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Yesterday’s bombshell revelations about a leaked draft of John Bolton’s book, in which he wrote that President Donald Trump wanted to delay aid to Ukraine pending its investigation of the Bidens, has inspired the hashtag #ILeftTheGOP. Former Republicans are using it to share their reasons for leaving the party.
The phenomenon is similar to the 2018 #WalkAway movement that featured purported ex-Democrats detailing their reasons for leaving the party. The movement quickly attracted the Kremlin’s notice, who put its army of trolls to work boosting the hashtag.
Pundit Cheri Jacobus appears to have started the #ILeftTheGOP trend with a pair of Sunday night tweets, the first responding to USA Today’s Sophia A. Nelson’s comment wondering if Republican senators would step up or fall in line in light of Bolton’s allegations.
Let's all tweet when we left the GOP with the hashtag #ILeftTheGOP— Cheri Jacobus (@CheriJacobus) January 27, 2020
Jacobus’s call to action quickly caught on. Thousands flocked to Twitter to share their stories about leaving the Republican Party.
Common themes to the reasons given include realizing that the party caters to the wealthy, becoming disillusioned with it during the second Iraq War or over its handling of Trump’s impeachment, concerns about its embrace of white nationalism and other forms of bigotry, and other issues with Republican policies and the conduct of its elected representatives.
Some of the tweets are heartbreaking, a few are amusing, but most convey disgust and resolve.
It is, however, unclear if people posting are actually former Republicans, or just people using the hashtag to criticize the GOP.
#ILeftTheGOP when my high school friend came back in a body bag from Iraq.— John Slater (@JSlater89) January 27, 2020
My grandmother had a saying about people who wear their religion on their sleeve. It is on their sleeve because it is NOT in their hearts. She was a holocaust survivor. #TheGOPisDEADtoME #ILeftTheGOP https://t.co/tRWtZ1qsPv— mrhapiguy (@mrhapiguy) January 27, 2020
#ileftthegop after Nixon. Reagan, the smiling actor who ran for office on racist dog-whistles, while promising wealth to the oligarchs, solidified that Eisenhower Republicanism was long dead and gone.— Risky Liberal (@RiskyLiberal) January 27, 2020
#ILeftTheGOP after 5th grade when I learned that Democrats weren’t actually running around murdering other people’s babies in cold blood and that abortion meant terminating a pregnancy.— GOP is a Terrorist Organization (@horrorfan1313) January 27, 2020
#ILeftTheGOP in the 80's when they created the tip tax and cost my waitress mother money.— Brian From The 'Cuse (@syraphero) January 27, 2020
By and large, however, the prevailing reason given for leaving the GOP is simple: Trump. In tweet after tweet, self-proclaimed former Republicans write that they left the party because of Donald Trump.
Trump’s presidency has inspired numerous Republican representatives to decide against seeking re-election and led others to switch parties.
#ILeftTheGOP in 2016 when a man who sexually assaults women was overwhelmingly supported by white evangelicals; the community I grew up in.— Jory Micah (@jorymicah) January 27, 2020
**Church now gives me anxiety**
I love Jesus but I’m still grieving losing not the election, but my Christian family to another “King.”
Conservatives, meanwhile, pushed back against the hashtag, at times in questionable fashion.
“I just heard whoever started the #ILeftTheGOP on Twitter hashtag has a severe form of herpes,” wrote radio host Wayne Dupree.
I just heard whoever started the #ILeftTheGOP on Twitter hashtag has a severe form of herpes.— Wayne Dupree 🎙🎥 (@WayneDupreeShow) January 27, 2020
don't get angry at me, I was just passing along the information.
that is all.
This platform silences conservative voices and boosts liberal voices because the can.— East Coast USA ⏳⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@NAWN24) January 27, 2020
This hashtag is a perfect example.
Do I believe some of the accounts on #ILeftTheGOP are real? Sure. But most of them look pretty damn suspicious. Hard to believe a low-follow account that hasn’t tweeted in years suddenly decides to tweet again JUST on that tag. pic.twitter.com/wL2xykPKak— The 🐰 FOO (@PolitiBunny) January 27, 2020
It remains to be seen whether the alleged exodus of Republicans affects the upcoming election.
Claire Goforth is a Jacksonville, Florida-based journalist covering politics, culture, justice, and unicorns. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from regional alt-weeklies to Al Jazeera.