When lifelong Republican Cliff Rodgers resigned as Knox County elections administrator last spring, he said he was worn out with partisan politics. He’d held the job for nine years, pretty much ever since Republicans took control of the General Assembly, and was the first Republican appointed to run the operation after decades of Democratic Party domination.
It was a contentious time, and he got off to a bumpy start when he moved the 16th Ward from Belle Morris School (lots of parking) to Larry Cox Rec Center (not so much). It’s traditionally a heavily Democratic ward.
But he gradually won over critics by running an office that was a model of fairness and efficiency despite serving during interesting times – like the tie vote between candidates Harry Tindell and Amelia Parker in a city council primary election.
Now, nine months after his retirement – and at the tag end of an endless political season that at times felt more like World War III than an election cycle – Rodgers says he’s done with the GOP.
“If I hadn’t retired when I did, I probably would have done it after the November election because I can no longer in good faith call myself a Republican,” he said. “I’m done with them.”
Rodgers said that although he was never a fan of Donald Trump, his problem with his former party has never been with Trump alone.
“I can tell you this now: I have never voted for that man and always worried about what he would do to the Republican Party. I was afraid that he would have everyone jump on the Trump Train. And they did. And the Trump Train did what it was always going to do – it derailed. And it was spectacular.
“This is also what happens when people don’t have confidence in the outcome of elections. How is it the only so-called ‘rigged’ elections – the ones that Democrats won – were affected? And how come it was only the presidential election, the one at the top? You can’t ‘rig’ an election unless you have Democrats and Republicans working together to rig it, and that just doesn’t happen. They’d be the first ones to squeak (on each other). Some of that stuff got to be mind-numbing.”
Rodgers is also angry about the way Trump treated elections officials in Georgia and says he’s “tickled to death” to see Smartmatic and Dominion (the voting machine companies Trump’s legal team accused of “flipping” vote totals) suing Trump’s legal team and Fox News personalities for libel after being accused of helping to “rig” the election.
He says he kept telling attorneys that “a lot of those Democratic ballots were going to come in late, and that there was nothing wrong or illegal about it.”
He says he identifies as a Democrat now.
“I thought Republicans believed in democracy and states’ rights. All they’re arguing about now is money and social issues, which shows you how beholden they are to Trump – it’s the Party of Trump. What is a bridge too far?”
Note: A New York Times analysis published Feb. 10 reports that more than 140,000 Republicans have let the party since Jan. 6.
Betty Bean writes a Thursday opinion column for KnoxTNToday.com.