Those who left the party said they didn't want to associate with a party that questioned the legitimacy of their votes.
The Republican party is having an identity crisis with various factions within the party driving in different directions. The Capitol riots on January 6 proved to be a breaking point for many GOP supporters who view the party as moving towards an extremist and almost cult-like corner. Close to 19,000 Pennsylvania voters have left the Republican Party since the Capitol attack, reported The Philadelphia Inquirer. It wasn't just the attack that hurt the party but the fact that Pennsylvania congressmen voted to the state's election results. Lifelong GOP supporters don't want to be identified as Republican and are registering as independent in the wake of the Capitol riots orchestrated by Trump supporters. Diane Tyson, a resident of Pennsylvania was one of the 19,000 that moved away from the party. “I knew I could not be a Republican anymore. I just can’t — it’s not who I am. The Republican Party has gone down a deep hole that I want no part of. I don’t want an ‘R’ after my name,” said Tyson.
While 19,000 might represent a small group when you consider the state has 8.8 million registered voters, the defection points to an ideological crisis for the party that seems to increasingly align with extremist factions of the party. The rise of QAnon supporters within the right-wing party and the election of Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene, both supported QAnon conspiracy theories, point to the direction of the party. It's no coincidence that the rise of Donald Trump within the GOP coincided with the far-right's acceptance into the mainstream. One of the turning points was when Donald Trump described the neo-nazis at a Charlottesville far-right rally as "fine people." One GOP supporter said Trump's core support was increasingly looking like a cult. “Trumpism was a total turnoff to me. It poisoned the Republican Party,” said Michael Kocher.
Over the past few years, voters of the Democratic party leaving the base significantly outnumbered Republicans in Pennsylvania but this year, the trend has been reversed. The shift away from the GOP represented only 9% of all party changes since 2008 but this year the exodus from the party accounts for 35% of all party changes. Many of those interviewed revealed that it was their way of protesting GOP leaders who questioned the legitimacy of their votes, and the growth of Trump supporters within the party. It appears to party seems to be losing its moderate core.
In many ways, Trump's growth surpassed that of the party, leaving the party at the mercy of Trump supporters, both in Congress and otherwise. Mitt Romney has been one of the few Republicans who has stood up to Trump and voted to impeach the former President. Romney called out Trump and all those that supported him in pushing the 'big lie' that the election was stolen and pinned the blame of the attack on the former President. "I hear many calls for unity. It is apparent that calling for unity while at the same time appeasing the big lie of a stolen election is a fraud," said Romney, reported Newsweek.
"It is in the service of that lie that a mob invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6." He called on other GOP leaders to acknowledge that Biden legitimately won the election. "Now that the impeachment trial is behind us, it falls to each of us to affirm what we all know: President Biden won the election through the legitimate vote of the American people. The division in America will only begin to heal in the light of this truth, a truth which must now be affirmed by each of us in this chamber."