I was born and raised in Oklahoma, one of the most conservative of the United States. My parents are Republican, as is just about everyone else. Growing up, I was raised to believe in the basic Republican tenets:
1) Fiscal Conservative
2) Smaller Government
3) Strict Constitutional Interpretation
4) Environmental Awareness
Ronald Reagan was the Prez during my early youth, and he was a joy to watch at my young age. When Bush Sr. took office, I was still very young and honestly don't recall much from that time except the feeling that he took us to war after a Bad Man invaded a country and we won. However, he raised taxes when he said he shouldn't so this Clinton guy got elected.
Even though Clinton was Prez during most of my teen years, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention. I remember Whitewater and the Lewinsky scandal, of course, and I was appalled. I don't remember health care and I don't remember welfare reform or NAFTA. I do remember paying a good deal of attention to the 2000 election, as that would be the first I could vote in.
I was taken by George W. Bush and his style of speaking. He sounded like someone I could meet down the street. Al Gore, on the other hand, struck me as a stuck-up college professor, a stiff robot that I couldn't relate to. I remember watching the debates and feeling good about my choice. I cast my vote with pride.
When the election results started dragging due to the Florida debacle, I followed with great interest. What surprised me more was Gore throwing in the towel when EVERYONE was saying to hang in there. He said that he wanted the country to move on. This made me happy. My guy won, and Gore was classy about it. Good on him.
When September 11th happened, I was once again happy with my choice. I thought for sure that major happenings were moments away, but we seemed to stay calm and search with precision. This is good, I told myself. At least we're not just going to war with some random country.
When we first went into Iraq, I was happy with my choice. I was told that Saddam Hussein was not only a bad man (I already knew that) but he was conspiring against by building destructive weapons and had given an assist to Bin Laden and his cohorts. Go get 'im, I thought.
However, soon after my happiness faded. The links between Saddam and the terrorists dried up. Dick Cheney, whom I never liked, double-faced and said that no one ever linked the two, when video footage exists of he himself asserting that as fact. Bush looked more and more like an uneducated buffoon at press events, fumbling his words and being belligerent with reporters. The country as a whole took the 'if you're not with us, you're against us' approach and many of our international allies turned their backs. The war in Iraq started to look like a mission built on revenge.
Guantanamo Bay was opened. What were we going to do with suspected terrorists? Good question...but torture? Really? I'm fairly naive when it comes to war and what is required of men in such conditions, but that kind of behavior is against INTERNATIONAL LAW for a reason. Further distortions from the top brass of the Republican Party didn't help matters.
As the 2004 election approached, I looked more evenly at the playing field. No longer satisfied with Bush, I checked out his opponent, John Kerry. He wasn't anything special either, but I looked at his war record and felt, 'Surely a soldier, especially a Vietnam soldier, would make the best decisions for our troops overseas.' Plus, the basic Democrat tenet of Regulation/Oversight should help with the burgeoning problem of issues in Iraq like the Blackwater incidents. Also, the (surprising) lack of support for environmental issues from the red side of the house helped turn my '04 decision to the Blue ticket; helping out oil companies is not important to me. Not only that, but I thought Kerry handled himself very well in the debates. The fates did not see it that way, however, and another four years went in the books.
The 2008 election is when I started thinking of myself as a Democrat instead of a Republican. Sure, I still believe in the basic tenets of Republicanism, but do they? The election season was marred by horrible attacks from the right and unfathomable support for names like Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck. Freedom of speech is a right, but why do people have to be so ugly to one another? When Obama won the election, I thought it would settle down and we could move on to fixing the broken parts of the country.
So far, I'm wrong. The other day, Sarah Palin said Obama's health care proposal could have her baby with Down's Syndrome killed.
This is the huge problem. People are already upset because Obama is black. People are upset because they think he is a Muslim. People are upset because they think they/their parents aren't going to have proper medical care with the current debates about health care reform. Palin comes in and says this statement, with no base in reality, and adds kerosene to a fire.
All the Republicans seem to be about these days is attack and tearing down others. Health Care is a problem we ALL need to solve. Don't like the opposing solution? Fine. Present an alternative. Don't go out and make statements that have no basis in reality. People are already up in arms about health care; I read a story today about a guy who took a GUN to a town hall meeting that Obama was supposed to show up to and a sign that spoke of watering the tree of liberty. COME ON!
Complaints about his birth certificate. Asserting he is Muslim. Blocking legislation important to the American People. Getting on a soapbox and telling everyone the President wants what is Worst for the country and that we should do something about it. This isn't the America I grew up in. There doesn't seem to be any debate anymore. Just mud slinging and name calling. Vague threats. Even John McCain, a politician I respect, fell to these devices.
I don't want any part of that. That, in a very large nutshell, is the logic and story behind my switch from firm Republican to centrist Democrat. There's more, but this post is a book already.