By the time I was old enough to vote in 2000, I had studied and learned a great deal more about public policy than the average voter ever does in an entire lifetime. Based on what I truly believed was an unbiased assessment of all the facts, I had become mostly libertarian on economics, somewhat conservative on foreign policy, and a mixed moderate on social issues. I preferred Republicans to Democrats at the time but thought of myself as an independent. Focusing on those few issues of supreme importance, I decided on the following five positions:
Freedom of speech must be protected, because without speech we cannot organize, educate, or advise each other on how to vote on any other issue. In a democracy, it is the voters that are in charge and we need to be able to make informed decisions. To lose speech is to lose it all.
The right to bear arms must be protected, because with no physical means of defense, all our other rights are protected only by the goodwill of the officials currently in charge – goodwill which has already been proven to be in very short supply. To lose our weapons is to lose it all.
Our sovereignty must be protected, because Americans will know better how to regulate Americans than some foreign power we cannot control that does not share our culture, economic interests, or form of government. This also means we need to control our borders and immigration, become energy-independent, and take care that too much foreign trade does not expose us to economic disruption originating outside our jurisdiction where we cannot control. To lose our self-determination is to lose it all.
The environment must be protected, because if the ecology suffers, we lose our food supply, we lose our oxygen supply, erosion increases, and the climate changes. To lose the biosphere is to lose it all.
Finally, I also recognized that without life, there is also no liberty, no pursuit of happiness, no free speech, no right to bear arms, no right to vote, no free health care, no affordable housing, and nothing else. If the government provides anything at all whatsoever, it follows logically that it should first protect us from being killed. Since I recognized that the role of government was to protect the weak and the innocent more than it was to protect the strong and the guilty, and since there exist no citizens more vulnerable or more innocent than those living in the womb, it follows logically that if the government protects the lives of anyone at all, it should first protect the unborn. It’s only fair.
Of course these issues are all much more complex than I have let on, but this is where the story began. These are the issues I’ve struggled with my entire life and that compelled me to take a stance. Looking back, I don’t see how it could have been any other way.
When considering who to vote for, I was quickly able to eliminate anyone who ran as a Democrat. Not only were Democrats for much that I considered evil and harmful, but over and over I would see them twist logic and rhetoric past the breaking point to defend the indefensible. It was blatantly clear from even a cursory review that they had no core convictions and only supported whichever position was popular at the moment. They always stood up for each other even when violating their previously stated values. Whenever Republicans did something stupid (and they did), other Republicans were very quick to distance themselves and make clear that the offender did not represent the party as a whole. Whenever Democrats did something stupid, other Democrats would do whatever they possibly could to defend the offender (mostly by lying about the facts). This not only applies to politicians and professional opinion leaders, but to the majority of those that vote Democrat. People I know personally can be just as dishonest as those on TV.
I also noticed that Democrats often spoke to voters in terms of what benefitted them personally (such as handouts from some program), while Republicans more often spoke in terms of fairness to everybody and what was good for the country as a whole. I remember that labor unions would openly ask for favors in return for the help they had given in getting Democrats elected. This is the very definition of corruption and selfishness, but for Democrats “tit for tat” is simply how statecraft is accomplished. While Republicans can sometimes be just as corrupt, at least they hide it.
There are many other things that turned me off to Democrats early on. When Republicans disagree with government policies, they blame the Democrats in government and run against them. When Democrats disagree with government policies, they blame America as a whole and some take to burning the flag. When Republicans encounter a voter who is undecided and has tough questions, the Republicans will invite them to join the party and say anything they need to in order to win them over (including lying and making promises they can’t or won’t keep). When Democrats encounter a voter who is undecided and has tough questions, the Democrats will call them a racist or a corporate shill and reject them as a lost cause. Republicans write books, blogs, and host radio or television shows that “connect the dots” and explain why they think the way they do. When Democrats write or host shows, they ramble chaotically about how evil Republicans are without even trying to support their accusations. What turned me off the most was how they would repeat the same outright lies over and over many years after the truth had been established. I still hear about “tax cuts for the rich,” about the Supreme Court stealing the 2000 election for Bush, about Bush “going it alone” into Iraq, about global warming being an imminent threat, and about there not being even a smidgeon of corruption at the IRS. These are all lies of which the truth has been known for a very long time. Who do they think they’re fooling?
One should not judge an entire group based on the actions of a few, but there is a difference between an organization with bad people in it and a bad organization. For example, the Tea Party might have racists in it, but it is not a racist group, whereas for the KKK racism is fundamentally what they are about. It was clear to me that while the Republican Party had much corruption in it, it was the Democratic Party that was fundamentally a corrupt organization. Even the way they nominate candidates thwarts the will of their own people because of the superdelegates. Democrats are fundamentally anti-democratic.
Although I registered as an independent, for years I voted exclusively for Republicans. I knew they weren’t perfect, but the Democrats were too dangerously evil to allow them to win any offices. Gradually, the Republicans grew worse and today are very nearly as bad as the Democrats. It gets harder every day to see any difference in virtue between the parties. During the Bush years, the Republicans in Congress greatly increased spending – and not only on national security. No matter which party wins more seats, spending and borrowing only goes up. It may rise faster under the Democrats, but even under the GOP we will eventually reach the point that it will become impossible for America to ever pay off her debt no matter how many programs we cut, no matter how high we raise taxes, and even if the economy grows at its maximum rate. The experts disagree on exactly where that point is, but I’d be more comfortable if we didn’t keep tempting fate. Around the same time, many prominent Republicans came out as believers in global warming – just as I was concluding the theory to be in its final death throes based on the ridiculously tortured explanations I was reading in the science magazines. In this way, they showed themselves as scientifically illiterate as the Democrats are. Later, the Republicans joined the Democrats in supporting a bailout of large banks without doing a thing to fix the problems that led to the crisis in the first place (the Democrats later “fixed” the problems by making them bigger). Even later during the Obama years, when it came out that the Democrat-run executive branch was spying on our phone records (in clear violation of the fourth amendment), many Republicans joined in support of the program, and those Republicans somehow continued to get elected, proving that the corruption in the GOP was widespread.
Sometimes the GOP would agree to bad compromises with the Democrats, other times they would propose bad ideas themselves, and other times they would simply give in and give up. Twice during the Obama years the Democrats shut down the government and blamed the Republicans for it (yet more Democrat lies still repeated today). The Republicans tried over and over to suggest compromises but each was rejected. Only when the Republicans caved and gave the Democrats 100% of what they asked for did the Democrats allow the government to reopen. What is the point of voting Republican if once elected they do whatever the Democrats tell them to do anyways? Why does the Republican Party even exist? Why don’t the parties just merge and become the Republicrats? That the Republicans gave in so easily emboldens the Democrats to use the same tactics again, knowing they can always get their way if they hold the government hostage. What is the point of voting Republican if they just give up every time the Democrats hold the government hostage?
Mit Romney’s candidacy really brought it home for me how disgusting the Republicans had become. That he of all people won the nomination is inconceivable to me. That countless commentators and researchers I had learned to trust started to use faulty reasoning to make excuses for him, while characterizing his opponents as things they were not, really floored me. I had no source I could trust. I had no way to verify or falsify any claim. The entire party had gone batty.
While the Republicans became worse by becoming more like the Democrats, they also became worse by becoming less like them. When an already-existing mosque near (but not at) the site of the world trade tower collapse sought city approval to expand the facility, thousands of Republicans marched in protest, including a former VP candidate and a former House Speaker. They disregarded both the property rights and first-amendment religious freedom rights of Muslims simply because the ones who brought the towers down also happened to claim to be Muslim. This somehow lead the protesters to think that expanding a mosque in the area was in poor taste. These are not simply the attitudes of a fringe minority. Even people I know personally believe the Muslims should not build in New York, believe it a good idea to round up eleven million illegal immigrants (including those who came here as children), believe it a good idea to torture suspected terrorists for information (whether they call it torture or not), and believe that the solution to stagnant wages is for workers to get more education. Even if everyone in the country earned a PHD (which many people are not good at, even if they are fully capable of working both smarter and harder than anyone else), I would still need somebody to make me an iced coffee. They prejudicially blame individuals for situations better understood as the results of large-scale social and economic phenomena. They callously tell the homeless to “get a job,” not realizing how hard it is to get and keep a job when homeless. Whenever any Republican takes a moderate position on any of these issues, the others attack them and call them a RINO (Republican In Name Only).
More and more it became clear to me that Republicans were blind to the suffering of millions of people. This disturbing trend finally culminated in the nomination of Donald Trump, one of the most needlessly divisive and mean-spirited politicians I have ever seen. Before Trump, it was Democrats that held that title (e.g. Barack Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi). That of all people eligible to run it would be the worst of the worst that kept rising to the top in both parties proved to me that both parties were completely controlled by evil.
The more I learned, the more I found wrong. Members of both parties vote to exempt themselves from the laws they pass, members of both parties are up to their eyeballs in insider trading, and members of both parties get very cozy with lobbyists. With everything that is widely known to be wrong with both parties, anyone that endorses either of them by running as either a Republican or a Democrat tarnishes their own reputation. A decent person would not wish to support either party in any way, therefore anyone who supports either party cannot be decent. I can no longer in good conscience vote for any individual running under the Republicrat banner, even if I know of nothing wrong with them individually.
I need another party – but which one? The Reform Party of Ross Perot caught my attention in my childhood, but it pretty much disintegrated by the time I reached adulthood. From what little I know about the Greens, they tend to favor socialistic and intrusive economic policies. They seem to attract the same people that are attracted to Democrats. I never had much interest in them. The Libertarians currently comprise the third largest party in the country and they tend to agree with my values more often than not. The biggest problem with the Libertarians is that they tend to be too extreme. I value compromise and pragmatism almost as much as I value liberty, but the Libertarians seem unlikely to ever compromise and they are far from pragmatic. I get the impression that many would wish to simply abolish unconstitutional programs such as social security and welfare overnight, forgetting that many people have become dependent on them. Furthermore, many Libertarians believe in completely free trade and open borders, but these would damage our national security. If there is no border there is no country. Many (not all) are also inconsistent in how they apply the principles of liberty, wanting to force states to extend benefits to homosexual unions meant to be reserved for traditional marriages and refusing to protect the life (and therefore liberty) of the unborn when it would compromise in a much lesser way the liberty of the mother. I don’t like Libertarians. I once came across the blog of an ex-Libertarian who proposed forming what he called an “upper-left” party, meant to tap into what he believed was the largest unrepresented opinion group in the country. The party would be essentially libertarian, but moderate. It would reign in not only the government, but the large corporations that are nearly as controlling. It would also protect nature. Unfortunately, his idea has not yet caught on and shows no sign of catching on any time soon.