When I was 22 years old and a delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention, I made the mistake of voting to make Sarah Palin the party's vice-presidential nominee. In hindsight, she was not ready to be president had John McCain won the election and immediately become incapacitated. That unlikely scenario never played out. But in enabling even the possibility of a novice becoming the most powerful person in the world, I let down my party and my country.
Today, delegates to the upcoming convention face a vote of even greater impact: to potentially make Donald Trump the Republican presidential nominee. I urge them to do everything in their power to prevent that catastrophe.
There's probably little I can say to dissuade those who support Mr. Trump because they agree with his style or statements. Some who have rallied to his cause are clearly just jockeying for positions in a potential administration. Why else would Rick Perry bend his knee after describing Mr. Trump's candidacy last summer as "a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness, and nonsense"? Or Chris Christie? The New Jersey governor never stood taller than when he declared that "ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed," a highly-qualified Muslim-American he appointed to the state bench. Only ambition can thus explain his stooping to endorse someone who proposed a national Muslim-ban as a solution to the chimera of radical Islamic terrorism. There's probably no reasoning with "leaders" like Governors Perry or Christie either.
But many Republican voters and leaders are embracing Mr. Trump hesitantly, engaging in incredible feats of intellectual bargaining to justify their support.
Some rationalize that his primary weakness is impulse control; for example, one congressman advised him to "think before you say what's on your mind." To them, I say it's a much greater concern if he actually believes what he says. Speaker Paul Ryan criticized Mr. Trump recently for making "the textbook definition of a racist comment" in regard to a judge he doesn't like. Taken together with his reluctance to repudiate the support of white supremacists, it means the party of Lincoln could have a racist as its standard-bearer in 2016.
Others opine that despite his radical policy pronouncements, Mr. Trump is a conservative at heart. To them, I say the only common thread in what he professes to believe is incoherence. After all, Mr. Trump bemoans offshoring but manufactured his clothing line in China, and he calls for a trade war against that country but insists they'll help us put pressure on North Korea.
Still others harp on the importance of "party unity," but we are not communists or fascists and therefore are under no obligation to support the party in pursuit of a Pyrrhic victory. The GOP should be a vehicle for conservative solutions, not Mr. Trump's ego and self-enrichment.
To all Republicans, supporters and fence-sitters alike: Mr. Trump will let us down. The word of a man who oversaw four bankruptcies, mocked a disabled reporter, compared his sex life to wartime military service, et cetera ad infinitum has little value and cannot be trusted.
I can't tell the delegates whom to vote for, or even how, as the convention rules have yet to be finalized. But it can't be for Mr. Trump — the stakes are too high.
It would have been difficult to vote against Governor Palin's vice-presidential candidacy, as convention leaders made it a vote by acclimation. I could have held up a sign to show my disapproval, or confided in a reporter, but my opposition would likely have been drowned out and overlooked in a sea of supportive delegates. And the truth is any doubts I had were forgotten in that historic moment as the party nominated a woman to its ticket for the first time.
Speaking out isn't easy, especially when you're voicing an unpopular opinion — but principles only mean something when you stand up for them when they're inconvenient. So I pray that when the delegates stand on the convention floor, they think carefully about the consequences of their actions. I pray they will not be swayed by the fanfare or misguided party loyalty, as I was. I pray they make history again by rejecting Mr. Trump's candidacy.
Clifton Yin (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an Associate at ICF International and a Millennial Action Project council member. He served as a delegate to the 2008 Republican National Convention. The views expressed here are his own.