I’m still a Republican
I’m still a Republican, but I voted for Joe Biden. It’s not my first vote across party lines, and it won’t be my last. I’ve been receiving a lot of remarks inquiring about why I’m still a Republican, and that’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot in recent years. You see, I’ve been a Republican since the Carter administration. I was quite young and upset with how Carter was handling the economy back then, and since I was all of nine-13 years old during his administration, I obviously thought I knew better. As soon as I could, I registered as a Republican, despite being in a very liberal state, Massachusetts, and again when I later moved to California.
I believed what Ronald Reagan told us about the economy, and I loved his foreign policy directives. I also read a lot about Richard Nixon and his actual policies, which are overshadowed by perceptions that resulted from how his presidency ended, and I felt he was something of a tragic hero, getting caught up in something clearly not of his design. As a conservative who valued the United States’ leadership position in the world, I found myself in agreement with Nixon’s detente with China, Reagan’s success with the then-Soviet Union and even with Bush Sr.’s negotiations with Iraq.
Being a minority conservative in a liberal state fed my oppositional defiance. I liked tackling a different point of view. Sure, I had heard the rumors of racism and sexism. I was asked why I wasn’t a Democrat, since I was in a democracy. I cited Lincoln and the welfare state like a dutiful Republican. I even voted in a straight-party line every election. I volunteered by walking door to door, being my neighborhood precinct captain, making phone calls and soliciting for small donations.
On some of the issues like abortion, as a woman, I felt firmly pro-choice. I also thought that whoever was president could only indirectly affect the makeup of the Supreme Court. Although I knew a conservative majority on the court was part of the GOP’s plan, I believed in the separation of the three branches of government. On other personal matters, like gender identity and healthcare, I disagreed with some of the stated positions by my party and supported the views of Democrats. Perhaps my actual beliefs fit more in line with a third party like some Libertarians, but in a politically binary world, I remain a Republican for the following reasons.
I still want a smaller government, with less intrusion at the federal level, and I still want lower taxes. I believe in personal independence, and that means being able to carry weapons if I ever choose to do so. I believe in freedom of speech and a free press. As an older person, it never occurred to me that there were TV stations with a conservative bias. I didn’t listen to them, nor did I read conservative newspapers. I reviewed all candidates and issues solely from their tiny blurbs in the voter guides.
It should come as no surprise that I had posters of Reagan-Bush from the mid ’80s, bumper stickers, signed photos and yard signs. California’s conservatives were always outliers, and this wasn’t the sort of information to share with my employers. By the early 2000s, I had helped with Bush Jr.’s campaign in 2000, and I canvassed for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s campaign while we recalled Gray Davis. It was around then that I sensed a rift in how liberals and conservatives perceived different issues. A few years later, I heard the terms red state and blue state, but I had no idea what they meant.
To me, being a conservative was being fiscally prudent, maintaining control of the larger economy and having a sound foreign policy. It was about being statesmanlike, and being a leader. In the second term of Bush Jr., I saw those values slowly erode. No matter what, surely the Republican National Committee would post a competitive candidate in 2008! They did, but the VP nominee was a joke. I also valued education and decorum, and I felt both qualities were lacking in Sarah Palin.
Personality-wise, I was very much a conservative. I felt that liberals were loud and noisy, and ironically intolerant of other views, and I just wanted to live my life without being forced to have an opinion (usually being told it was wrong by those around me) about everything. Eventually, when people found out I was a Republican, they made a lot of assumptions about me: that I must be racist, misogynistic, classist, elitist and other equally horrible things. I also believed all of the rhetoric about my destiny being in my hands, and I took that personal responsibility hard, feeling that my life’s losses must be due to my lack of character and drive. But I still remained a Republican. I believed in the meritocracy I was indoctrinated with at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. If I could not succeed on my own, then clearly I was not meant for better things.
And then Donald Trump happened. Being in my own Silicon Valley bubble, I truly had no idea what the rest of the country thought or felt. I had resigned myself to feeling that in California, I would always be in the wrong just for my party affiliation. Trump exposed deep rifts in the country that I had seen, but I thought perhaps I was being naïve or sensitive. I certainly could not vote for such a person, but after he was elected I felt I should at least give him a chance to lead. I was beyond disappointed. At every opportunity, Trump and the Republican Party leadership disappointed me.
I had thought of switching parties during the second Bush administration, and I sharply disagreed with the continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as “peacekeeping” troops elsewhere. But, when I saw who was leading the Democrats, I was not exactly enthusiastic. The Clintons and the Obamas did a lot of colluding with Wall Street and never got called out for it. Besides, why would I want to be one of so many simply to fit in? So I stayed.
Indirectly, thanks to Trump winning in 2016, I started reading and watching the news again, after lapsing for decades. I’m aware that the GOP is now the party of Trump, Tea Party conservatives and the religious right. I can still have my thoughts and my opinions, and all I lose is the ability to vote in a primary, which hardly matters in California. Although I do not begrudge them their beliefs, these contentious groups have drowned out any moderates who are left. Much of the party is beholden to Wall Street and laissez faire economics. Those who do remain seem to cower in fear at being mocked in a tweet. My sincere hope is that someday this will change, the way all parties do. Are there any lifelong Democrats out there who still remember the era of Dixiecrat segregationists and are willing to admit they were fully on board with them? Didn’t think so.
I’m not afraid of being mocked, in a tweet or in person. And I’m not in the one percent. I do believe in being a good neighbor, taking care of my cats, trying to become a better person and supporting math and science. And I don't mind being patient while the country cools its collective heels. When it’s time to find a reasonable Republican, I hope you’ll look me up.