The GOPLifer project has reached its end. I have created a new site called PoliticalOrphans.com, where I’ll be joined by a few friends in posting new material.
At GOPLifer I’ve tried to avoid first person writing. Now that it’s time to pack up to move on, it might be good to describe some of the personal history and reasoning that gave rise to this project.
John McCain represented the Republican Party’s last chance to turn the tide against white nationalism. It wasn’t much of a chance, but it was all we had. On election night, staffers managed to stop Sarah Palin from delivering the concession speech, but no one could stop Palin from steering the party toward madness. With McCain defeated and a black man in the White House, our collective pathologies came scrambling into view like roaches crawling out of the walls.
I had been active in Republican grassroots politics for longer than I had been eligible to vote. In high school I had dinner with my Congressman and gave speeches at public events. In college I interned at the Texas Legislature. I met Rick Perry right after he left the Democratic Party. In Houston I was a donor and volunteer for Associated Republicans of Texas through which I worked on state and local campaigns. And in suburban Chicago I became a local Republican precinct committeeman in 2006.
With McCain swept to the margins and radicals firmly in control, by 2009 one could no longer be a Republican in good standing without serious moral qualms. It still seemed possible that the party could right itself, but the Tea Party movement had ushered in a wave of racist rhetoric and policy unprecedented in the party’s history. To remain in the GOP with a clear conscience meant finding an outlet through which to describe and work toward an alternative Republican future.
My wife suggested I start a blog. I resisted. A blog seemed like an ideal platform for posting pictures of yourself drinking great coffee. It seemed like a lousy environment in which to wrestle with complex ideas. And the comments. Jesus, the comments…
Worse, there was no way to coherently express my thoughts on current events in a blog without creating a record that would ruin my standing in the party. Any hope I might have of one day taking a prominent role on a campaign or even running for office myself would be destroyed. Ideally, I would have preferred to develop and express these ideas behind the scenes, but all receptive forums had been burned to the ground. Any dissent would have to be public and nothing poisons a political career like candor.
I didn’t read or follow blogs. For the most part, I still don’t. But faced with a lack of alternatives and a very persuasive wife, I kissed my political career goodbye and built a blog.
Across the spring of 2009 I began writing out my thoughts on the state of the Republican Party. The first posts appeared on a goofy little free WordPress blog that still exists, awkwardly titled ‘Building a Better GOP.’ The effort had two objectives. First, I hoped that I might take a place among a growing chorus of Republican reformers. I hoped that we might link our efforts and steer the party back toward sanity. Second, I wanted an outlet for dissent, a means to gain absolution. If the party couldn’t be reformed, then I at least wanted proof that I hadn’t been a spineless collaborator.
Later in 2009 I began posting some material in the Houston Chronicle’s public blog section. That’s when things started to get interesting.
There’s a commenter still posting at GOPLifer who was the first person to comment on one of those Houston Chronicle posts. Others soon joined, many of whom are still engaged here at the Lifer blog. Though I produced some good material, it was the comments section that really stood out. Thanks in large part to activity from the community on that blog, posts from the ‘GOPLifer’ occasionally topped the Houston Chronicle’s list of most active pages.
In 2013 the Chronicle made some changes to its blog platform that undermined the usefulness of the comments section. This frustrating development required me to consider a new direction. I ginned up a logo using photoshop, bought a domain, and launched GOPLifer.com. For a while I posted pieces in both places, but by this year the flow to the Chronicle had dropped to a trickle. GOPLifer had become the home for this new community.
Right up to the summer of 2016 I still felt some hope that Republicans might change the party’s direction. However, by late spring it looked like a worst-case scenario was taking shape instead. In June I had started drafting a potential resignation letter, but I still hoped I could delete it. That’s not how things turned out.
After the convention I sent my resignation letter to our local party chairman and posted it on social media. I cut my last ties to the Republican Party. The ‘GOPLifer’ project was over.
After a few months spent mourning and exploring new directions, PoliticalOrphans.com is now ready. I have no idea what comes next for me politically, but I at least have a place to wrestle with that question. Joining me are a few collaborators who have offered to provide advice and content.
As I close up the GOPLifer blog I want to acknowledge some of the support I’ve enjoyed over the years.
Dwight Silverman played a key role in getting this project off the ground. When he headed up the Houston Chronicle’s interactive journalism efforts he fostered this blog project. Thanks to David Frum for giving me a place at FrumForum and guiding me past some bad writing habits. Thanks to the company I work for and my clients who have patiently tolerated my occasionally public personal project. Thanks to Avik Roy who has offered me a new forum at Forbes from which to opine.
A special thanks to the hundreds of people who consistently participate in the comments section. You have created something remarkable there which I hope will grow even richer on a more suitable platform.
I want to thank all the friends and family who supported this effort by encouraging me to write and by posting GOPLifer articles all over social media.
Most of all I want to thank my wife and family. This was her idea and she pressed me to make it happen. Then she endured the toll this has taken on my free time and hers. She has tried to edit out my most glaring grammar errors and talked me out of some poor concepts.
We’ve had a great run here together. Time to move forward. Hope to see you all at PoliticalOrphans.com.