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‘It has become a cult’: Steadfast Republican and former Oklahoma Congressman Mickey Edwards has left the GOP and ‘will not be going back’

Mickey Edwards.

He was national chairman of the American Conservative Union. He was one of the three founding trustees of the Heritage Foundation. In 1977, he flipped the seat in Oklahoma, becoming the state’s first Republican elected to Congress in half a century.

And now, Mickey Edwards, 83, has left the Republican party. He said he “will not be going back.”

In an essay published in opinion website The Bulwark, Edwards bids his party goodbye, and scathingly so. But not before outlining his 64-year commitment to the GOP: How he climbed the ranks within the party, eventually serving eight terms in Congress. How he helped charge a “national movement” that led to Ronald Reagan’s presidential victory in 1980. He talked about some of his earliest memories with the party, like the day he registered to vote as a Republican.


“Registration officials tried to talk me out of it,” Edwards wrote. “They said my vote wouldn’t count ... ‘No,’ I said: ‘I’m a Republican.’”

Nevertheless, Edwards announced this week that he was leaving the GOP — “a party that has been at the center of my entire adult life,” he wrote. “A party that defined me to others and to myself. It has become the opposite of what it was.”

Edwards, who served a member of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993, taught at Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School for 11 years.

Edwards cited the 2020 election and the Capitol attacks as his tipping point, when President Trump and his supporters pushed baseless claims of election fraud that led to the deadly siege on Jan. 6. Edwards said of the GOP: “It has become a cult idolizing a ruler, a trasher of institutions of democracy driven by falsehoods and hatreds.”

Edwards noted that both Arizona and Georgia’s governors, who are conservative Trump supporters, certified that Trump lost a fair election in their states. He also talked about the dozens of courts that included judges appointed by Trump that said there was no evidence of fraud.


“Who are the supposed forces of evil who have perpetrated this ‘steal’?” Edwards wrote before condemning the 150 Republican members of Congress “who fed the falsehood that the validity of the election was in question.”

“These were not citizens with no access to truth; they are not ignorant of the facts. They knew everything I’ve spelled out about the validity of Donald Trump’s electoral loss,” Edwards wrote. “They provided the fuel for an attack on the heart of American government, an attack that killed an officer trying to protect them. An attack by Americans against America. Supported and cheered on by Republicans. My Republicans.”

Edwards said even the Republican members of Congress who didn’t join the attempt to overthrow the election had blood on their hands.

“[They] remained unforgivably silent out of party loyalty and fear, making them complicit nonetheless in this blood attack in their own country.”

Brittany Bowker can be reached at brittany.bowker@globe.com. Follower her on Twitter @brittbowker.