Dan Cox, a candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, speaks with reporters during a primary election night event on July 19, 2022 in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Voters will choose candidates during the primary for governor and seats in the House of Representatives in the upcoming November election.

Don’t laugh, but one of my favorite Christmas movies is “Love Actually.” I thought about that movie as I watched the election returns on Tuesday night.

During a joint press conference with the U.S. President, the British Prime Minister, excellently portrayed by Hugh Grant, said: “I love that word ‘relationship.’ Covers all manner of sins, doesn’t it? I fear that this has become a bad relationship.”

And that’s where I am with the GOP.

I joined the Republican Party when I registered to vote, as a college student in 1998. I liked smaller government, I liked the Second Amendment, and I thought taxes were too high. I proudly went to the polls and voted for Ellen Sauerbrey in that General Election, and so far I’ve been a devoted Republican ever since — spending the last 20 years working on behalf of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.

We had a good run of it. Only one Democrat, for example, has served as governor during this century. Bob Ehrlich was elected in 2002. Gov. Larry Hogan was elected twice.

And yet, Republican voters decided to throw away that legacy of success on Tuesday. They decided to dispense with the successful legacy of the Republicans who came before them and nominated candidates for governor and attorney general who are wholly unqualified for office and completely incapable of winning. It is the ultimate act of self-immolation from members of a party that just eight years ago was starting a renaissance.

Dan Cox is a menace to the body politic. That Cox is a completely ineffectual legislator who took up everybody’s time with nonsense and passed no bills in four years would usually be a disqualifying factor in a gubernatorial election. Cox has spent years feeding voters a steady diet of lies and conspiracy theories related to the 2020 Election, COVID and “groomers.” But all that was overlooked by a crass electorate divorced from reality. I would not trust Dan Cox to run a lemonade stand, much less the machinery of state government.

Michael Peroutka might be worse. The Republican nominee for attorney general is a Christian Reconstructionist who believes the United States should be a religious theocracy. Peroutka is so out there that he gets offended by being called a neo-Confederate because he thinks he’s more of just a Confederate! Peroutka is so radically extreme that he makes the John Birch Society look moderate.

This is an extinction-level event for the Maryland Republican Party. The majority of Republicans knew this but decided to roll the dice with these two radicals.

Well, just because the majority of Maryland Republican voters are jumping into the idiot pool doesn’t mean I have to, and just because everyone else drinks the Flavor Aid doesn’t mean I will.

It’s disgusting.

I will be disaffiliating with the Republican Party on August 1st when Maryland reopens their voter registration period. I will become an unaffiliated voter, for the time being.

This is not the first time that I have considered this course of action. After Donald Trump won the Maryland presidential primary in 2016, I strongly considered leaving the GOP but I decided to stay. I thought Trump and Trumpism would be a temporary fad, but also because the Maryland Republican Party at the time was on an upward trajectory of success. I said I would stick with the Maryland GOP as long as it didn’t go rogue.

As Leonard Cohen sang, “Everybody knows the war is over, everybody knows the good guys lost.”

So where does the Republican Party go from here? That’s the million-dollar question. Republicans who want to win elections this year will need to distance themselves from Cox as quickly as possible.

And once Cox is crushed in the general election, rank-and-file Republicans will have to make a choice: Will they want to continue down the rabbit hole of conspiracies, claims of election fraud, and insurrection? Or will they decide they actually want to win elections and influence policy again?

For Republicans in Maryland, disavowing Cox, Trumpism, and “America First” populism is the only way out of this hole.

What’s next for disaffected conservatives like me? Certainly not the Democratic Party. Much as Republicans drift toward one extreme, Maryland Democrats keep drifting toward the other. In certain ways, the two parties are now indistinguishable.

Regardless of my party affiliation, I will continue the fight for smaller government, for the Second Amendment, for lower taxes, and for protecting life from conception until natural death. But the Republican Party is no longer a viable vessel in which I can do it.

Brian Griffiths is a conservative activist and publisher of The Duckpin. He can be reached at brian.griffiths.media@gmail.com or on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok.