Thirteen Maine Republicans and one Iowan Republican left their party this week as the party schism broadens nationwide.
The defecting Republicans represent two polar ends within the GOP: The Maine group fled the party because they feel the GOP isn’t conservative enough, while the Iowan Republican left saying the party had become too conservative and “hateful.”
These 14 add their name to a growing list of Republicans bowing out of elected office as the party struggles philosophically.
To name a few: Fellow Maine Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe, left office last year citing congressional dysfunction and even wrote a book on it. Six-term Louisiana Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander announced his impending resignation earlier this month, citing partisan posturing and gridlock.
And who can forget former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin who channeled Ronald Reagan when she said “leaving the party isn’t my first choice, but if they leave me, then I’ll have no choice but to be elsewhere.” (Reagan famously quipped on his switch from the left to the right: “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”)
The schism is visible among GOP voters, too: A late-July Pew study found that 54% of self-identified Republicans feel the GOP should “move in a more conservative direction” and 35% feel that Republicans compromise “too much” with Democrats. Less than half of GOP voters, 40%, say they feel the GOP should become more moderate and 27% felt their party hadn’t compromised with Democrats enough.
Maine’s 13 former Republicans include a Republican National Committee member, Mark Willis, six state committee members, and six registered Republicans resigned their party membership, state, county, and town committee memberships as party officials, writing in an open letter that “the Republican Party has lost its way.”
“We can no longer allow ourselves to be called nor enrolled as Republicans; we can no longer associate ourselves with a political party that goes out of its way to continually restrict our freedoms and liberties as well as reaching deeper and deeper into our wallets,” the group wrote in the letter published by the Bangor Daily News.
The Iowan Republican, co-chairman of the Polk County Republican Party, resigned and became an independent, citing “hateful” rhetoric and a “war on science and common sense.”
Polk County’s Chad Brown, 34, wrote that “this level of dysfunction is not going to be fixed any time soon,” in a letter printed by the Des Moines Register.
Maine Republicans cited more policy moves for their departure, including Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill that would have allowed unpasteurized milk to be sold. “We want our God-given rights to buy, sell and consume what we want protected by the law,” they wrote.
They also slammed Congressional Republicans for hitting a “new low” under the “cowardly leadership of John Boehner” when he yanked hard-line deficit hawks who voted against Republican budgets off the House Committee on the Budget.