‘Maybe We Need a Party Breakdown to Be Better’: Katrina Jørgensen on Resigning Young Republicans over Trump

Paradox’s MATT SHAPIRO interviews KATRINA JøRGENSEN, who resigned from her position as Communications Chair for the Young Republicans National Federation in May, saying her principles would not let her continue to work for a party with Donald Trump as its nominee. 

M: Now that Ryan has endorsed Trump, what is at stake for people who have careers within the GOP?

Katrina Jørgensen: You can’t separate yourself from a presidential candidate … especially if he gets elected. If you look at the people who worked with George W. Bush, they get put into a bucket in which they are, in a way, culpable for everything the administration did. People treat them as if they agree with everything he ever said.

Especially for people who are in communications (like me), you’re seeing more people leave. Especially people who have worked with us in outreach. How do you reach people when someone comes to you and says, “Your candidate said something bigoted and hateful,” and you have no answer for that. I just couldn’t do that.

I was a Rubio supporter and I’ve liked Paul Ryan for years. Can you speculate on why they endorsed Trump?

The only thing I can think of is Rule 40(b), a rule that says if you don’t support the nominee you can be thrown out of the party. People have threatened to use that to remove me from any dealings with the Republican Party.

But if Ryan were removed with that rule, he could potentially be removed as Speaker of the House. I hope it was that, because he didn’t have to endorse.

Rubio was even harder. He’s not running for election, and he had nothing to lose. I couldn’t comprehend why he didn’t just stay quiet.

For most officials … I thought I was going to be one of hundreds of resignations and that I would not make news. I am shocked by the number of people who have put aside their principles this way. And no one has said that, by resigning, you have to stop helping the good Republican candidates, but there is a line where we have to say, “What does Republican mean if we allow Trump to be our top-level candidate?”

Let’s say Trump loses in November … are the people who refused to support him going to be able to say “I told you so” or are they going to be second-class citizens in the party?

I don’t know. I hope we can come back, say “I told you so, now let’s get back on track,” but I worry that with a loss people will become more angry.

I’m heartbroken by my party and by the American public that we would select someone like this to represent us. That is to say my faith that people will realize their mistakes is pretty low right now, but this is a defining moment for Republicans. Either we will realize this was a terrible choice, or we will become the party of Trump and that’s the end.

If the GOP becomes the party of Trump, what are our choices?

I don’t know … become intellectuals on the outside? For me, I would leave politics, go live a normal life and try to ignore it. I don’t know. The other choices … start a new party? Super hard. Try to change the libertarian party? So hard.

Do we want to talk about libertarians?

I don’t know.

I ask because I’m probably voting for Gary Johnson. He is the least disastrous person running for president and I can’t believe that’s true.

By a huge margin, he’s the least insane person running.

But I’m still frustrated because libertarians are still against things I think are very important. Johnson doesn’t care for religious liberty. 

And let’s not forget the libertarians on foreign policy.

You mean “Make America Give Everyone the Middle Finger Again”?

Right. It’s one of the few things where the presidential office matters more than anything else. It is very difficult for me to come to grips with the idea that we should hide in a hole and pretend that no one else exists bothers me on a practical and moral level. I agree with them on 80 percent of things, but that last 20 percent defines me as a person.

There is a lot of talk about “We know Hillary will be bad, but we have no idea what Trump will do.” What is your sense of Trump if he were to get elected?  

I worry about things like the freedom of press being pushed down. I worry that he’ll call militias or the military to force votes in DC. The way he talks and uses his authoritarian style is frighteningly close to what we’ve seen in dictatorships. People say Congress will restrain him, but I worry about him threatening Congress. If you’ve got a militia, that can be frighteningly easy to do.

I fear a complete breakdown of international policy, in part because he has the thinnest skin I’ve ever seen. I think he’ll break alliances just because someone hurts his feelings. He’s talked about taking the Keystone pipeline and it should have a kick-back to him. That’s flat-out corruption. Usually presidential candidates shut down their companies or at least relinquish control when they run for president but Trump hasn’t done that. I could see him making political deals or shutting down human rights efforts to secure better business deals in these countries.

I can imagine nothing good. People talk about surrounding him with good people but there is no chance he will tone himself down or become more presidential.

Given his thin skin, I’m worried Trump could be played like a fiddle by someone like Putin. Do you think there is enough savvy in the international diplomatic community to manipulate him? Or is he just too volatile?

Obviously someone at some point must have made a sensible deal with him, right? But he has no filter. Everything that comes into his head comes out. But we have allies right now, conservative partners across the world, who are repulsed by Trump as our nominee.

Make no mistake … Putin is pleased Trump is around.

As a data guy, one thing that has driven me crazy is that for every narrative about why Trump won the nomination, I can pull out a set of poll results that makes your narrative look like an idiot guessing in the dark.

I’ll agree with that. Everyone has their theory about why he’s at the top, but I can’t make sense of any of it.

What I don’t get and don’t think I’ll ever get is good people I know coming around to support Trump. There doesn’t seem to be explicit party pressure. Some people I know and love are voting for Trump and it’s because they hate Hillary. I don’t know why, but they hate her and will vote for Trump over Hillary just because they hate Hillary.

Some other people seem to like him with a “Well, he speaks his mind.” I don’t get that. If someone spoke like this to them individually, they would be angry, but they are somehow fine with this person as the nominee.

If there was one part of Trump that you can’t stand by, what would it be?

His first speech was appalling. And every moment after that, I hoped it would be his last. His “Mexicans are rapists” comment was outrageous. His comment about McCain, bashing a war hero? And then his polls went up?

Trump is the kind of person we don’t want our children to be. We want them to treat women with respect. Don’t treat disabled people badly … I don’t know why we would want someone who exemplifies these awful traits that we would never accept in our children or in any other relationship in our lives.

That doesn’t even get to the point that he has no idea about any policy. None of them. He just has no idea what conservatives are or what we stand for. If I had to boil it down to one thing, there has been a failure in GOP leadership that makes me sad. The fact that GOP leadership hasn’t reached out to the Never Trump people, who are bright and long-term dedicated to the party.

Maybe we need a party breakdown in order to be a better party.

That has become my refuge. Maybe this can be better in the long term? But I’ve lost faith that things will get better in the long term.

If you called me to get an optimistic, happy message, I don’t have one. I am at the darkest place in politics we’ve ever seen. At least when Obama was at the height of his power with both the House and Senate under Democrat control, at least we were all together and moving forward. This is broken.

The GOP has, for many years, seemed like a place for someone with optimism, someone concerned with doing the right things, passionate about the value of responsibility and self-sufficiency. It feels like there is no more room in the party for that person. If I were to join this campaign, I would need to embrace the culture war/identity politics view in which the only thing we care about is making Democrats suffer. 

I agree. As a Republican, I want to be smart about things. Let’s be smart about the world, let’s be smart about our money, let’s have some common sense. That’s why I’m a Republican. I don’t care about identity politics. If I joined the Dems, I couldn’t stand the identity politics, I couldn’t stand their endless desires to create programs and never think about how to pay for them.

There is no home for us. We’ll end up getting out of politics or … I don’t know … getting out of politics. I feel like I’ve been kicked out of my home. I’m heartbroken.

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