My good friend, Bobby, asked me this simple question:
Brother may i ask why you choose the Democratic party over Republican, i respect your educated opinion.
Blast me if you must, no shame in my game.
I replied that I’d be glad to tell him why, but it would have to wait until the morning. So below is my long-winded explanation of how I went from being a Republican to a Democrat.
Hey Bobby, I am happy to share with you my views on politics, and I would never get offended or put off about that. So I’ll start with my background as a Republican and then tell you what led to my becoming Democrat.
My dad was a Democrat when I was growing up. He was a member of the Painter’s Union, and he made decent money as a subcontractor working on many of Don Lightfoot’s new homes throughout the 1980’s. He was always pro-union.
When I was a teenager and right after high school, I was also a house painter, and then later an industrial painter. I was a member of the union and did ok when union work was available.
When I was younger I was Republican and much more conservative. I was an active Mormon and I saw the world through very narrow lenses, I think. I thought everyone should be like me… a decent, hard-working, worshiping, patriotic American Christian conservative. I really thought that would be best for the whole country. So naturally, I was Republican, because historically, Republicans tend to favor the status quo and are not as ready for sweeping changes. I was a military Republican and I was happy to vote for George Bush in 1992 and also for Bob Dole in 1996.
When I was in the Coast Guard I was stationed between Baltimore and Washington and about half of my work was in the Pentagon. I had a secret clearance and carried messages and signed orders from the U.S.C.G. Commandant’s office to our District Commander (an admiral) and I loved it. I enjoyed sitting at the table with general officers in the Pentagon cafeteria and feeling like I was in the middle of the action.
The Coast Guard named me “Person of The Quarter” in late 1994 and paid for me to start classes at John Hopkins University in Baltimore where I started studying political science while on active duty. They also paid for me to take some collateral classes in Annapolis, MD. Classes like… Principles of Negotiation, purchasing and ethics, etc.
So in college my major was political science. I love the scientific aspect of politics. The polling, the trends, how one side influences the other and how both sides help to create a balance over time. My emphasis of study was foreign policy, so I especially enjoy watching the showdown between Trump and North Korea, Trump’s handling of NATO allies, Russia, China, etc.
Because I see politics as a field of study, I don’t get too angry at one side or the other. I realize that heated discussion is just part of politics and since we have social media like facebook and twitter now, heated discussion is just easier to engage in. So my approach to politics is this: the sky isn’t going to fall… the pendulum always swings wide, and what goes around, comes around. Just because one party is in control right now doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. People get so bent out of shape. So I enjoy engaging people and talking about issues, but I will very, very rarely ever get personally upset by something someone says.
Most of my political interest is based on Texas politics, not national. To be honest, I really don’t care (much) whether the president is Republican or Democrat as much as I care that the president is a decent, moral person and will simply make good choices for all Americans, and make the U.S. look good, worldwide. I usually just hope the president is more of a centrist, like Clinton or George W. Bush, rather than an ideologue like Obama or Trump. Most Americans are more in the middle rather than far-right or far-left. So I wish the head of state would also be more in the middle.
I always said that Obama’s biggest mistake was causing such a divide in the country.
In 2008, when Democrats won the presidency, the senate, and the house of representatives, that was a good chance to work for ALL Americans and to show that Democrats have everyone’s best interest at heart.
Instead, Obama used his “super majority” to ram some very progressive legislation down everyone’s throats. The Democratic congress wrote the bills and the Democratic president signed the bills. One after the other. And they weren’t “awful” laws… just very progressive and it was probably too much, too soon. Half of the country felt like they weren’t represented.
But at the same time, Mitch McConnell, within one week of becoming the senate majority leader in 2010 said that he was going to make it his goal to ensure that Obama was a one-term president and he would fight everything Obama put on the table.
So between 2008 and 2010 both sides pretty much decided to take the gloves off.
Politics at the national level sucks, man. And American politics is very aggressive and played with intensity. Like American baseball. Nobody in the world plays baseball like American MLB, ya know? Same way with politics. We fight like we love it.
CHANGING TO DEMOCRAT
After I left the Coast Guard, I began working in the legal field in 1995. I had clients whose lives were being torn apart because they were injured and suddenly had no way to pay their bills. These injured workers relied on the employer’s insurance company to pay income benefits and medical costs until the injured worker could return to work.
I saw how big insurance companies worked tirelessly to screw the working man. I saw how every Texas legislative session resulted in more rights for the insurance companies and fewer rights for the worker. I saw where the Republicans in the Texas legislature worked to make sure that the insurance companies’ best interests were kept.
That made me angry.
We, as Texans, elect these representatives to go to Austin and represent US. Not THEM. WE elect the legislators. The companies don’t elect the legislators. But wait… the big insurance companies and corporations were the ones paying for all the Republicans’ campaigns, so naturally the lawmakers would draft and pass new laws that only helped the big companies and left our injured, working-class clients out in the cold.
It made me angrier.
Then, in 2003, when the Republican legislature drew up the new district maps that HIGHLY favored Republicans forever, I was really upset. The way the maps were drawn would mean that poor black people in Houston’s third ward would wind up being represented by some rich white guy in Baytown. I wrote a letter to my state representative back then and told him that the main reason the American colonies went to war with England was because we were being taxed, but not fairly represented before Parliament… “taxation without representation”.
And now, Tuffy Hamilton and the Republican good-ol-boys were drawing a map that would effectively create situations of “Taxation Without Representation” at the local level.
Up until then, I had always voted Republican. But these local and state issues were really making me angry with Republicans and began to convince me that Republicans really only cared about big businesses and did not give a crap about the working man and their families.
My state representative wrote me back a very ugly email. He said something like “those people in the 3rd ward aren’t capable of governing themselves and need the intellectual leadership of the educated class that lived in the suburbs”.
WOW. That sealed it for me. Not only was my state representative voting on new laws that would limit the union’s ability to ensure decent wages for middle-class working families, they were now basing their district lines on demographics like race and income.
The next election was the first time I voted Democrat… and it was only based on the idea that hopefully there was a political party out there that was pushing back on big businesses being able to literally write new tax laws and influence and pass laws that benefited insurance companies and rewarded really greedy behavior at the top of the wealthiest corporations.
After all… when I graduated high school, my dad earned $16.18 per hour as a journeyman painter in the local union.
Just two weeks ago I was chatting with our old school buddy, Edward Griffis, who is a house painter. He makes $12 an hour.
That… is sad….
Listen. In 1986 the Gross Domestic Product (in today’s dollars) was $8.5 trillion. In 2017, the GDP was $18.45 trillion!!! The money in our market has grown and grown and grown!!! Where has that money gone, Bobby?
It hasn’t gone into the pockets of working-class Americans like Edward Griffis, that’s for sure.
Since 1980, more than 80% of new market wealth has gone into the pockets of those at the very top. With people like Edward Griffis getting the crumbs left over. Super rich people get richer, and people in the middle and on the bottom are earning less and less (relative to inflation), and it’s hard to make a living.
Insurance companies get more powerful, and common people have less power.
Things like taking away Net Neutrality are just more examples of big businesses buying new legislation from lawmakers willing to reward their biggest corporate donors.
Citizens United puts ultimate power into the corporations and makes the businesses more able to literally draft the bills that they want their sponsoring lawmakers to present to congress.
So now, I typically vote Democrat. Because I am angry with corporate America’s takeover of the market, pocketing almost all the money, and throwing crumbs to the people at the bottom and in the middle… and I cannot BELIEVE that there are people out there earning less than middle-class income who fight against raising the federal minimum wage. I can’t understand it. It’s mind-blowing to me.
The idea that rich people should pay a smaller tax rate (because they are the ones that create the businesses) is a lie that half of America now believes.
For example: Mitt Romney (who I admire) has about $200 million in the bank. Good for Mitt. I don’t begrudge anyone for being rich. I’m just using him as an example… so…
Do you think Mitt Romney has a real job, where he busts his ass working to make sure his family is ok? No. Because of his enormous wealth, he simply lets his money reside in high-yield securities and market accounts, where he can expect a reasonable income return of approximately 8.5% yearly over time. Not bad, eh?? With $200 million in the bank, Mitt will personally receive approximately $17 million in new income per year.
What’s Mitt’s tax rate on his new “income”? This isn’t business earnings or business income. This is simple capital-gains income from personal investments. What is his tax rate? About 15%.
What is Edward Griffis’ tax rate on his hard-earned $28K per year wage? About 22%
What is MY tax rate on my hard-earned income? About 28%.
I work for my money. And I pay 28% personal federal income tax (roughly).
Mitt Romney sits around and earns investment dividend income and pays about 15%.
That is backwards to me.
Guys like you, me, Edward, Tim Duff and other hard working guys in the middle and towards the bottom work very hard to earn what we do. And we pay a much higher tax rate than the rich guys at the top who simply let the money roll in and pay much lower taxes on their personal income.
And the Republicans have done an outstanding job of convincing half of America that this is somehow good for them. Hard to believe.
FINDING THE MIDDLE
I am not 100% Democrat and I am not 100% liberal. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more libertarian, but then I remember I have a hard time with the whole “let people just fend for themselves mentality” that libertarians hold dear, so I can’t quite be libertarian.
Ultimately, I’m not sure which political party is for me. I am very socially liberal, but I’m also fairly financially conservative when it comes to keeping money at the local level instead of sending all these taxes to Washington, who then divide up the money and send it back down to the states in a way they see fit.
So in that regard, I’m way more concerned about keeping money local.
But I am OK with gay people getting married. I just am. It doesn’t bother me one bit. I am OK with more immigrants coming to America and I wish there was a way to make it easier for them to become American citizens. I WANT hard-working, good families to be here. And the vast majority of new immigrants are hard-working people looking for a way to make a good living for themselves and their families. I realize that many conservative people say these beliefs are somehow not patriotic or are anti-American, but honestly, I can think of nothing more American than welcoming in good, immigrant families that are seeking refuge and safety from tyrants and are coming to America to find a better life.
I am also fine with a woman’s right to choose whether she keeps her baby. I realize many people disagree with me. Personally, I would never want my wife or daughter to have an abortion, and surely that must be a sad event for the women who choose that. But, I also understand that I am certainly in no position to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do, especially based on something as loose and flexible and changable and diverse as “religion”.
I am just fine with socializing some aspects of our economy. Personally, I believe that any segment of the economy that has the potential for becoming monopolized and abused should probably be nationalized. Banking, especially. Energy and transportation, probably. In short, any utility or system where an incentive for profit will reduce services and create the potential for abuse by those at the top should probably be nationalized. The 2008 mortgage crisis (which caused our huge recession) was caused by fat-cats at the top of the food chaing being able to figure out more and more (legal) ways to scoop money out of the housing market and balance that by financing more and more risky loans over time. Like Jenga. At some point, the top just topples over and the whole thing comes crashing down.
Don’t believe them when they tell you that socializing certain aspects of the national economy is somehow “communism” or “un-American”. That’s a lie. We already nationalize things like communication and energy… we just force the companies to break up and compete with one another in order to remove the ability for profit-takers at the top to screw things up for good. But make no mistake, it’s already happening. And it’s ok. We live in a society and we need to find innovative ways for the giant industries to not make themselves too fat at the expense of starving everyone else.
I enjoy diverse cultures. I work with an attorney who is half-black, half-Chinese, and speaks perfect Spanish. That, to me, is wonderful. I love going to Discovery Green in Downtown Houston and seeing all the different cultures and listening to all the different music. There isn’t much more sad to me than when I see videos of people verbally assaulting someone for speaking another language. In fact, America is one of the only nations that seems to want to beat up on people for speaking other languages. In Europe and throughout much of the world, speaking other languages is seen as a good thing, not a bad thing.
I, myself, speak very good conversational Spanish.
I look forward to change and I don’t expect the country to always stay the same, like many conservatives. I think the younger generation is smarter than we are, will do things better, and will have better ideas than we did.
I understand that the nation goes through systemic change every 15 years or so, and has since the beginning. The American of the 1930’s is nothing like America of the 1950’s, and the America of the 1960’s is nothing like America in the 1990’s, etc, etc.
Likewise, we are seeing some pretty big cultural shifts that truly must be frightening to a lot of people. America is becoming something much different than what they are used to. They see trends that they feel is polluting their idea of what America should be like. I get that, and it’s understandable that there will be some social push-back against rapid change.
I happen to be just fine with it. Bring it on. As long as America follows the constitution, protects individual rights, encourages the spread of our culture and democracy around the world, then we will continue to be a beacon to the other nations. That, to me, is what America is about.
I am “mostly” Democrat. However, I don’t really feel connected to the Democrat party right now. We have got to figure out who we really are and what we stand for.
I hate the politically correct bull-crap that Democrats are expected to follow. I will never do that. If I want to tell an irreverent, inappropriate joke, I will.
I hate how the Democrat party has to tag along these far-left, extremist groups that are militantly opposed to things like: eating meat (what???), using plastic straws (ok, I kinda get that) and insisting that everyone not offend one another (screw that).
But I do like how the Democrat Party still has this middle ground where they seem to want to protect “people”. And I like that.
I have much respect for the Republican party, which has done many wonderful things for the nation over the years, especially helping to keep things in balance over time. Basic conservative principles are necessary for the health of the republic, and without that base, we would descend into tyranny and communism.
I also am grateful for the Democratic party, which has fueled the civil rights movement, championed women’s rights, stood up for the little guy and kept the country from descending into tyranny and fascism.
Both sides keep one another in check going forward. Without either, the country will either descend into fascism or communism.
“Liberalism” is not a mental disease. It’s not. Liberal thought formed in the 17th century with the idea that “true power is held by the people, not the king”. That is liberal thought and the ideas that our founding, liberal fathers used in creating our nation. I am proud to be a liberal and I’m not going to be painted with some brush that says that because I’m a liberal I’m not patriotic. I will literally put my record of patriotism and my love for America against anyone’s.
John McCain, in his dying letter, said “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence”
He was basically saying that just because a person is a die-hard Democrat or a die-Hard Republican doesn’t mean they are more patriotic than anyone else.
I guess I’m more of a liberal independent. I would have voted for Jeb Bush or John Kasich over Hillary Clinton in a New York Minute. I think the best thing we can do for ourselves and our children is to vote for decent people. The social aspect of our society will do what it will, over time. The younger generation really gets to call those shots and there’s little any of us old folks can do to stop their train. As long as our leaders are decent, I’m just fine.
So in the end, I think the reason I’m a Democrat is because I feel like I have seen, up-close and personally, the effect of Republican state policies on normal, working-class people and their ability to just hang in there, earn a decent wage, and be fairly represented without crazy district maps.
Otherwise, I’m a gun owner, an outdoorsman, a family man, a joker, and am just trying to do my best to be a decent human being… although I realize I fall short in many ways.
I hope this answers your question. I didn’t mean for it to be this long, but I realize it’s a complex issue, and my reasons are also complex. Further, my reasons are based on policy and ideas… not leaders or current events. I don’t buy into propaganda and I don’t post political memes or dumb photoshopped images that are meant to incite hate or condescension. I do admit, that I use comedy or jokes to get a point across sometimes, but that’s just because I truly don’t want to offend anyone, personally.
We’re all good people… all of us… regardless of what the media tells everyone.