I can’t vote for a single Republican this year. I just can’t.

sample ballot

I don’t when this has happened before. Or if it’s happened.

I know it didn’t happen during my years as a guy who made endorsements and shared them with the world (or in the years since). I know that because I kept records. And with one or two exceptions, I pretty much voted a straight editorial-board ticket. If we endorsed them, I almost always voted for them. So, I know that at no time between 1994 and 2008 was there a year when I couldn’t support anybody of one party. Or the other.

Oh, there were those awkward years at the paper in which we supported — for that one year — mostly Democrats or mostly Republicans. For instance, in 2006 we endorsed 12 Democrats and only 5 Republicans. That was the most lopsided ever, exceeding even 2000, when we backed 10 Republicans and only 7 Democrats.

But I didn’t really worry about those lopsided years, because I knew — and reminded everybody — of what the mix had been the time before. And that it would likely be balanced to some extent in the next election. For instance, the election year after the one when we went with 12 Democrats was 2008, when we supported eight Republicans and only five Democrats.

It worked out. And anyone with a halfway fair mind could see that what we said was true — that we didn’t consider party. Not even to make it work out evenly in a given year — which we could have done, had we chosen to stack things. We just made determinations as to who was the better candidate in each contest, and let the chips fall.

Of course, the partisans on both sides accused us of being partisans for the others’ side — because like Donald Trump, they didn’t let facts get in their way.

But now, I’m out here alone, and people are going, “Let’s see what Brad really is, when he’s not speaking for an institution.”

I haven’t really kept track of every vote since 2008, the way I did at the paper. But I know I’ve voted for Republicans as well as Democrats, mainly because I usually have voted in Republican primaries. (If you live in Lexington County and don’t vote in the GOP primary, you don’t get any choices.)

Since leaving the paper, of course, I actually worked in a campaign — for a Democrat. Which didn’t mean I was a Democrat. The Democrats understood that. Some of them are still ticked at James for hiring me when I obviously wasn’t a member of the tribe. I don’t know if he still hears about it — probably not — but I do. It was my fault he lost, you see. That’s what I occasionally hear, anyway. Because I wasn’t the real deal.

Of course, I’m just talking about serious Democrats. And just some of them. Republicans, and other people who are not partisan Democrats, think, “You worked for a Democrat, so you’re a Democrat. You ever work for a Republican? No? OK, then you’re a Democrat.” Because, you see, we (including the media, or course) have trained people to think you can only be one of two things. So if you’re not one, you’re the other. Even when you’re not.

So anyway, it would have been great — now that I’m a guy who puts signs in his yard — if I could have put a Republican or two out there this year, the way I did the first time I had signs, in 2018. It might not persuade anybody, but to quote Tippi Turtle, it would “bother those hammerheads.” Anything I can do to get partisans to scratch their heads is in theory good, because the stimulation might lead to thought.

But Donald Trump made that impossible. I cannot possibly support someone who actively and regularly supports him, so there go all the Republicans I used to support in the past on the national level. My hero John McCain stood up to him, but he’s gone. And I wouldn’t have had a chance to vote for McCain again anyway, after I did in 2008 (and back in the 2000 primary — which is one of those times I didn’t vote a straight editorial-board ticket, since I lost that endorsement debate).

Let’s look at the Republicans on my ballot.

Did Joe Wilson vote to impeach Trump? No, he did not. There are plenty of other problems with Joe, but that would be enough. He’s my representative, and I couldn’t trust him to do something that really shouldn’t have taken any thought, for anyone who believed there should be standards for the office of president. I have no problem applying that as the bare minimum for my vote. We didn’t even need an impeachment investigation, after Trump put out the official White House summary of that phone call. That, without anything else, would have caused you to vote for impeachment if you were someone I would have represent me in Congress.

Is that an unfair standard to apply to a poor ol’ Republican? No, it is not. Yes, it sounds absurd for me to expect that of a South Carolina Republican. Of course it does. And that fully explains why I can’t vote for any Republicans now. None of them will consider for even a second doing the right thing.

So I’m voting for Adair. I’m not crazy about everything she runs on — too populist for me — but I think she’ll do a better job than Joe, if we give her a chance. If she’d say, “I would have voted to impeach Trump,” I’d put up a sign for her in a second.

Then, of course, there’s Lindsey Graham. I don’t think I’ve ever been let down to this extent by anyone, especially someone I used to respect as much as I did him — as a stand-up guy, a guy who actually took political risks to try to address the worst excesses of partisanship (such as the insanity over confirming judges), and even the worst impulses within his own party (think “immigration”). We could respect and admire Lindsey as recently as 2016, when he was such a no-holds-barred critic of Trump that he was fun to have around. No more. That’s all gone, and he’s the guy who threw it all away — with extreme prejudice.

And we know, because we knew him in 2016 and all those years before, that he knows better.

He’s got to go. He’s disgraced himself, and the rest of us, enough. And fortunately, his opponent is someone I’ve liked for years. And he actually seems to have a chance. Which is something of a miracle, and if that miracle happens, I’m going to be part of it. You go, Jaime.

And of course, of course, I’ll be voting for my senator, Nikki Setzler. I even have a sign for him in the yard, too.

So that just left my own incumbent state House representative, Micah Caskey, as the one Republican I’d be happy to vote for. I had a sign for him in my yard in 2018, along with the one for James. Ditto with bumper stickers. So imagine my dismay when I realized, just before the primary, that Micah had no opposition. Meaning he wasn’t going to be spending money on yard signs and bumper stickers this year.

Oh, I could vote for him anyway, or one of the many other Republicans on my ballot who are unopposed. But it doesn’t really mean anything unless unless you’re choosing somebody over somebody else.

So I’m still going to be voting for just Democrats on the 3rd. Which is weird, and uncomfortable, if you’re me.

Why do I care? Why does it matter whether people think I’m a Democrat, or a Republican, or whatever?

Because, on one level, I absolutely cannot stand to be misunderstood. I want people to place some value in the precise reasons I give for voting the way I do in a given race. Otherwise, I wouldn’t offer them. And frankly, if I always vote for the Democrat, or always vote for a Republican, my reasons don’t matter. They only matter if I go into it fairly, and judge based on the relative merits of each candidate in the race. At least, that’s the way it was before now, before the Republicans I had supported for years suddenly make it impossible to keep doing so.

That’s the selfish reason.

But it’s not just an ego thing. What I’m trying to say, in this instance, matters. It actually matters that a guy like me is telling you this: That we have reached a moment in which there is not a single Republican out there in a contested race that a guy like me, with my track record, can vote for. So you should pay attention. This is serious.

But if I’m not what I say I am, then never mind. Just ignore the partisan. (That’s what I do with partisans.)

Also, there are so many Democrats out there I would never vote for — and I don’t want anyone thinking I would. (The clash between those Democrats and the ones like Joe and Jaime is probably going to be a huge issue after the election. But we can’t worry about that now. The house is on fire, and we have to put it out. We can worry about how it’s decorated later.)

That’s why I care. But I can’t help it. The Republicans in contested races on my ballot have made it impossible even to consider voting for them.

And that’s on them…


37 thoughts on “I can’t vote for a single Republican this year. I just can’t.

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    For another day — after the election — we can talk about whether I will EVER be able to vote for Republicans again.

    That’s unknowable now. Will the party even exist as a tenable entity, say, four years from now? Will it be able to recover from the way it has degraded itself lining up behind Trump?

    Will people who used to run as Republicans start running as something else, and what will that something else be? We can’t say at this point.

    As for the Democrats — what will become? That unwieldy coalition has sorta, kinda lined up behind Joe Biden for the purpose of getting rid of Trump. If they accomplish that, then what? Will they splinter, too? What will real Democrats like Joe and Jaime do? What will all the socialists do?

    How many parties will there be in the future?

    I have no idea…

    1. Mike

      I’ve never been one to vote a straight ticket, but I was >this< close do doing so this year, for many of the same reasons that Brad listed. I went back and forth on my state rep (Nate Ballentine) and finally decided that, despite his toeing the party line on education issues to the detriment of both students and teachers, that he was worth voting for. So my record is still clear – no straight tickets for me.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Good for you, Mike. Yeah, if I were in Nathan’s district I’d probably be voting for him. Just as I’d likely vote for Micah if he had opposition.

        Oh, by the way: I say “probably” and “likely” because I’d have to know who’s running against them. I’m a big fan of my representative Micah, but if he had really super opposition, I’d at least consider the other person.

        I can’t every make absolute statements about “I’d always vote for this person,” or, “I’d never endorse that person.” I have to see the actual situation.

        Sometimes, the actual situation is that the candidate you thought you’d always support has thrown away everything you liked about him. That’s what Lindsey Graham has done. And of course, it helps that Jaime is such a strong candidate…

  2. Doug T

    Welcome to the Blue Side. What’s Trump’s approval score with Republicans? 85-95%? After Trump is gone, that same basket of deplorables will find another champion to make immigrants scapegoats.

    This voter suppression strategy is the most reprehensible. 1 ballot drop box per county in Texas? Gotta place a ballot inside an envelope to place inside another envelope in PA? Voter lines wrapped around the parking lots in GA?

    Steve Schmidt: When I look at the party and I see what it’s become, I think that I was naive about how deeply embedded the racism issue was in the party.

    nuf said.

    1. Mike

      You know that ballot-in-an-envelope-in-an-envelope is the law here in SC, right. Plus you have to have your ballot witnessed – to prevent fraud. Of course, spouses can witness for each other, and there’s no chance of fraud there…

  3. bud

    Of course Brad just can’t help himself and feels compelled to take a swipe at the pragmatic wing of the Democratic Party derisively calling us socialists. But for now we need these obnoxious never Trumpers in order to rid the country of the orange cancer. But I long for the day when we have a better option than Biden. Of course if Biden somehow manages to lose then at least we might see the end of such terrible candidates representing the Democratic Party.

      1. James Edward Cross

        I usually try to stay out of this type of thing but Brad you are be disingenuous here. First you describe Joe Biden and Jamie Harrison as the “real” Democrats, thus implying that those who do not think the way they do are not truly Democrats. Then you follow up by using the term “socialist” which you know, given the history of the word in the US (socialism = communism) is not a neutral descriptor, even if some of the people you are talking about do use it to refer to themselves.

        I am attributing this lapse to the general election craziness.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Well, to explain…

          The main alternative out there to Democrats like Joe is Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat, real or otherwise. He has steadfastly refused that designation, over and over. That’s why, the night that Joe won the primary so convincingly in SC, he spoke about being a real Democrat — which I believe is why people in SC voted for him overwhelmingly, and I don’t think any of those voters would have trouble understanding what he meant. Especially since his main opposition at that point was someone who doesn’t consider himself to be a Democrat.

          He DOES consider himself to be a socialist. And neither he nor his loyal fans seem to have any problem with the term. His supporters don’t remember the Cold War, and apparently Bernie doesn’t either. I don’t know where he was at the time.

          So the word is appropriate in the context of what I was saying, for two reasons: It’s what folks like Bernie and AOC call themselves, and yes, most Americans find it extremely off-putting. And that’s the problem in a nutshell. If you want to be a governing party and hold onto a majority, you don’t allow yourselves to be led by people who don’t mind calling themselves “socialists.” Which is why it’s critical for Democrats to be led by, and be SEEN as being led by, folks like Joe and Jaime. That’s why the upcoming conflict in the party is critical.

          It’s pretty basic, and I thought that meaning would be clear…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Here’s the thing about that word…

            Bernie and AOC embrace it because it gets them support from people who think it’s really cool and brave of them to embrace it.

            Which means that they lose everybody else.

            And they have calculated that that’s OK. It’s a bet they’re making on the future, and they think they’re the smart ones for doing it.

            Me, I’m going to continue to believe that in the future, there will STILL be some Americans who are aware of history, and perceive reality beyond the particular instant in which they are living.

            Lord knows, there are few enough such people, but there are still enough of us who realize that calling yourself a socialist and thinking you’re going to win national general elections doing so is nuts.

            So we vote for sane people like Joe Biden.

            The problem, of course, is what we’ll do when there’s no more Joe Biden. That huge crowd of people running for the Democratic nomination over the past year, and only ONE of them offered any hope of victory next Tuesday. And it’s by no means a sure thing that HE will win. This was all painfully obvious to me the whole time, and I kept saying it, amazed that everyone wasn’t seeing it, and saying it. Some did, and that number grew. But why they were so blind before, I can’t tell you.

            Just as I can’t tell you why even a single person is voting for Donald Trump. Oh, I can parrot the excuses they give, but none of them are REASONS. I just describe it as a sickness infecting the country, like COVID, because it can’t be reasonably explained…

            1. bud

              You see what you just did there? And it’s disgusting. You lumped fine people like Bernie and AOC in together with Trump. Bernie and AOC don’t go around insulting soldiers, women, Mexicans, Muslims and “others”. They embrace common sense ideas like Medicare for all and free college. They see a problem with trillion dollar companies paying zero federal tax. Unlike the neocons they think it’s wrong to lie the country into war (a big fear I have with Biden). And yes the actually believe in the ability of women to use birth control and the legalization of marijuana. Disagree with these sensible ideas if you so desire but don’t get on your high horse and lump them together with a lying, sexual predator like Trump.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                What did I do now? I can’t think of anything I might have said that would provoke that response…

                Anyway, as I said, let’s sort this out after the election. Plenty of time to fight about less important things once we’ve saved the country from Trump.

                Assuming we do…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  I just read back over my comment, and I don’t see any way that I lumped ANYBODY together with Trump.

                  I said I was perplexed that everyone watching the Democratic nomination process couldn’t see for a long time that Joe was the guy to choose. And I’m talking everybody — the media, people on social media, and all sorts of Democrats who were choosing a wide assortment of people other than Joe.

                  And then I noted that that wasn’t the only thing I couldn’t figure out — I have no idea why ANYBODY would vote for Trump (this was on my mind because I had just seen a tweet from somebody I thought had good sense, who said he had voted early, and for Trump — and it totally perplexed me).

                  So, is THAT — my admitting that I have trouble understanding those two very separate things — somehow me equating people you like with Trump?

                  I don’t see how…

              2. Bryan Caskey

                How does the free college work, exactly? Is that for public colleges and universities only, or for private ones like Furman, Duke, and Yale? Does it change admissions standards?

                Can we also get free college sports tickets as part of the deal? 🙂

                1. randle

                  Public colleges only, Bryan. No mention of free sports tickets or changing admissions standards. There are lots of articles on the subject as well as the candidate’s website that can give you the information you seek. Here’s a start.



                2. Ken

                  Well, it could work like it does in, say, many parts of Europe. Where tuition does not serve as a filter to deny access to higher education. Or create a heavy financial burden on those who do gain access.

                  Yeah, I can practically see the sneer from here: those SOCIALIST countries over there!

                  Sorry, but it’s been demonstrated that, overall, populations do better in countries where government intervenes more to offset socio-economic imbalances in their societies.

                  1. Bryan Caskey

                    See, I’m just interested in the idea, just asking questions…and you’re already picturing me sneering and yelling SOCIALIST. I’m always interested in ideas. I really don’t know what I think about making college “free”. I sort of dislike saying it’s “free” because money is still going to flow into the schools; it’s just going to come from another source. However, that’s just semantics. Seems like it will be a big change to our system. Big changes can have lots of unintended consequences, so I’m trying to think it all through.

                    So, lighten up, Francis. 🙂

                    For instance, if we’re going make all public colleges and universities free, how will this affect private colleges and universities? Will it encourage private institutions to lower their tuition rates to be competitive? I would think so. Or does it just kill off a lot of smaller, less prestigious private colleges and universities? I mean, who’s going to pay $30k a year (just picking a random number) to go to Furman, Wofford, and Presbyterian College if you can just get into Clemson, Carolina, or College of Charleston for free?

                    I would also think you would have to cap how much a public college “charges”, too, right? For instance, if USC says: “Our tuition rate is now $30,000/year” (just to pick a random number) then they get paid that from the federal government somehow. We certainly would want to limit how much USC can just arbitrarily increase the “price”.

                    I would think it would also make all public colleges and universities more selective, since they should have a greater number of applicants. Or maybe it won’t. If a public university is going to be getting guaranteed money from the federal government, why not make the university larger, so you can admit more students and get a higher total payment? But, perhaps that balances out since you can’t water down the accepted student pool too much, or you’ll end up admitting students who can’t succeed academically.

                    On that larger point, does it water down the value of a college degree? Maybe, I don’t know. I don’t feel like it will.

                3. bud

                  Bryan, great observations. Yes there are likely to be unintended consequences. There could also be unintended benefits. If young folks are not saddled with staggering amounts of debt they would be in better shape to buy house thus stimulating the housing industry. But perhaps we’re looking at this the wrong way. I went to college in the 70s and had zero debt. Others only had modest amounts. It had just gotten ridiculously expensive. Why? Perhaps the public share of college could be increased. And pressure should be put on colleges to keep costs down. Perhaps we could take a look at these expensive building projects. Did we really need a new law school building or business school?

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    The thing is, if we’re going to have public institutions of higher education, the Legislature should fund them — the way they used to do.

                    Which is why it cost me $174 for a whole semester at Memphis State in 1974, as this receipt proves.

                    I had to pay something, so I valued it. Or at least my parents had to pay something, so they valued it. Or something. In any case, I actually made good grades that semester (let’s not talk about previous semesters). This was after I met my wife and picked up actual study habits from her. (Hey, look at what she’s doing! Maybe I should try to do that, for the first time in my life…)

                    My point is, it was affordable. It wasn’t out of reach. No one had to go into debt.

                    They later changed the name of the school to the University of Memphis. Might as well take “state” out of the name, if it’s going to cost more than $174. Which I’m pretty sure it does now…

                  2. Bryan Caskey

                    “Perhaps we could take a look at these expensive building projects. Did we really need a new law school building or business school?”

                    I can’t speak for the business school, but had you ever gone in the old law school? I didn’t go to law school at USC, but I studied for the bar there in the summer of 2006. The place was literally falling apart. I’m pretty sure USC was in jeopardy of losing accreditation because the facilities were in such a state of disrepair. Having said that, I haven’t stepped foot in the new law school, so I can’t say if it’s extravagant or just okay. It looks nice from the outside, and I’ve heard it’s pretty high tech.

                4. Ken

                  You asked: “How does the free college work, exactly?”
                  And I offered an example of how.
                  Do with as you like. If you insist on forking over 20 or 30K a year, or whatever, just to keep those private colleges and universities open, then by my guest.

                  Free doesn’t mean “everybody gets in.” It just removes money from the evaluation of merit.

                  1. Brad Warthen Post author

                    Actually, Ken, you said:

                    Yeah, I can practically see the sneer from here: those SOCIALIST countries over there!

                    Which is not the best way to have a civil conversation with someone…

                5. Ken

                  Apparently no one has ever told you that:
                  No one likes a scold.

                  I told you what I thought of your so-called “civility rule” and I will continue to ignore … whatever it is.

  4. Doug T

    Hey Bud, ya think Bernie or Elizabeth or Pete or Beto would be leading now? Joe represents the pragmatic Dems. The McGovern/Dukakis/Sanders wing would doom us to 4 more years of chaos and QAnon.

  5. Barry

    I voted straight democratic. My 20 year old did too.

    My wife voted for 1 Republican- local race- and that candidate is very moderate.

    There was one local republican I would have voted for but he was unopposed. He is moderate too.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And I think you made the right call.

        But I want to make sure that I’m clear to everyone else — I’m not voting “straight ticket.” I’m making the usual careful decisions in each race, and since Micah has no opposition (if he did, I’d likely be voting for one Republican), all of the people I’m choosing are Democrats.

        It’s every voter’s responsibility to make individual, carefully discerned decisions about every choice on the ballot — or not vote. As I may not vote, for instance, for school board. I don’t feel that I know enough to make informed decisions on those.

        Of course, it didn’t work out that every person I’m voting for — the four of them — are Democrats. Republicans made this happen. They had a choice starting in 2016 — they could either have completely rejected Trump as their standard-bearer, or not. They chose to embrace him. That was an unforgivable act…

        1. Barry

          “They chose to embrace him”

          It’s why I am likely not going to vote for another republican for the next 10 years. I won’t forget.

        2. Leon

          Brad, will you vote for Micah Caskey for the House? It is true that he has no opposition but his name is still on the ballot with a box to check. There will also be a box below his for any write-in you may want to, well, write in. If you vote for Micah for the House you will not be voting all Democratic. If you don’t vote for him you will be voting all Democratic. A technicality for sure but just wondering.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I did not, because he didn’t need me to. I just voted for the four I indicated above: Biden, Harrison, Boroughs and Setzler.

            If he had needed me to, I would have…

  6. Mark Stewart

    When I voted in-person absentee (love that phrase) the poll worker seemed to be a bit shocked that I said I did not want a straight party ticket – as if making less than 10 individual choices would be too much to contemplate or, worse, practically no one asks for the full ballot. It was the only thing disconcerting about the voting process.

    1. bud

      Where did you vote? No poll worker offered any straight party option. Is was available on the machine if that’s what I wanted but it was entirely a private option.

      1. Randle

        I had the option of voting a straight- party ticket on my absentee ballot, which was mailed to me and which I took down to Harden Street anyway. I like to vote for everyone individually, even if they are all in the same party. Never have given much thought to why.
        I am more concerned about how we make sure all votes are counted, as the GOP is working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen, and we can’t count on Supreme Court to do the right thing, especially with the new addition. And they aren’t going to give up.

  7. Trent

    Hi Brad, long time reader of your writing (dating back to the 90’s when I read The State in the back of the car on the way to school), first time commenter. I am a lifelong conservative. Although there have been lots of times I didn’t vote for a Republican, my alternative was always a Libertarian or another fringe party. I will NEVER vote for anyone who supported Trump in any way and I’ll never vote for a fringe party again. That means I’m a Democrat now. I could name a thousand reasons why, but will settle for one. Trump mocked a physically disabled man at a campaign rally, with the intent to belittle the man because he had a disability and his supporters think that’s ok to do. Anyone who can support a man like that is missing a fundamental core of integrity and character and I will never support someone like that. Ok, two reasons. Anyone who can support a man who caused children to be taken away from parents who can’t be found now simply because the cruelty of the action was the point-I just can’t imagine the thinking there.

    1. Mike

      The Trump stink is going to be very hard, perhaps impossible, to wash off the Republican Party for a generation. I’ve spent quite a few brain cycles thinking about Tim Scott recently. I knew nothing about him before his appointment and subsequent election. Since then, he had seemed to me to be principled and reasonable despite holding some positions I disagreed with. Until Trump. It turns out his principles were malleable enough to encompass support for the most dangerous president in my lifetime. His reasonableness didn’t prevent him from supporting unconscionable policies and actions. So, no. It will be a rare national Republican indeed who gets my vote. No partial credit. No points for suddenly seeing the light. Never again.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *