Some conservatives have also been debating whether they should try to launch a third party

By Virginia Chamlee
February 16, 2021 02:29 PM
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Riots at the U.S. Capitol building
| Credit: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

Voting registration data reveals that more than 100,000 conservatives changed their party affiliation in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riots by Donald Trump's supporters, according to a recent analysis by The New York Times.

The January registration data indicates that in the weeks since the attempted coup, "nearly 140,000 Republicans had quit the party in 25 states that had readily available data," the Times reported on Wednesday.

By comparison, according to the paper, some 79,000 Democrats left the party since early January.

While the Times notes that 19 states do not have information regarding registration-by-party, the states that do paint a vivid picture of dissatisfaction in some key areas.

After the pro-Trump riots, more than 12,000 registered Republicans left the party in Pennsylvania, with some 33,000 leaving the GOP in California and more than 10,000 Republicans changing their affiliation in Arizona.

Both Arizona and Pennsylvania were hotly contested swing states in the last election, each decided by thousands of votes.

One of those voters who changed their party affiliation was Juan Nunez, a 56-year-old Army veteran from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, who told the Times that that the insurrection "broke [his] heart" and was directly responsible for him fleeing the Republican Party.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that several former Republican officials had said they would leave the party in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack, in which five people died.

The outlet cited a number of former high-ranking officials from the George W. Bush administration who said they could no longer recognize their party and argued that current GOP lawmakers didn't do enough to denounce Trump's baseless election fraud claims. 

"The Republican Party as I knew it no longer exists," Jimmy Gurulé, who served as the undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence under Bush, told Reuters. "I'd call it the cult of Trump."

Donald Trump
| Credit: Ian MacNicol/Getty

On Thursday, Reuters reported more than 120 people — including GOP officials and former Trump staffers — participated in a Zoom call about potentially creating a third party, though that still seems to be largely hypothetical and would face a number of its own logistical challenges.

Evan McMullin, the former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and an independent candidate in the 2016 presidential election, hosted the call.

He told Reuters, "Large portions of the Republican Party are radicalizing and threatening American democracy. The party needs to recommit to truth, reason and founding ideals or there clearly needs to be something new."

Still, many Republicans are wary of leaving the party behind, with GOP Chair Ronna McDaniel recently saying the party needed to "unite" in order to be successful in future races.

Those elected Republican officials who have broken with the Trump wing have faced backlash and the threat of primary challengers in their next elections; and the former president remains popular with his base.

Polling found that, while Trump wasn't successful in his bid for reelection, he did turn out higher-than-normal numbers of small-town and rural voters, a statistic that many in the party welcome.

What's more, he highlighted the strength of Republicans down-ballot in November when he was at the top of the ticket — a string of victories that surprised many observers, given how Republicans had fared in the 2018 election when Trump was not on the ticket.

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But some current Republican lawmakers have also expressed frustration with the party's refusal to denounce Trump amid his most incendiary behavior, including how he encouraged his supporters before the Capitol attack.

Last week, Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger urged his fellow GOP lawmakers in an op-ed to convict Trump at his Senate impeachment trial. Ultimately, seven Republican senators voted guilty, which was less than the 17 needed to convict.

"If the GOP doesn't take a stand, the chaos of the past few months, and the past four years, could quickly return. The future of our party and our country depends on confronting what happened — so it doesn't happen again," Kinzinger, a vocal Trump critic, wrote in his column for The Washington Post

Kinzinger argued that impeaching Trump was a "matter of accountability" rather than one of party politics. His conviction — which would have allowed him to be banned from running for federal office again — would help the party separate itself from the lies and conspiracy theories that have seeped from the former president into others in the GOP, Kinzinger wrote.

"Impeachment offers a chance to say, 'Enough is enough.' It ought to force every American, regardless of party affiliation, to remember not only what happened on Jan. 6, but also the path that led there," Kinzinger wrote. "After all, the situation could get much, much worse — with more violence and more division that cannot be overcome. The further down this road we go, the closer we come to the end of America as we know it."