Les Wexner breaks from GOP. (Wikimedia Commons)
On September 13, Les Wexner declared himself an Independent.
As a member of the Republican Party since his days at Ohio State, Wexner has been a key supporter of many GOP nominees, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush. However, he has refused to back President Trump, and Wexner’s exit from the Republican party isn’t the first of its kind.
Since President Trump’s election and subsequent establishment as the figurehead of his party, many politicians and notable Republicans have begun to drift away from him. MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, for example, announced his departure from the party in October, asking, “How much of this country and our values are they willing to sell out?”
Werner announced his “appalled” distaste for the current administration at the Columbus Partnership and YPO Leadership Summit, when he told attendees, including former President Barack Obama, that he “won’t support this nonsense in the Republican Party.”
But in reality, the fallout from Trump’s actions started in his first days as a presidential candidate. Other key political figures announced that they would not support Trump during the 2016 election, including former presidents George H.W. and George W. Bush, 14 Republican governors, 13 current Republican senators, 31 sitting members of the house, and countless other federal officials and public figures.
As he continues to appeal to his narrow base, President Trump alienates not only notable figures such as Scarborough, Wexner and the Bush family, but also the general population of his party.
The loss of Wexner and other supporters could create a huge dilemma that Republican candidates would face while running for office: support Donald Trump and risk losing funding and votes or break from the Republican Party.
Ohio’s recent special election is a prime example of President Trump’s negative impact on Republican candidates’ success in elections. Republican Troy Balderson based his campaign on support for the president’s policies, which prompted many to consider a vote for Democrat Danny O’Connor as a vote against President Trump.
After President Trump took the 12th district by 11 percentage points in the 2016 election, Balderson carried it by a mere 0.8% margin. O’Connor came within 1,564 votes of giving the district its first Democratic representative in Washington since the 1980’s. The statistics demonstrate the dwindling numbers of Republican voters and have been tabbed by many as a welcome sign for the Democrats as we approach the November Midterms.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party as a whole is showing frighteningly low poll numbers among young voters. Gallup poll numbers show that merely 8.3% of voters aged 18-29 identified as Republican in 2017, and that number doesn’t seem to stand a chance at recovery.
President Trump has created a negative stigma for his party through lack of tolerance for other religions and ethnicities, including Muslims and Latinos. But that bigotry wasn’t what the party stood for in the past. So Wexner and young voters have sent a clear message to Republicans: the immaturity and controversy plaguing the presidency will not be tolerated for much longer.