Op-Ed: Why I became a Republican

To the casual observer, it certainly seems like the Republican Party is in an identity crisis. After years of consensus and sweeping the 2016 national elections on the promise of repeal and replace of Obamacare, Republicans in a stunning 11th-hour failure failed to pass even the so-called "skinny" repeal.

Amid this failure and the apparent chaos in Washington, many have drawn the conclusion that Republicans are in disarray and unable to govern. Others wonder if we are witnessing the end of the GOP. Many people I've met on the campaign trail have asked me why at a time like this I would choose to join the Republican party.

It's a fair question. For years, I was a big-L Libertarian, competing in a crowded field for the party's nomination for the presidency in 2016. Changing parties – especially at this time – might seem like a counterintuitive move.

But although turncoats like John McCain and Susan Collins have taken center stage and confused the party's image, several Republican leaders remain faithful to basic conservative principles. Leaders like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee in the Senate and the Freedom Caucus in the House have refused to budge on Obamacare and have made their dedication to individual liberty and limited government clear.

I'm running for Senate from Missouri as a Republican in order to work alongside leaders like these. At its core, the Republican Party is supposed to be a liberty party – that's why it was the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. For a Republican, so long as you are not violating the lives and liberties of other human beings – and that includes the lives of human beings in the womb – the government should give you the freedom to do as you see fit. The party strives to put the trust and the power back in the hands of the people instead of handing it over to unelected bureaucrats.

I believe in these core conservative principles. I've spent my whole career speaking on and fighting for freedom – the freedom to spend as you see fit, worship as you see fit, study as you see fit, and speak as you see fit. And I'm eager to partner with liberty-loving Republicans and President Trump in restoring federalism, freedom of faith, and fiscal responsibility in this country.

Above all, however, I found that a move to the Republican Party was the move my fellow Missourians wanted me to make. Before launching my campaign, I called hundreds of Missourians to lay out the principles of liberty that form the bedrock of my political beliefs and to ask for their support. Not only did I receive a consistently positive response, but I also was asked by many to run as a Republican instead of as a Libertarian. They want to beat Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., as badly as I do, and what better than to replace a Democrat with a liberty-loving Republican?

Missourians want – and deserve – the kind of Republican who will stick to his guns, both literally and figuratively. They want a Republican in the model of the Freedom Caucus, Cruz, Paul, and Lee – a Republican who has the grit to withstand the pressures of political gamesmanship and special interests and the gumption to vote by principle and for the people every time.

I know I can be this kind of leader, and I'm ready to represent my fellow Missourians faithfully from within the GOP. And I know that by working together, we can bring about real reform.

That's why I'm a Republican. And it's why I'm asking my fellow Missourians to join me in restoring the GOP and returning the country to the constitutional principles of justice and liberty for all.

This op-ed appeared in the Washington Examiner on August 24, 2017.