I am the black sheep of my family. Wait, that’s not quite right. I’m the moderately dark gray sheep of my family. Off-white sheep? My father was an evangelical pastor (Nazarenes, holla!) and is now a director at the denomination headquarters. My sister married an evangelical pastor. My brother joined the Army and now works for the local Sheriff’s department. They are all Republicans. They are severely conservative, to borrow a phrase.
I didn’t stray that far. That old Proverb that says, “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” is pretty much true. I’m married, with two kids, and a dog. I had a cat for a while but it was during my immediate post-college years, when I was young, and experimenting. My wife drives a station wagon. I have an engineering job, a house, and a mortgage to go with it. I’m not exactly a radical.
I am, however, a liberal. And a Democrat. This has caused some consternation in my family, especially as the years have gone by and I haven’t grown out of it. I remember my father telling me that my opinions would change when I started paying higher and higher taxes. Well, I’ve been fortunate enough that my tax burden has increased significantly since then, and my opinions have changed. I’ve become more liberal.
Anyway, aside from our political differences and taste in music, my brother and I are very much alike. We both look at the world in similar ways, and we both have a disdain for people who make excuses for their failures, whether it be people in the public arena or people we work with or know. We enjoy arguing with each other about politics, not in the hopes that either of us will ever change our minds, but because we are both informed by the other’s point of view. And it helps to have someone who can poke holes in our blind spots, to challenge our assumptions, and sometimes just to laugh at. My brother is a conservative, and I am a liberal, but we both consider the other person to be reasonable.
That isn’t to say that our minds are never changed. As fellow Some Disagree blogger Molly can confirm, I used to be extremely anti-gun when she was my editor at our college newspaper, where I wrote an opinion column. My opinion on gun rights has changed over the years to more closely align with conservatives, although I will never join the NRA or anything. And my brother used to be very much against any kind of legalization for marijuana, but now considers the drug war to be a colossal waste of time and money.
If you’ve been reading this blog then you know that I often link to John Cole over at Balloon-Juice. He used to be a Republican but sometime around 2006 he started to change his mind. I first became aware of Cole because other blogs would often link to him as they described his conversion, or more often with a preface like, “Former Republican John Cole says,” or “Even Republican John Cole thinks that…” But the main reason that I continue to read that blog is because Cole reminds me so much of my brother and myself, in his way of expressing himself and his, er, not quite sunny disposition.
Yesterday, Cole posted this:
A couple of you are wondering what made me switch parties in the other thread. It was a lot of things, but part of it was finally just coming to terms with everything I believed in was bullshit. There are only so many times you can try to justify something, then watch the Bush administration cut you off at the knees, or see them get caught blatantly lying, or doing things like having their FEMA officials stage “press conferences” in which the reporters were… FEMA officials. Or all the talk about about deficit reduction while exploding the national debt. Or all the lies and lies and lies about Iraq. Torture and Schiavo were the beginning fissures for me. Every single one of you, if I were to say finish this phrase: “The sanctity of…” would be able to blurt out “marriage.” And yet, in an issue that is the business of no one but husband and wife, there was the GOP rushing to pass a national law INJECTINGthemselves into someone’s allegedly sanctified marriage. The fact that they were trashing the courts and ignoring medical science was just the icing on the cake.
There’s much more at the link.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that my brother will ever become a liberal Democrat like me. He has a genuinely thoughtful conservative philosophy and I don’t expect that will ever change. I’m not posting Cole’s description of his “conversion” in hopes that it will inspire my brother to see the error of his ways. I wouldn’t insult him like that.
But sometimes I have to think that he’d be happier leaving aside strict party identification for a while. The other day we were talking about the GOP primary that had been held in his state. I asked who he voted for. He said he didn’t want to tell me because I would laugh at him. I told him he had to tell me. He told me. I laughed at him.
He then went on to complain that all his choices sucked and I agreed. We were laughing about it, obviously, and it didn’t even occur to me to make a pitch for Obama, because, well, it’s not really an option. Or is it? I mean, let’s review.
If someone had told me in 1999 that the president elected in 2008 would pass a sweeping health care reform law, and that the primary mechanism for dealing with the long-known problem of Free Riders would be an individual mandate, then I would have assumed that a Republican had been elected. I know most Republicans absolutely refuse to believe what the facts are on this, but the individual mandate is the Republican idea. It is the conservative idea. It is the Heritage Foundation idea. My brother is not the kind of Republican who refuses to acknowledge reality, so what is his problem here?
If someone had told me in 1999 that the president elected in 2008 would favor Cap and Trade as the mechanism for dealing with anthropogenic Global Warming, which was the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, and that this same president had increased domestic oil production ever single year he’d been in office, and that he had okayed the construction of the first nuclear power plant in 30 years in the United States, I would have assumed that president was a Republican. What’s the problem here?
If someone had told me in 1999 that the president elected in 2008 would be openly discussing reforming entitlements to reduce their impact on the deficit and that nothing, including reduced benefits, was off the table, I would have definitely assumed that president was a Republican. What’s the problem here?
I remember a conversation I had with my brother just after Obama had secured the nomination in 2008, and how I was upset that Republicans were painting him as being weak on terror. My brother said he didn’t think it was an unfair criticism. Would Osama bin Laden agree with that criticism now? What’s the problem here?
My brother thinks all the Republican candidates suck. Why can’t he declare victory and just vote for Obama?