In 1972 while in high school I was in an advanced art class. One of our projects was to create an iconic & perhaps ironic picture of a contemporary personage. I teamed up with my partner to paint a matching set of religious iconography for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Together we painted an Agnew with a set of angel wings and a halo as well as a portrait of Nixon in front of an American flag billowing in the wind. I painted that portrait of Nixon, and I was happy to do so, because I was a Republican, and even thought I couldn’t yet vote, missing the vote due to my 18th birthday being a mere six weeks away from that Tuesday in November, I wanted Richard Nixon to win and wipe out that dastardly Hubert Humphrey.
I voted the straight Republican ticket in 1974, an off-year, and then proudly voted for Gerald Ford. I tried to convince my friends voting for Carter that they were wrong to trust him, that Democrats were failures and weaklings, and that the Republican party was for Americans.
Now, most of the people I knew were going to vote for Ford because I was living in Orange County, California. My U.S. Representative was “B-1 Bob” Dornan. My state representatives and senator were Republican (I can’t remember their names, but they had the “R” next to their names, so they were right and good.) But still—can’t leave anything to chance. So I supported the Republicans, passed out literature, and argued the case for the Republican Party with my friends, my co-workers, and even my boss.
I voted straight Republican in 1980, ‘84, ‘88, ‘92, ‘96, 2000, 2004, and 2008. I was a near-lifetime subscriber to the National Review. I ended up becoming a Precinct Committee Officer in my county, an appointive and an elected position, and walked the precincts for my federal and state elections, proudly supporting George H. W. Bush and even attending the state convention in Yakima.
I had sworn back in the 80s never to vote for John McCain, who, although a veteran of a terrible war, was a flawed senator with a small vision and some nasty viewpoints about people.
And yet in 2008, I voted for McCain—breaking my vow—because I could not vote for Barack Obama. In my reasoning, Mr. Obama was untested and young and radical, and in my honest reasoning (which I never discussed with anyone) I knew he’d be a successful President, and I did not want a successful President if he was a Democrat.
I do not know what part racism played in this. Up until a few years ago, post-2008, I knew not a single person of color, but that was due to lack of effort on my part as well as lack of opportunity (opportunity which I created by my actions to keep myself separate). I just put this out there because I don’t know what part the “otherness” of Mr. Obama played in my decision, and if you look into your own mind you also understand it’s very hard to discern your true motives; often we make reasons up for why we choose to do what we do.
I argued strenuously against the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (a.k.a. “RomneyCare” and “ObamaCare”), doing whatever I could to support the delay and weakening of the act, both because it seemed untested and because it would give a Democratic President a feather in his cap.
Now, I could not imagine the life of anyone who’d support a Democrat, because they were the anti-life party, the party of higher taxes and broader welfare, the party of liberal social policies which would destabilize the Christian culture we had in America—you can fill it all in. I think I was a nice guy in general, but I didn’t want change. I wanted a strong America. I wanted an unruffled life.
I kept my loyalty through the years of Clinton when he managed the hat trick of a welfare change, of DOMA, and a successful conclusion to several armed conflicts that never developed into a national embranglement, but I could not give him credit for any movement to the Republican positions, because he was a Democrat.
I was happy to vote for George W. Bush, and was ecstatic when he finally won after the long recounts and court cases. (I still believe he won Florida, and still think he won his Supreme Court case fairly, but let that slide.) I was happy to see him win in 2004, and happy to see his response to the 9/11 disaster, a response which included more and more security features, tighter law enforcement controls, and two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was a “fiscal conservative” as well as a social conservative, and the spending under the Republicans seemed to zoom up and up and up, never really being cut, but going higher and higher. Whether tax rates should be punitive or corrective, I don’t know, but tax cuts were enacted that didn’t seem to really fix things. The Republicans gave lip service to social issues but spent more and more time on spending for wars and security as well as other spending projects. I could see no difference, really, in their behavior. They were involved in scandal after scandal, broken promise after broken promise.
But I was still faithful to the party.
When Mr. Obama won the nomination, I was unhappy. And when he beat Mr. McCain in an election which was by all honest accounts a sea change in the American cultural and political spheres, I knew there was little chance of my Republican Party being in charge soon. I was happy to hear Senator McConnell announce soon after the election that the goal of the Republican Party was to make Mr. Obama a one-term President, because dammit, Mr. Obama was a Democrat, and I was a Christian and a Republican, which were much the same thing.
Party labels were important, but I wouldn’t admit it.
In 2009 I began to make a series of changes in my life based upon issues which are not interesting here. But the important thing is that I was challenged by my circumstances and the people I had come to know to re-examine all my beliefs and assumptions, to look at what I truly valued, and then to ask myself if what I was doing with my life really matched my values.
I had chosen the Republican Party because I believed that people are important, are good and kind, and worth something, and I thought the Republican Party was like that, too.
But that party had shifted to become mean and divisive, crazy that a popular President was again making changes, doing whatever they could to stop him.
I could not face the fact anymore that my values as a person, as a man, as a Christian believer were being violated by the party which proclaimed itself the moral Christian party.
Well, I had stood it for a long time.
What made the break for me was simply this: that the Republican Party made an issue of Mr. Obama’s skin color and national origin. The drumbeat of “birtherism” started even before the November election, but it escalated over the next three years to the point where it became fully embraced by one Republican leader after another. Mr. McCain had the courage and courtesy to smack down a crazy lady who asked the senator to comment on Mr. Obama’s alleged foreign birth, but since that point in time the Republican Party leadership has seen this birtherism as a way to get their candidate into power, and they have run with it. Donald Trump, a genuinely crazy man, proclaims that Mr. Obama isn’t an American and is feted by the Republican Party; Mr. Romney himself, in a slap to his own father’s integrity, brings this up on national TV. It is disgusting.
I am sick of it all. I am sick of it that the Republican Party of my youth and early adulthood is the party that seeks to denigrate Mr. Obama with this trash, that it seeks to disenfranchise vast numbers of Americans because they vote for the Democrats, that they seek to simply let rich people buy their way into the White House—there is a litany of things which have made me sick—but the primary reason is this crap of birtherism.
The Republican Party has chosen to lie down with the most disgusting and crazy, mean and spiteful people in America—these privileged people who cannot stand that a black and a Democrat is in power—and they have earned my revulsion.
I am sorry I voted for McCain, but McCain is way ahead in integrity and honesty and even Christian behavior than these current Republicans.
And I am proudly supporting and voting for Mr. Obama and every single Democrat I can think of. Because Democrats might not be perfect (and neither are Republicans), but they have not been so arrogantly vicious while proclaiming themselves the party of God. I am only one man, but I will do what I can.
I have left the party I supported with my time, my money, my heart, and my loyalty. But really, I think they left me.
Sow the wind, and inherit the whirlwind.