It’s the Silly Season again, and I just watched a political ad that accused a candidate for the U.S. Senate of being everything but a child-molesting serial killer. It’s about the only type of ad you see these days. It’s a sad commentary.
I’ve been thinking lately about my own political leanings, and how they were formed, and where they may be going. I don’t come from a political family and I never knew much about my parents politics. I’m pretty sure my mother is a Democrat. I think my father was a Republican, although he rarely talked about it. I guess he figured it was like his finances or his religion; it was “nobody’s damn business.” Three things I know for certain: he liked Ike, he voted for Goldwater and he was no fan of our current president.
The first time I was eligible to vote for a president I voted for Richard Nixon. It was 1972 and I was eighteen and in college. My choice doesn’t speak well of my first effort. Blame it on youth and inexperience. I whiffed on Gerald Ford the next time around, and then I helped send Ronald Reagan to the White House twice. He was always my favorite president. Only Lincoln is more revered among Republicans. But I am reminded that Reagan formed his core beliefs as a Democrat, before he switched parties in the 1950’s, famously saying that the Democratic Party left him, not vice-versa. I voted for George H. W. Bush twice, but I have to confess I liked Bill Clinton. I think I would enjoy having a beer with him. Despite the distractions, he turned out to be a pretty good president, although I’ve always had this nagging feeling that the table was already set for him. I voted for George W. Bush twice, and I can’t really say I’m proud of that, and then I voted for John McCain. That ballot was the most half-hearted I ever cast. When he lost, I hardly cared at all.
All of my life I have considered myself a Republican. I started down that road because of my father. Then somewhere along the way, I became convinced Democrats wanted to take money away from the people who earned it and give it to people who didn’t deserve it. Maybe I let Rush Limbaugh do that to me. I listened to his radio show for a while in the early 1990’s. But as I’ve watched things play out over the years, that theory has not held up very well. And I’ve seen no evidence that Republican “trickle down” policies do anything but swell the balances of Cayman Islands bank accounts.
So, as the 2012 election gets closer, I’m more conflicted than I’ve ever been. I don’t feel much like a Republican anymore. I’m concerned about the single-issue zealotry and the self-righteous attitudes a growing number of them seem to have. If I had to vote today, I would vote for Barack Obama, if for no other reason than because he is veto insurance against the right-wing, who may be on the verge of taking over both houses of Congress. The Republican Party is no longer the party of Reagan. It’s been hijacked. He wouldn’t recognize it, and neither do I. I don’t share their narrow-minded values and I can’t think of one of them who would be fun to have a beer with. I believe I know how Reagan felt when he switched sides a half-century ago, and if he will permit me the liberty to paraphrase him, “ I’m not leaving the Republican Party, the Republican Party has left me.”