the immoral man in the White House. 

But somehow, when it’s Trump, it’s “fake news” that Trump did all these things, which I find amazing, since it was literally the fake news that paid off Trump’s porn star. Not CNN, not MSNBC, but Trump’s friends at the National Enquirer. 

“But, Charles, you’re not a real Republican, so nothing you say matters.” This is the refrain you’ll hear in comments on this column and on all kinds of social media posts. I’ll be labeled a “RINO” — Republican In Name Only — and all manner of other names. That doesn’t alter the empirical fact that I remain a Republican. I believe in the Republican platform, those common beliefs that define the party that was created in 1854 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Those beliefs that say, “We are the party of a growing economy that gives everyone a chance in life, an opportunity to learn, work, and realize the prosperity freedom makes possible;” that believe in “the ability of individuals to invent and create in a land of free markets;” and the strong support in the “reaffirmation of the Constitution’s fundamental principles: limited government, separation of powers, individual liberty, and the rule of law. We denounce bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism, ethnic prejudice and religious intolerance.”

I hold those beliefs dearly and firmly. So, yes, I am still a Republican. I am a Republican who believes that all people are created equal and that our beloved nation can do wonderful things, while still acknowledging our difficult history. 

I’m a Republican who understands that the actions of some do not reflect the mindset of many. I am a Republican who does not believe that the Republican Party is a monolithic entity that doesn’t allow for differing opinions within itself. I am a Republican who wishes that my party would forcefully, clearly and without hesitation reject the inclusion of anyone who preaches hate and violence against anyone, including even those who disagree with President Trump. 

So I’m angry. I’m angry that the party I love has so easily and completely turned over its principles in the quest for power. I’m angry at the number of my fellow Republicans who feel the exact same way that I do, but are unable or unwilling to say the same due to fears of retribution. I’m angry that my party supports someone who hasn’t accomplished anything that any other Republican president would have. You get the same judges, the same tax policy, and the same regulatory relief, without the drama, the vitriol, the lies, the controversy, and the embarrassment.

So I don’t know if Trump lost me or I lost him. It doesn’t matter. I still believe in the Republican Party, even if I no longer believe in the man who serves as our president.

Charles Jeter is a lifelong Republican who represented District 92 in the N.C. House of Representatives from 2013 to 2016 and also served on the Huntersville town council.