I grew up in a Republican household in Southern California. When it comes to social makeup, I had fairly broad exposure. My father was a successful small businessman who was raised by immigrant Russian Jewish parents that came up from absolute poverty. My mother was an Italian Catholic who came from a classically middle class family. We were upper middle class living in a suburban area of Los Angeles.
I had a great deal of exposure growing up to everything from poor to very rich. Furthermore, we were a very color blind household, to the extent that for me, skin color was about as meaningful as hair color.
I credit my parents for raising me (surely they hadn’t thought about it) with no preconceived notions. They had friends and family members that were of various ethnicities, straight, gay, socio-economic status, etc. And as far as religion, I had a Christian mother and a Jewish father, so I grew up in an extremely prejudice-free environment. I even grew up in a single-parent household, as my parents divorced when I was eleven, giving me exposure growing up to a mother struggling to raise her child alone.
As for politics, I remember hearing my father say that he would vote for Mickey Mouse if he ran on the Republican ticket. That didn’t fall in line with most of his family, as they were Jews, and lets face it… Jews were all democrats. I never quite knew why, but my upbringing causes me to be predisposed to think “Republican”. Even on my mom’s side, they were all middle class, but invariably Republican.
So I had a strong tendency to think Republican is better than Democrat when I was little, but I had no idea why, nor did I care. But as I grew to understand the world around me, there were other forces that strongly supported my leaning Republican.
I remember watching Nixon resign, but I had no idea what it meant. I watched Ford stumble on the evening news a few times, but still I was too young to really grasp who he was. But I was eleven when Jimmy Carter was elected, so between ages 12 and 15, I was quite a bit more aware of what was going on. Half my family rejoiced when he was elected, half hid their heads in their pillows. Of course, at that age you really don’t have much understanding, but you begin to pay more attention and align what is going on in the world with what your opinions are.
The Carter years through the eyes of this teenager were, for lack of a better word, sad. I remember overhearing the adults talking (both the Democrats and the Republicans), and I picked up on a general sense of decline. Surely that is summed up at the Carter “malaise” now. There was this general sense that America was in decline. Our best days were behind us, and the question was how much worse it could be. I remember having a small savings account that earned me 12% interest, I had no idea that this was a bad thing, because I obviously had no comprehension of what this meant for borrowing. But everyone complained, and that sunk in.
I remember the gas lines, with odd and even days for refueling. I remember hearing about everyone buying gas tank locks to stop neighbors from siphoning fuel, and I remember the words “Tax Shelter” were a big topic of conversation among the adults, although I didn’t understand how they worked. I remember all the complaints of high inflation and unemployment. I recall being in school and seeing a picture of a shrinking dollar, but not understanding how a dollar could shrink, and my father talking to me in the car about how the “recession” was hurting his business. I also remember being at places of business that regularly requested cash, and people openly talking about what they report and what they don’t report.
I was a kid, so my problems in life were grades and a measure of how much fun I was having at a given time. But I understood that things were bad, and there was a sense of decline with little hope. In fact, the general feeling of 2008 – 2012 reminds me of the late 70′s all the time, except now I understand, but I digress.
When Reagan was running for office, I was fifteen. He spoke to all of the things I heard everyone complain about, but more importantly, his speeches and a positive theme of a better future. He spoke of hope, success, growth. He explained why the high taxes were strangling us, and it resonated with me. I remember hearing people supporting Carter make their case, and heir arguments never seemed rational. I knew even then that these were merely political speeches by someone running for office, but still, I noticed how people reacted. There was a general uplifting feeling, a “Let’s do this!” feeling. In my mind, you had to believe things would be better before they actually could be better. In contrast, when I would listen to the Carter supporters, I never got a sense of what great things Carter could help the country achieve. It was always about how this actor guy was unqualified. So I was there thinking that the choices our nation had were that of sitting back and watching Carter talk us down for four years, or see if Reagan’s positive attitude toward our nation’s prospects carried any weight. It was really a no-brainer, and clearly much of the nation agreed.
I liked Reagan, but in 1981, he became my hero. His response to the air traffic controllers strike cinched it for me. It was simple, to the point, and made sense. I thought, if you are not happy with your situation, find a better situation. So when he issued the ultimatum that they would be fired if they didn’t go back to work, I thought it was the perfect reaction. Add that to the hostages in Iran being released, and the Economic Recovery Tax Act, and I was a Reaganaut! Reaganomics just made sense to me. If I owned a business, lower my tax hit, reduce regulations, and I will be able to breathe more easily. I would have more to grow my business, hire more people, and spend on expansion. In the end, I would make more money and wind up paying a larger dollar amount by giving the government a smaller piece of a bugger pie. Unemployment was a huge problem, so this could only help. There would be more production, so prices would not inflate as much. It all made sense. Was it an overly simplistic view of supply side economics? Of course, but I was only sixteen at the time, right?
But even with that simplistic view, the economy boomed, inflation was brought under control, unemployment went down, and I no longer heard people talking about tax shelters. More importantly, there was a more positive sense of national pride. I didn’t fully grasp why, but things were MUCH better.
The 1984 election was the first time I was of age to vote, and there was simply no question. I voted for The Gipper! I was officially a Republican, and remained so for the next 26 years.
But I never saw another Reagan rise. I mean, I voted for H.W. Bush both times, Dole, “W” Bush both times, McCain, and most recently Romney. But none of them ever grabbed me. ”H.W.” seemed almost like an absentee President to me, I I honestly thought that Reagan had to be a very tough act to follow. Dole seemed like the lesser of two evils, as did “W.”
But it was “W” that really had me more and more frustrated. I remember thinking that if he had run against 2nd term Clinton, “W” would better fit the Democrat ticket and Clinton would better fit the Republican ticket. That si not to say that I like Clinton, but Bush was so far away from my memory of Reagan, that if just seemed like I was choosing between Bush, a somewhat liberal and Gore, a more liberal liberal. I felt the same four years later. I was voting for the lesser of two evils. Socially Bush was quite conservative, but fiscally, I felt like the Bush and Kerry would have made no difference. This posed a problem for me, as I agreed with neither party on social issues.
Finally came the 2008 election, and I was honestly scared. I watched Obama speak, and I knew he was going to win. He was the Anti-Reagan. He had the same charisma Reagan had, but with opposite argument. And Bush had proven to be the Anti-Carter. Who did the republicans put up against him? John McCain. It was as though they offered up a sacrificial lamb. I’ll never forget being in the voting booth, thinking “Why the hell am I even casting a vote?”
I didn’t feel Republican anymore. When I would listen to the pundits, I agreed on some points, but I was enraged by others. The republicans talked about smaller government, lower taxes, etc. But look at how Bush grew Federal programs! Yeah, he was in favor of lower taxes, but his spending policy was out of control. You just cannot have it both ways. But I also saw religious issues take more and more center stage in the Republican platform, and it really puzzled me. Why are we fighting gay marriage, I thought? Why does the federal government care? Why do we waste national resources on an issue of morality? If we are the party of smaller government, why do we make this argument? Furthermore, why do we make 10th amendment arguments, then support policies that expand the Department of Education and HHS? I was feeling more and more disenfranchised.
And then the Tea Party movement happened. I drove by all of these protests and read all of the signs. They resonated. None of the signs ever yelled anything about social issues. It was all about fiscal responsibility, the constitution, etc. They blasted Obama and Bush on the same counts. But while the Republicans tried to own the Tea Party, it was increasingly clear that they didn’t agree with them. It was as though the Tea Party was the cousin you hate, but still invite to Christmas because they always spend big on presents. The way the party reacted to them, keeping the movement at arms length, was a clear signal. The Democrats were the party of high taxation and big government, and the Republicans were the party of slightly less taxation and talk of small government. The left and the not quite as left. Neither was a real choice for me anymore.
I began to read Ron Paul’s point of view, and while I agreed with most of it, I didn’t fully agree with him. Through all of this, I ended up looking into the Libertarian party, and I was wowed. For the most part… not 100%, I really saw my own thoughts and beliefs. I instantly realized I was a Libertarian all along. But let’s face it, we are in a two party system, so I figured the Republicans were closer to the Libertarians, so I’ll just be a libertarian that votes Republican.
I crossed a new threshold with the 2012 election cycle. Starting with the primaries. I’m not gonna lie. I couldn’t stand Mitt Romney. He made me cringe four years earlier, and even more so now. When I looked at the Republican contenders, he was my last choice. And as I watched the Iowa caucus move into the primaries, it was clear that most of the republicans felt the same way. Every candidate had a surge, and Romney never did. With each surge, the Romney team would spend insane money on carpet bombing with negative ads. The GOP would send their crew to Fox news to begin a subtle campaign of political assassination against whichever candidate was beating Romney today, while they would hammer on how Romney is “The most electable candidate”, a really good guy, and the best for the job. During the primaries, it was brutally obvious that the GOP had picked their horse and would accept nothing else. This infuriated me as I watched the population of each state get moved by the strings of the GOP.
Finally Romney won the nomination, and the roar of excitement out there would have been drowned out by a pin dropping. We had ourselves another Bob Dole. Yay! It was abundantly clear that the only hope he had was to get elected by a public that was voting Obama out of office. Not very promising, and nothing like Reagan vs. Carter.
The next nail in the coffin was the convention. I sat there and watched the GOP make rule changes that would make it even easier for them to pick their horse in the future. They were not making rules that would ensure a more democratic process. Instead they were making rules that would allow them to assure the candidate they wanted got nominated more easily (less expensively?) the next time around, despite what the public actually wants. They effectively turned their base into puppets. This is NOT what I signed up for in 1984, but as much as I hated it, it was not as bad as Obama.
Finally we had the election. I stood in line at the polls, and here was a group of people wearing Ron Paul shirts. It turns out that they were going to vote for Gary Johnson. GARY JOHNSON? REALLY? Why vote for a guy that has absolutely no chance of winning this thing? As everyone says, it is the same as giving your vote to Obama. Why on earth?
TO MAKE A STATEMENT.
Click. Not immediately, but yes, to make a statement. I walked in, I voted for Romney; A guy I could not stand. A candidate that was my last choice among Republicans. A guy that I saw as only slightly less intolerable than Obama. And by casting my vote, I was a pawn of the GOP again. I bought into the “anyone is better than Obama” argument. But then I thought about it, and I wondered how many people felt the same way? I mean, there is something I have noticed over the past few years that I thought was interesting.
Until four years ago, if i asked anyone what their political alignment was, the answer was always either Republican or Democrat. You might get the occasional “Libertarian”, or “Neither”, or “Moderate”, but I would say 99% of the time, it was one of the two. I even had one person tell me he was a “Statist”. Yikes! But in the last four years, I have found that most people I encounter have disassociated with the Republican association. More often they say “Conservative” or “Independent”. When asking about this, almost everyone tells me they no longer identify with either party. WOW! Think that one through! If a large contingent of the population does not identify with the two major parties, abut they also believe that the two parties are their only real choices, what do we have? Certainly not a representative government.
That brought up another question for me. What if every citizen looked at a set of ideals for each candidate and simply voted for the one they most align with, never considering advertising or who they perceived the potential winners might be? What would those results look like?
It occurred to me that the people wearing those Ron Paul shirts in line at the polls were the most honest and patriotic people there that day. Whether you like Ron Paul or not, some things cannot be contradicted. Those people were not subjected to billions of dollars in political advertising that swayed their vote. They knew what they stood for because they could only support their candidate by seeking out the information. They were not dissuaded by the “your guy can’t win” arguments. They voted for who they believed in, not who would win. Right or wrong, good for the country or not… they voted honestly. Their votes were more honest than that of any person that voted for Obama because they perceived Romney as a “woman hater”, or any person that voted for Romney because Obama “builds Jeeps in China.”
They voted the way we all should vote; With their conscience. And if we do not all do the same, aren’t we guilty of subverting our own system?
That is how I left the Republican Party. As Ronald Reagan once said of the Democratic Party, “It actually left me”, and it did so long ago. I just never knew what to do about it.
Change can only happen if people get in front of it. Right now, the Republican party is fractured. I believe that if people begin to choose based on their beliefs, a third party can rise. Furthermore, I believe that the Libertarian party represents, for the most part, what many Republicans (especially those that now call themselves conservatives) believe.
- Our constitution was drafted to protect our nation from the tyranny we fought to break away from. Every time we ignore it out of convenience, protection, or expediency, we are giving up something greater that will hurt us in ways we cannot imagine.
- Our constitution creates a slow and often ugly process that makes it hard to get things done, but that is the price of protecting ourselves from the type of government we fought to break away from.
- Our tax code is overly complicated and extremely broken, and simply raising taxes on a group of successful people will not fix it.
- Special interests have too much control over our politicians and the policies they implement.
- Too many of our personal and economic freedoms are being taken away in the name of “fairness” and “safety”.
- We have a need to restore our competitive edge on a global scale.
- Debt is bad, savings are good… for families, businesses, AND governments.
- Live and let live; No Harm, No Foul.
- We should protect people from others trying to do them harm, not from themselves.
- The laws of supply and demand are a natural order, and government manipulation of markets will always do more harm tan good.
And much more, all of which basically boils down to one idea: ”Freedom is good”. I would argue that most conservatives would look at the platform and think that they agree with the fiscal arguments, and while many may not like some of the social arguments, the “government shouldn’t be involved in morality” argument would resonate. I believe that many democrats would agree with most of the social arguments, and when looking at the big picture, would have a difficult time arguing with the fiscal arguments.
I think the Libertarian platform, fo the most part, would be attractive to most, but it has one fatal flaw: It doesn’t help career politicians raise the kind of money they need to stay in office… and who doesn’t like that?
But if it were to ever happen, once of two things would have to occur:
- People would have to stop voting for who the pundits and polls tell us can win, and go with who the actually want.
- or the Republican party would have to experience an all out coup by the Tea Party and Libertarians.
Option number two looked like a real possibility in the 2010 elections, enough that it was clear the GOP panicked. That is surely what brought on the rules changes at the 2012 convention, essentially guaranteeing that #2 cannot happen.
So that leaves us with #1, and it can only happen if people begin to think in those terms. I’m in.
If I could go back to November 6, 2012, I would punch my ballot for Johnson. And THAT is how I left the Republican party.