A prominent Republican political strategist just publicly left the GOP over the Trump administration's decision to separate families at the border. In a series of blistering tweets ripping "internment camps for babies," Steve Schmidt said he would be voting for Democrats in the next election.
Schmidt helped lead Sen. John McCain's presidential bid in 2008, and was notably a key voice that pushed for Sarah Palin to be McCain's running mate. So while it's true that Schmidt has long been a Trump critic, it's also important to note he hasn't demonstrated a history of reflexive opposition to "outsider" conservative figures. As The Daily Beast reported, Schmidt also ran Arnold Schwarzenegger's successful bid to become governor of California.
But on Wednesday morning, Schmidt announced he'd had enough of the "corrupt, indecent, and immoral" Republican party under President Trump. He wrote that except for a few governors (name-checking Charlie Baker, Larry Hogan, and John Kasich), the GOP was filled with "feckless cowards."
Then Schmidt described the policy of taking children from parents trying to enter the country as building "internment camps for babies," an act "connected to the worst abuses of humanity in our history."
Schmidt implicated Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan directly, along with the "all the rest" of elected Republicans who "will carry this shame through history."
Then Schmidt took his criticism of Trump and the behavior of Republicans under his presidency one step further than most conservative critics have (thus far) been willing to go. He called for Republicans and Independents who found themselves similarly disgusted by Trump's administration to vote blue.
"The first step to a season of renewal in our land is the absolute and utter repudiation of Trump and his vile enablers in the 2018 election by electing Democratic majorities," Schmidt wrote on Twitter. He clarified that he would do this not as an "advocate of a progressive agenda," but rather "as someone who retains belief in DEMOCRACY and decency."
And he wasn't done yet. In his final tweet, Schmidt wrote that the "only party" representing "what is right and decent" and "fidelitous to our Republic, objective truth, the rule of law and our Allies" is currently the Democratic party.
The current MSNBC contributor seems to have hit a major nerve. Within seven hours of his first tweet in the series going live, Schmidt had been retweeted over 23,000 times.
Schmidt's public excoriation of the Republican administration is rare from a conservative voice, but it's not entirely alone. The lieutenant governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, sent his own series of tweets early Wednesday morning, expressing disappointment and heartbreak over Trump's border policy. "I hate what we’ve become," Cox wrote, including the notable assertion that "I want to punch someone."
Cox explained his rage in subsequent tweets, writing that "some in my party are doing and supporting things I never thought possible." He blamed political tribalism and also all but begged his audience to "turn off cable news forever" and "get off Facebook."
Despite widespread public outcry — both international and domestic — over Trump's decision to implement family separation at the border, a recent poll found a majority of Republicans support the policy. A Quinnipiac poll released Monday revealed that 55 percent of Republican respondents were okay with separating families at the border. A second poll conducted by Ipsos for the The Daily Beast found 46 percent of Republicans were willing to support the policy when the goal of deterring future migrants became the focus of the question. The Ipsos poll worded their question to highlight the policy's goal of discouraging "others from crossing the border illegally.”
As Steve Schmidt's tweets make crystal clear, the former GOP strategist vehemently disagrees with such Republican support for family separation.