There was a confluence of events from ’98-’00 that resulted in my party switch. The first was the demonization of President Clinton. No, I had not voted for him either time, BUT, as I said before, I was not passionate about anyone or anything in politics so I had no fear/loathing/hatred for him. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for the party I had supported for so long. Since I was registered as a Republican in those years, I was inundated with mailings from the GOP offices, and also from any group that supported Republicans. Those lovely 527 groups that didn’t need to maintain tons of professionalism or credibility seemed to send out pamphlets weekly about every possible nutty claim against the Clintons that was ever imagined. I cannot remember why one of them caught my eye so that I read it all the way through, but when I was done I remember feeling mentally dirty. At that point even though I knew him to be a liar about Monica Lewinsky, I started to feel protective of him. I felt he and his wife were being smeared & vilified in ways that went above and beyond any of their actual transgressions. This began the chipping away at my political mindset. Or, really, it started to CREATE it.
I started reading more in the newspaper and online about politics and I realized that as issues were being presented, my natural inclination was to fall to the left with the Democrats. In the course of reading more, I stumbled upon an article in the local paper about California Proposition 22. The law was designed to strictly define marriage in the California Civil Code restricting it to be between a man & a woman only. Again, not having paid terribly close attention to things until then, I honestly did not know that gays *couldn’t* be married in the traditional sense! Yeah, my head was FIRMLY in the sand, I know. The newspaper article featured a family of two moms with two daughters talking about why Prop 22 would hurt them. I knew the family. Their daughters went to pre-school with my youngest son. I had no idea they were going to be featured – we had not talked about it. In our community, and our circle of friends at the pre-school, their family blended in with no issues. That they had so bravely put themselves out publicly as the face of this issue was so eye opening to me. Then I read the Yes on 22 representative’s side. I looked online and read more from and about the supporters of Prop 22 – and the more I read, the dirtier I again felt. I took note of which party supported equality – and it wasn’t mine. Even though the Democrats also dragged their feet – and still do – on fully promoting marriage equality – at least they weren’t denigrating the people I knew. I could see that it would be Democrats who would most likely be supporting equality. Polling showed that Prop 22 probably would pass which made me very angry, but as I studied up on the history of gay rights, I realized it was going to be a long haul. I knew, FINALLY, that it really MATTERED who was elected into statewide and national offices. I knew, instinctively, that I would always support progress & equality.
My impression of conservatism was getting worse and worse. They were communicating with anger, and fear, and using exclusionary language. I saw that in their fierce determination to keep government small and (supposedly) out of their lives, they were willing to sacrifice the poor & minority interests. They would rather do away entirely with entitlement programs than assume the risk of some people taking advantage. Throw out the good in order to get rid of the bad. So many times I heard them rant on AM radio about people “sucking off my tax dollars!” but never once did they offer a solution. As someone who had benefited from a few government programs while I was pregnant with my first child and for the first couple of years after he was born – I was appalled. What was I supposed to do without that aid? We see the same thing now with the current push to remove all funding from Planned Parenthood. Doesn’t matter how many people are hurt by losing the 98% of services they provide, all that matters is eliminating the possibility of that 2% that they perceive as ‘bad”. They are arrogant, frequently have *never* been through serious financially challenging times, and seem to be completely unable to put themselves in anyone else’s shoes. Their empathy gene is severely underdeveloped. 🙂 What I feel from them is always a “I lived MY life like THIS and YOU should TOO and if you don’t, tough! It’s my way or the highway!”
I just couldn’t support that way of thinking anymore.
So in early 2000, I switched my party affiliation. And I have not looked back! The more I learn & observe, the more sure I am of where I stand.
I blame (and thank) the gays 🙂