Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why I'm a Republican (gasp)

In grade school I had a deep admiration for President Abraham Lincoln. He seemed to be the only moral figure in many chapters of my third-grade history books covering slavery and the Civil War, when I could barely recognize my own country. I thought in simple terms: He freed the slaves. He was a Republican. What I learned from Lincoln was that at the core of the Republican party (and America) was one principle I could cling to: freedom.

Another one of my heroes is Martin Luther King Jr. He was also a Republican.

The Republican Party has always been the party of civil rights.

In the historic vote in 1964 for the Civil Rights Bill in Congress, nearly 80% of the no votes came from Democrats. Men like Senator Al Gore Sr., the father of former Vice President Al Gore.

The Democratic Party had a lot of repairing and healing to do on account of its history of being the party that supported slavery, Jim Crowe laws and segregation. Somewhere along the way, they took ownership of the platform – “we look after the little guy, the minority, the poor.”

The truth is, Republican policies are all about protecting those people too—helping the poor, the workers, the middle-class, the immigrants, the marginalized. Anyone in pursuit of the American Dream. The difference is that Republicans and Democrats have different means of reaching those ends. Our path is through the principles of freedom, liberty for all, integrity, personal responsibility, and yes, lower taxes. I'll let a Democrat tell you what their path looks like.

Recently, I was talking to a Danish contact (who had no knowledge of my convictions) and he said that he thinks folks from 'middle America' – “The Republicans,” he sneered – are people who cling to their guns and religion.

I knew exactly where his quote came from. So I had to call him out on it.

“You heard that line in one of President Obama’s stump speeches during the campaign?” I asked.

He had repeated candidate Obama, word-for-word: “...people who cling to their guns and religion.”

(And I thought I clung to freedom.)

It broke my heart when I heard President Obama say that on TV back in 2007. It felt unpresidential and needlessly divisive, and sure enough, the line traveled across the pond, landed in Denmark and helped drive home an impression that the 51% of Americans who call themselves conservatives have Glock 22s holstered on their hips and cross-necklaces over their hearts.

A few do, most don’t, and there’s a whole lotta hazy territory in between, in that discussion on guns, faith and freedom. I don't like elitist generalizations, if you can't tell. I'm no W. apologist, but I could only imagine the heat President Bush would have taken had he ever called left-leaning Americans "people who cling to their trees and Birkenstocks."

Here’s what I do know. I don't care what 'political party' my friends and family are part of (or not part of). I have sisters and friends who are Democrat, Venstre, Independent, Socialdemokratiet, Radicale Venstre, and Socialistisk Folkeparti...and maybe even the Communist-leaning Enhedslisten. We may not all agree, but I feel richer for being surrounded by diverse opinions, though on some occasions I could be much better at biting my tongue! But I will support President Obama as our President as long as he supports America's success.

I consider myself: a feminist, a writer, an environmentalist, a patriot, an expatriate, an artist, a giver, a critical thinker, a moderate, and a Republican.

One thing I don’t think I am is an asshole. I hope that during my time in Denmark, I can show a few people that Republicans are not assholes.

Like a Grandpa to me. I'm still obsessed, like Alex P. Keaton.