Meet the California Republican who helped create the Never Trump movement — and is willing to vote for Bernie Sanders

Chris Riotta

Polarized is a weekly series featuring Americans from all 50 states sharing their views on the 2020 elections. Click here if you would like to be a part of this project

In many ways, Tim Miller is a man standing alone on an island.

He lives in Oakland, California, and jokes about being a rare breed in the area despite seemingly blending in to the west coast lifestyle.

“I think there are four Republicans in my precinct,” he says while laughing. “I’m a pretty unusual cat around here.”

But Miller isn’t just any Republican: He’s a Never Trumper (actually, his Twitter bio says "#neverfreakingevertrump"), who was at the front of the pack in rejecting the reality TV star and real estate mogul when he sought the Republican nomination during the 2016 elections.

Miller has worked on campaigns led by establishment Republicans like John McCain, Jon Huntsman and, most recently, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who ran against Trump in the 2016 primaries.

He later served as a senior adviser and spokesperson for Our Principles PAC, a group that tried to prevent Trump from getting the Republican Party’s 2016 nomination. When it was clear their efforts had failed, Miller says he was one of just two people with the group who did not go on to support Trump in the 2016 election.

In a recent interview with The Independent, Miller describes how his life was “massively” impacted by Trump’s shocking electoral upset against Hillary Clinton.

“It really caused me to have a massive re-prioritization of what I think is important both in politics and in my career,” he says.

“I don’t really care about the top tax bracket rate anymore,” Miller continues. “I care much more about protecting and maintaining our pluralistic society, making sure people of all races aren’t discriminated against, making sure we don’t have an unlawful, bigoted president — which I didn’t even realize was something that needed to be on the list for a while.”

(Photo courtesy Tim Miller)

Miller feels he was forced to abandon his past life in Washington after the 2016 elections, leaving behind the successful Republican opposition research firm he helped start called America Rising.

“I left and walked away from it for nothing, because I just couldn’t support Donald Trump,” he says.

On the surface, one might never assume Miller was a career Republican operative.

In California fashion, he scooters to his work-share office and spends his days “helping people with their problems or writing anti-Trump screeds” for the web.

His husband works in government relations for a food company, and he has a young child who has him up early most mornings.

Miller now works as an independent communications consultant while helping anti-Trump Republicans campaign in 2020, and is a contributor to a conservative site called The Bulwark.

He has also taken on advocacy projects for people he says have been impacted by Trump’s policies, most recently writing about Omar Ameen, an Iraqi refugee he says has been falsely accused of being a member of Isis.

Miller wouldn’t tell me who he supports in the 2020 Democratic primaries, if there is anyone at all.

“I don’t want to give anyone in particular the kiss of death by having the Republican campaign operative endorse them in the primary,” he says, “but I changed my registration so I could participate and support whoever I think at the time is more electable and able to beat Donald Trump.”

He says the most important issue facing the country this election cycle is “getting rid of Donald Trump,” and he fears the “Democratic powers that pay lip service to that aren’t particularly acting like they believe it, and might be possibly putting us in a situation where he’s well-positioned to be re-elected.”

But don’t get him started about the punditry class and their hot takes on electability.

“There’s a conventional wisdom on Twitter and among left-wing pundits that swing voters are dead and the only way to win the election is to jack up the base,” he says. “That just could not be more wrong. Every single study, every single piece of research, every single data-point points to that being incorrect.”

He cites the elections of John Bel Edwards, the anti-choice Democrat who was elected governor of Louisiana, and Andy Beshear, the moderate Democrat who was elected governor of Kentucky, adding: “I don’t see how you can look at those results and not recognize there was a massive number of Donald Trump voters who crossed over to vote for Democrats.”

That said, he thinks someone like Bernie Sanders could “conceivably” win the Democratic nomination — and the presidency — though voting for the Vermont Senator would be a “tough pill to swallow.”

“I think Donald Trump demonstrated that there are a lot of voters out there who are not served by the political process, who can come out of the woodworks for the right candidate,” he says. “There are way more white working class voters that don’t vote than there are black voters or young liberals — that’s also something people need to be mindful about when thinking of electability.”

Miller explains that he will eventually vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination — and yes, that means even Sanders.

“I think a Bernie Sanders presidency would impact my partisan-lean quite a bit. But the downside risk of Donald Trump is just astoundingly great,” he says. “The worst case scenario in a Trump presidency is far worse than the worst case scenario for any of the other alternatives.”

While it may seem Miller is a dying breed, he has hope others will one day join his “minuscule, tiny group on an island.”

“The basic fundamental values the country was started on — freedom of religion, speech, pluralism — these kind of classic liberal values have brought unprecedented freedoms and economic opportunities to people the world over,” he says. “There has been more progress in the last 300 years underpinned by those values than there was in the centuries before, so I think those values will come back into fashion at some point.”

He adds: “I’m not too optimistic that point is any time soon within the Republican party.”