I would have physically ripped it up, but I kind of lost it…
A bit of background first. When I was 18, I was a huge political nerd (well, to be fair I still am) and 5 years of debate under my belt had inspired a strong political zeal. Only a few years before I had seriously considered entering into politics (when I realized it is like 90 percent paperwork and meetings, that dream was crushed). So when it came time to register to vote, I already was certain of my political beliefs and instantly registered as a Republican without a second thought.
Since those early years of simple black and white thinking, things have changed. In general, I no longer see politics as clear rights and wrongs . Instead, I consider it shades of grey opinions built upon different foundational ideologies. I am less dogmatic and less likely to follow hardline party positions. However, this alone was not enough to make me figuratively shred my yellow voter registration card. Even recently, I believed that there were still a lot of good parts within the GOP and I wanted to remain within the party to help reform it. But this year, something changed and the toxic, poisonous parts of the party began to rear their ugly heads and drown out reasonable conservativism. I’m not even talking just about Trump. This began long before Trump gained the nomination.
What attracted me to the Republican Party to begin with was their pragmatism. I saw it as a party that sought to help people, but in a more pragmatic way without damaging the effectiveness of the government or the private sector. I saw the Democratic Party as too quick to assume the government should step in, ineffective in their desires to help. However, as I started to step outside of my conservative bubble, I began to see the ugliness within the GOP. Don’t get me wrong, there is ugliness in the Democratic Party as well, but I only recently saw it within the party that defined my childhood.
One significant area that comes to mind is welfare reform. I can see a lot of the arguments about the government being inefficient and I agree it does not do the most with the money it has. It would be preferable if private charities could help everyone on an individual level and this is coming from someone who has had to use welfare in the past. However, the calls from the GOP to simply cut it doesn’t make sense. What would the millions of people who are on welfare do? The private organizations that currently exist don’t have the infrastructure necessary to help the people who their services now, how will they be able to help millions more people? And the question that always echoes in the back of my mind whenever someone talks about cutting the system is “how much money do you give to charity? Would you increase your giving to support the people who suddenly have no way to feed their families?” The language Republicans use to discuss this issue seems so void of empathy that it is hard for me to take it seriously anymore.
I saw this lack of empathy come up again and again in discussion from immigration to race
relations and I found it troubling, but the final straw came this presidential election. When the controversy surrounding the entrance of Syrian refugees came to a head, the rhetoric of exclusion and Islamophobia was something I could not ignore. I understand the desire to keep the country safe, but when the refugees are already screened, there shouldn’t be any concern. But they were concerned. They were so concerned that people began talking about banning all Muslims. And then it hit me, they weren’t treating the refugees like people. They weren’t humans with lives and families living in impossible situations. They were numbers. Numbers on a page that could be ignored because it wasn’t impacting us and because they weren’t American.
I am a Christian. I value the teachings of love and empathy. Humbly sacrificing yourself for others and not putting your own needs first. I can no longer support a party that has removed any empathy from decision making and only thinks about numbers and money. So when it came time for this election, I registered as an independent. I still don’t agree enough with the Democratic Party to side with them, so I reside in the middle, in the sea of grey that rests between the red and blue of the opposing parties. I will still vote republican and I will also vote Democrat. I will vote for the candidate that I believe has the best policies and the best ethics. But I no longer want to associate my name with the “R” that has been corrupted by hate and bigotry.