Tim Lajoie: Here’s why I left the Republican Party

BY GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: TIM LAJOIE

Tim Lajoie ran against Democratic Party incumbent Margaret Rotundo in Maine House District #74, and lost in the general election. He also served as Lewiston City Republican Chairman until he resigned following the election.

I write this after several months of reflection. Since my defeat in the Maine House District 74 race to popular incumbent Margaret Rotundo—along with many other Republican candidates nationwide—I decided to take stock of what I represented as a registered Republican. Did the “R” next to my name represent certain values to the voter? Or did it identify me with something more sinister?

Before I answer that question it is imperative that I state that I believe there are two factions in the Republican Party: 1) the ordinary, middle-class Republicans who work hard, pay their bills and taxes, try to live honorable lives, and be a positive impact on their communities and 2) the suited upper class oligarchy that holds the reins at the national level, sets the national agenda, and demands unquestioned obedience from all registered Republicans.

It is important that this distinction be made, however upsetting it may be to the Republican Party officials who prop up this current system of leadership. The first faction is out using their time, treasure, and talents to promote a party they believe represents them…and fighting hard for those values the media gives them no credit for holding or defending. I had the pleasure of working alongside these folks during the election.

They are the real strength of the party, but their efforts are sullied by the actions of their national leaders who act without principle and pay no attention to the platforms adopted by these folks at the state, county, and municipal levels. These platforms are important and they represent solid middle-class values. They serve to express what is important to rank and file Republicans. The rank and file Republicans are supposed to drive the agenda at the national level. They are the boots on the ground. They are the ones talking about their concerns in coffee shops, town meetings, and at family BBQ’s.

The second faction is an entrenched elite group which has no interest in hearing the opinions or priorities of the people they profess to represent…the aforementioned rank and file. Their attitude is seemingly summed up thusly, “This is the national agenda, this is our candidate, now shut up and get in line. We don’t care what you want. We know what this party needs; what you want cannot win.”

It is not that their agenda prevailed after open debate that angers me. It is their force-feeding of their agenda to the rest of us without debate and their abject refusal to allow other opinions to be debated alongside theirs that angers me. It was the abject refusal to let duly elected state delegates who supported other candidates attend or express themselves at the national convention. Their arrogance is infuriating.

It is very clear, especially if you are a Republican candidate, that if you do not follow this line of thinking, you will have no future in the Republican Party. I was informed that were I to be elected, I would be expected to toe the line, vote with the party, and leave my convictions at the door. Fortunately, fate lent a hand and I was not elected this past November. The experience, however, was cathartic…and revealing.

The national Republican Party oligarchy, by their strong-arm tactics this past year, issued an ultimatum, in my opinion, to all Republicans everywhere. “We will set the agenda, we will choose the candidates, and you will get in line or be exiled from the party.” Since I do not do well with ultimatums, I walked away with my dignity intact. I will not be a sellout to my values. I will not trade my values for political power. Period.

This schism in the Republican Party is due to failed leadership. Leadership 101 requires inspiring people to enlist in the vision, to feel they are a part of it, and to contribute their resources to accomplishing it. The national leadership in the Republican Party has failed at the fountainhead—they have not enlisted the grass-roots Republicans in the vision and grass-roots Republicans do not feel like they are a part of it. Yet, the party establishment still feels entitled to their resources of time, money, and votes just the same.

I am no fan of the liberal Democratic agenda—let me make that clear—but I detest intra-party political manipulation more than extra-party political manipulation. At its very core, it is hypocrisy. I further detest the deliberate attempts by the national Republican party to stifle the grass-roots efforts that have cropped up the last two or three years. If rank and file and grassroots Republicans were happy with the direction of the national party, they would not be seeking to change it—a fact seemingly lost on the national party leaders.

Further, if rank and file Republicans feel their party is no longer representing them, it is their RIGHT to change it. Heck, Jefferson wrote about that in the Declaration of Independence. The national party apparatus, however, will have none of that. They will assemble a team of lawyers to prevent it, as seen in Maine last year with the Ron Paul delegates. If the national Republican Party were interested in strengthening itself, it would listen to these people, not suppress their voice through a myriad of parliamentary and lawyer tricks.

Let’s be frank. The issue was not Ron Paul—this was not a cult of personality movement as national Republican leaders and pundits suggest. The issue was a fundamental difference in ideology and the confrontation has been brewing since George Bush the 1st. I told a House member on the convention floor in May of 2012 that I was concerned the party was moving too far to the middle. I wanted to have my say at the convention. “But your guy lost,” he said, “you need to get behind Mitt.”

His implication, of course, was that I supporting an individual—in this case Ron Paul—but I wasn’t. I was supporting Ron Paul’s message of restoring our government to its original Constitutional parameters, one that emphasized the importance of the Bill of Rights to all Americans and reminded us that the power of government resides in the people. It never much mattered to me who held those views…but it was clear to me Ron Paul was the only one who held them.

I did not agree with every position Ron Paul held as he exercised his 1st Amendment right and anyone who knows me will tell you I was a very reluctant Ron Paul supporter. But I agreed whole-heartedly with his right to hold them, however much I disagreed with him on some issues. And I further agreed that government intrusion into the lives of everyday Americans had gone too far and needed to restrained—from overreaching Democrat, Republican, or whoever else government officials. There needed to be a concerted effort to return government to the people…as Abraham Lincoln had said.

“My guy” may have lost. But, to correct a common misconception, it was not the “guy” that I was supporting; it was the principle of limited Constitutional government that he fought for. Those live on. Those values are what I will continue to fight for; those values I will be true to. It is the national Republican Party’s abandonment of those principles that compelled my exit from the party.

Some of my friends in the Republican Party have chosen to stay and fight to right the Party’s direction. I respect their decision, even though I disagree with it, and do not think less of them because of it. It is my belief that the Republican Party—as embodied in its national leadership—has placed those it represents between conflicting priorities: party and values. Seemingly, Republicans everywhere must make a choice. Do I fight for my values or fight for the party that professes to represent my values, but chooses not to take a stand for them? I chose the former.

PAST ARTICLES ABOUT TIM LAJOIE:
10.13.12: “The Lajoie Campaign Standard
11.20.12: “The High Road In Politics: Principles Over Party
11.09.12:”Lewiston Republican Chair To Resign Over Conflict In Principles