The anti-Trumpers are at it again – only this time, they’re Republicans.
Kevin, a lifelong Republican voter and pastor from Arizona, says he voted for Trump in 2016 “with high hopes for the future”. He knew that Trump didn’t have the same political experience as the other contenders, but he was optimistic he could grow into his new role.
Now he says: “I’ve seen how he has tried to divide our country and that is not something I want, nor what our country should have … This man is an absolute danger to our country.”
Kevin’s experience – of voting for Trump and then quickly realizing he’d made a mistake – is one of many being used by Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), which wants to boot Trump out of office later this year. The group is seeking testimony from former Trump voters through its website, which displays the best quotes so far with pride. (“I’d vote for a tuna fish sandwich before I vote for Donald Trump again,” reads one.)
Kevin is a pastor from AZ who voted Trump in 2016 - here is his case against four more years:— Republican Voters Against Trump (@RVAT2020) July 14, 2020
"And when you put all that together, I think this is a man who must, must be removed by voters in November from governing our country." pic.twitter.com/W8FOgVTkc4
Sarah Longwell, a Republican consultant who co-founded RVAT, said they have received hundreds of testimonies in recent months.
The group is funded by millionaire neoconservative pundit Bill Kristol, who was formerly chief of staff to the vice-president under George HW Bush, but uses testimony from distinctly non-political voices to make an impact.
“One of the reasons they are so compelling is because you can tell how authentic they are, how deeply they feel this – a lot of them want to get something off their chest,” says Longwell. The testimonies are not scripted or paid for, but they are the result of a lot of workshopping.
Jeffrey Farmer, from Massachussetts, certainly fits the bill of a non-polished but frustrated voice: he is immunocompromised and angered by Trump’s response to the pandemic. And he is certainly the voice of a media-trained, focus-group prepped politico – just a person who formerly backed Trump.
“I don’t even know why I’m doing this stupid thing, because this is not what I do. I don’t do social media or anything. But I can’t take this any more,” he says.
Farmer voted for Trump in 2016 because of how much he disliked Hillary Clinton, but describes him as being “Like a Tasmanian devil,” who spends all day complaining on Twitter instead of doing his job.
“This guy couldn’t lead his way out of a wet frickin’ paper bag,” says Farmer.
‼️ Jeffrey voted Trump in 2016, and it's safe to say he won't be doing so again.— Republican Voters Against Trump (@RVAT2020) July 13, 2020
He takes you on a ride....You gotta watch the whole thing. (Warnings: 1. NSFW 2. Wicked "Good Will Hunting" Energy) pic.twitter.com/foIo4lmaDA
Longwell, herself a disgruntled Republican, says she initially started looking for answers after Trump won the presidency.
“I have been alarmed by him from the beginning,” she says and so, around 2017, she began to search for answers. “I wanted to know how the party got taken over by Donald Trump,” she says. She ran focus groups with soft Trump voters – who voted for him 2016 but rated him as doing somewhat badly or very badly – and tried to understand how to persuade them against him.
The key thing, she found, was for them to hear from people like themselves.
“One thing we found is that the cultural aspect played a big role in [the 2016 election],” she says. “You’d get women who’d say ‘I voted for him and I cried,’ or, ‘I voted for him and then I had to take a shower afterwards’. But they were surrounded by people who talk about how all Democrats are socialists or whatever,” she says.
As a lifelong supporters of the Republican party though, does she really want Biden to win? Longwell says that she absolutely, unequivocally does.
“Donald Trump has a negative impact on the future of the Republican party,” says Longwell. “He has sort of hijacked the party and really poisoned the country, and has turned it into a nationalist populist party. There’s a section of Republicans who do not find that attractive, and I’m one of them.
“The best thing for the party long term is for him to get defeated soundly, and for the party to rethink its direction.”