Editorial: Upper Valley politicians leave GOP behind

Published: 6/12/2022 5:02:37 AM
Modified: 6/12/2022 5:00:19 AM

When we read that former Claremont mayor Charlene Lovett had left the Republican Party to campaign as a Democrat for the state Senate this year, our first question was not, “Why did she?” but rather, “Why wouldn’t she?”

Lovett, who was the city’s mayor from 2016 to 2021, served her country for more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, so it comes as no surprise that she was appalled and disgusted by the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that shook the foundations of American democracy. In fact, she told Valley News correspondent Patrick O’Grady that she first began considering switching parties when Donald Trump was elected president in 2016. “The party of my earlier years is not the party of today,” said Lovett, in a classic bit of understatement.

Lovett joins at least two other prominent politicians in the Upper Valley in leaving the GOP. State Sen. Sue Prentiss, a former Lebanon mayor, and Lebanon City Councilor Karen Liot Hill have also abandoned the party — or perhaps more accurately, they were left behind by an increasingly radical Republican electorate. Liot Hill, who departed in the early 2000s, said, “I do think moderate Republicans during the Trump years were wondering whether they fit in the Trump Republican party. They are asking, ‘Is there really room for me?’”

To be sure, the Trump-branded GOP circus continues to operate under a big tent. You’re welcome to remain as long as you don’t publicly cringe at sharing the space with misogynists, homophobes, religious fanatics, conspiracy theorists, election deniers, white supremacists, Second Amendment absolutists and insurrectionists dedicated to the violent overthrow of the national government.

But in politics, as in life, you are known by the company you keep. Members of the ever-shrinking sanity wing of the GOP should ask themselves this question: Do I really want to remain a member of a party that prizes the purported right of 18-year-olds to wield assault rifles over the lives and peace of mind of schoolchildren and educators?

Grafton County Republican Chairman Bruce Perlo, though, is unperturbed. “I talked to more active Republicans in the county, and I can’t think of a time when Trump ever comes up,” he told O’Grady. That’s understandable. It is perhaps akin to the tacit agreement among family members to avoid the unpleasantness of mentioning the crazy uncle in the attic.

That it might be difficult for Republican candidates to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil of Trump is demonstrated by the long-shot U.S. Senate candidacy of former U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan in Vermont.

Nolan, who was appointed to office by Trump, has steadfastly refused to say whether she voted for him. She claims that disclosing that information would be at odds with her professional obligation to administer justice impartially as U.S. Attorney. While that argument might have held water while she was still serving, the rationale disappeared as soon as she announced her candidacy for high elective office. Voters certainly have the right to know whom she supported and why, her understandable desire to finesse the issue notwithstanding.

To us, it’s more puzzling why someone who is a supporter of gay marriage and abortion rights would choose to cast her lot with a party whose core is fiercely hostile to both. Nolan seeks to portray herself as an independent who can bridge the supposed divide in the Republican Party between moderates and die-hard Trump loyalists. That is almost certainly a bridge too far. Trump’s grip on the party appears unshakeable. And if she’s so independent-minded, why not run as an independent? “I’ve always identified as a Republican,” Nolan says.

We do understand that for many people of good will, longtime political affiliation is an important aspect of personal identity. But there are times when the claims of tradition have to yield to the stark realities of the day. Republicans are presented with just such a choice now: Love the party or leave it.

Valley News

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