As a Field Artillery officer in the 82nd Airborne Division and a veteran of the Afghanistan Campaign, I've been called a lot of things, but never unprincipled. But with the way some of my fellow Republicans talk, I'm Benedict Arnold.

Since leaving the Army a little over a year ago, I moved to Maryland to restart my civilian life. My partner and I, finally together after two years of back-to-back deployments, bought a house with a big yard on a quiet cul de sac and settled into our routine. Finally off of active duty, I was free to pursue political interests. I became active with the local Republican Party, where I volunteered to be a precinct canvass leader and to serve on a county legislative committee.

You'd think in as blue a state as Maryland that the GOP would welcome Republicans of all stripes. Sadly, this isn't the case. On my first day training to canvass, a coordinator asked me to quit. The problem? I wanted to reach out to centrist Republicans. The coordinator's disdain for such "unprincipled" moderates was so vehement that he began arguing with a 30-year Republican voter who expressed an opinion that the government shutdown was a waste of time.

This isn't the first time I've heard some Republicans give the "love it or leave it" option in our party, and it's hurting us nationwide. Statewide and national elections bring together disparate groups of people. That means the platforms and candidates we field must also be attractive to voters in the middle — a voting bloc that many fear dead but one that I believe still exists

A former college instructor and Republican mentor of mine lived in Brazil many years ago and was struck by the ideas of one economist, which he shared with me. The economist essentially said that economic development and growth requires a change of heart and a change of mind. If a poor society wants to remain poor, then it should keep doing what it's doing now. If it wants to raise its standard of living, however, it has to change its heart and change its mind, meaning it has to change the way it does things.

This is exactly the type of challenge the Maryland GOP faces. If we are content with how our party is faring, we should continue seeing our platform as perfected, immutable and divinely inspired. But if we want to see limited government, fiscal responsibility and sound business policies return, we need to change our hearts and minds on how we apply our principles.

Instead of trying to force one definition of family values on people, let's let families make their own decisions on who, how and why they marry. And speaking of families, we might be well placed to understand the true motivations behind illegal immigration, like the desire to better oneself, the motivation to work, and a desperate hope to provide for one's children. Maybe the problem is the nonsensical immigration system that needs to be fixed.

In fact, we might learn some more things if we would listen to all communities in our state, instead of telling them why our principles are perfect and they're just being deceived by Democrats.

To this end, I've gathered some friends and started a political action committee — Millennial Maryland. On our website, we've laid out some additional principles and values like political integrity, fiscal responsibility and compromise. In the coming months, we'll be helping to develop alternative Republican platforms and supporting fair minded, centrist candidates. If you're a Republican, or even just a concerned Marylander interested in making our state better, please visit our website at millennialmaryland.org to learn more.

Joseph Swartz is a founder of Millennial Maryland. His email is millennialmaryland@gmail.com.


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