Column: How a diehard Democrat joined a Republican group


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The statue of sixteenth president Abraham Lincoln sits in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Lincoln Project was founded by eight individuals including a Washington Post contributing columnist, George Conway and New York Times best selling author, Rick Wilson.

By Charlotte Tragos, Columnist

The past four years have challenged the idea that the United States is a great country. Our once admirable foundation of diversity is being destroyed by the divisive rhetoric of our president. Coming from a Gold Star family with roots in Missouri, my background is that of an old-school Democrat. My core value is that everyone has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness regardless of gender, race, citizenship, sexual orientation, wealth or education. I believe our government has a role in protecting those values and Donald Trump does not. 

I see Trump as a threat to the well-being of the American people and to our democracy, and I thought Democrats were alone in thinking this way. However a super-PAC, a political action committee that fundraises for a candidate, has surprised me.  

In early May, I was exposed to the The Lincoln Project through one of their advertisements entitled “Mourning in America.” The Lincoln Project was formed in December 2019 by several current and former Republicans. Some of the project’s founders were veteran strategists that worked for key Republicans like President George H.W. Bush, Senator John McCain and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The goal of the project is to “prevent the reelection of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election” and to overall “defeat Trumpism at the ballot box.” 

The Lincoln Project’s ad, “Morning in America,” was inspired by Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election ad. Both advertisements were made by big-name Republicans, and their messages were meant to be parallel but with a starkly different conclusion. Reagan’s ad kindly invited voters to see him as the cause of America’s re-awakening and recovery during his first term. The Lincoln Project’s ad depicted a country ravaged by death and a failing economy under the tyrannical leadership of Trump, ending with the foreboding question: “If we have another four years like this, will there even be an America?”

Before seeing The Lincoln Project advertisement, I had the mindset that most, if not all, Republicans supported Trump, but I was wrong. 

I was intrigued with the Project’s rejection of a Republican president like Trump so I interviewed Sarah Lenti, the Executive Director of the Lincoln Project. Lenti worked on four Republican presidential campaigns, served in the Bush administration and worked as an advisor to former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. Lenti described that what made a Republican as herself turn against Trump was the disconnect he had from the Republican party. 

“Trump was on TV at a rally in Alabama mocking a disabled man,” Lenti said. “I was like no f—— way. That is not the Republican Party that I grew up in. When Trump came about, we thought this does not represent anything we’ve ever seen. It’s dangerous to the party and to the brand.”  

Lenti expanded on the fact that due to this disconnect from the Republican party, Trump has created his own form of politics coined as “Trumpism.”

“There’s a cult of Trumpism right now. Amongst the Republican base, he is so strong,” she said. “We have to get Republicans of note to stand up and say: I am not voting for Trump in this cycle.”

Due to my desire to grow my knowledge about this Republican group, I was offered the opportunity to intern with The Lincoln Project beginning this past Summer and continuing until the election this Fall. In the seven months of its existence, through cleverly crafted ads, endorsements and organized efforts in swing states, The Lincoln Project has been making a difference. They have swayed moderate Republicans and Independents to support more progressive candidates and denounce Trump for re-election. 

While I never thought I’d be working with Republicans, here I am. More importantly, here our country is, suffering at the hands of the most dangerous president we’ve ever had. I’ve developed a deep respect and heartfelt appreciation for both the mission and the success of this organization. I am still a Democrat, but I have learned that things are not so clear cut. Although the project and I don’t agree on everything, our core values – American values – are the same. 

I hope more Republicans will be outraged about what is happening to our country and, like my friends at The Lincoln Project, think about this moment in history and how urgent it is now to put our country first, above parties and sides. And when we come together in this common cause, I hope other Democrats, like me, will consider that a Republican point-of-view is not necessarily all bad. It is less about taking “sides” and more about, even in small measures, coming together.

Our country will fail if we cannot unite and find values that we all agree on. In the words of Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”