I can tell you almost the precise moment I stopped being a Republican.
It was September of 2005, a few days after Hurricane Katrina had struck New Orleans and the surrounding region. The five days following the storm was one of the most harrowing times I can remember as we struggled to get my mother and aunt out of the city (both in their 80s, they had refused to leave because “we’ve been through this before”).
The state, local and federal governments were overwhelmed. News media seemed to be able to get in and out of the city with ease, while thousands of people were left at the Superdome, the convention center, their own homes. People were dying, and, as we later learned, the federal government (the Bush Administration) and the state government were fighting each other over who should control the relief effort. People were dying while Republicans and Democrats were arguing with each other.
I did what tens of thousands of others did. I took to the internet, to chat rooms, and web sites. I had to figure out how to get my mother and aunt out and find what had happened to my brother and sister-in-law, who lived north of Lake Pontchartrain. The New Orleans Times-Picayune set up discussion sites by neighborhood, and it was through these sites I was able to determine my brother was most likely okay.
And then a photograph was published – President Bush on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, his arm around a man who had survived the storm and lost everything. They were sitting atop a pile of rubble. There was no way the President just happened upon a man sitting atop a pile of rubble. The picture had been completely posed by someone in charge of White House photo opps.
I yelled at the newspaper. People were dying and all the White House cared about a photo opp for the President, to show he cared. Tell that to the elderly woman who died in her wheel chair outside the New Orleans Convention Center.
It took two weeks before the federal government finally intervened. In the meantime, ordinary people had taken their boats, and rangers with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries had taken their boats, and went into the city to rescue people from the tops of their houses. The people had to do what the federal and state governments had been unable to do.
Republicans might be uncaring, and they might walk in lockstep with CEOs, but they were supposed to be competent.
President Bush and the Republicans had lost me.
The next year, a book was published. David Kuo had been one of those young political writers who had been a policy advisor to John Ashcroft and a speechwriter for Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson, and Bob Dole. And then he reached the White House – what looked to be the pinnacle for a Christian in politics. He served as second in command in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
He lasted three years. And he saw and experienced exactly what the Republican establishment thought of Christians and how they used Christians and Christian leaders. And he saw how Christian leaders let themselves be used.
Kuo’s book is called Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Corruption. The media loved it because it embarrassed the Bush Administration specifically and Republicans in general. Few Christians read it.
I read the Wall street Journal editorial and op-ed pages as an antidote to what passes for editorial opinion at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. But after Kuo’s book, I cannot bring myself to read the Journal’s regular columns by Karl Rove, the man who referred to Christians with expletives.
It’s a book that is well worth reading and rereading, especially in this political year. Unintentionally, it explains part of the reason for Donald Trump. The establishment Republicans were never interested in what Christians were concerned about; they only said enough to keep getting those Christian votes. And now the piper is asking to be paid.
Kuo developed a brain tumor. For a time, it looked like he might make it. But he didn’t, and died in 2013. He had a blog called J Walking, published by Belief Net, which has been left intact but is no longer updated. Occasionally, I reread some of his posts.
I should say that I did not become a Democrat. Or a Libertarian. But my vote is no longer something the Republicans can count on. I don't put my faith in political parties. Or presidential candidates.
Photograph by Peter Griffin via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.