Although I came to this country from Cuba as a child, I was not so young that I could not appreciate the greatness this nation offered. A place to raise a family I adore, pursue a great profession and exercise so many of the freedoms that are in short supply in the nation of my birth — and in many places around the world.
I became a Republican because I believe that the principles of the Republican Party are best able to secure these freedoms. Democrats, I am sure, seek these same goals; I just think the route of the party of Lincoln and Reagan is usually a better path.
It is because of these beliefs that I will not vote for Donald Trump in the primary, and, should he be the Republican nominee, I will not sit out the election in protest. I will vote to make sure he is not elected.
I was in Boston two weeks ago and had the opportunity to visit the New England Holocaust Memorial, a beautiful and elegant work of outdoor art.
Engraved on a dark granite at the memorial are the famous words of the Lutheran priest, Martin Niemoeller. Niemoeller was and remains a controversial figure, having first supported the Nazis, when it suited him, but then later thrown into concentration camps for seven years when he challenged the Nazis.
Niemoeller’s words lamented his failure of courage and principle to stand up to the Nazis when they took away to the camps people unlike him. The last few words are well-known and worth recalling:
“Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
I do not believe that any political party should stir up bigotry or racial animosity (that should not be a remarkable statement in 2016, particularly in this country, yet, sadly, it needs to be said today — in this country). As a lifelong and proud Republican, I reject in every way the appeal to sexism, racial animosity and bigotry that Trump espouses, as he plays to people’s worst and imagined fears: supporting “the total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering this country,” solely because of their religion, making vulgar, sexist remarks, mocking the disabled, calling for the mass round-up and deportation of undocumented Latinos and flirting with white supremacists, including his comment that: “I don’t know anything about David Duke” — making him either the most ignorant candidate, or just the latest political demagogue.
I refuse to engage in the folly of assuming that this is just “shtick” and that Trump will obviously govern differently, or that the weight of the office will mold him into something more high-minded. History is littered with these assumptions and rationalizations, and they only lead to moments of great regret. I don’t know the man. But, I take his words and his actions seriously. Apart from the total idiocy of his pretend policy statements, he carefully selects his words to divide the nation and provoke hatred and bigotry.
If we learned anything from Niemoeller’s journey, it is that the only way to combat bigotry, regardless to whom it is directed, is head-on and with a clarity of conviction, and even at moments — especially at moments — when there may be less confrontational routes.
If we treat hate speech and bigotry with anything less than outrage, we give it oxygen. We give it life.
I am fond of my political party, but I love this nation far more. If the Republican Party stands for nothing other than winning elections, then it will lose its legitimacy to govern and it will lose the general election.
To vote for Trump is to vote for a bigot. It is no more complicated than that.
Bob Martinez is a former U.S. attorney.