Switching Political Parties

In the mood for a chat about politics? I’ve been collecting my thoughts (and great links) so I can discuss them with you.

First topic: Have you ever changed political parties? If yes, I’d love to hear about it. How old were you? What made you change? Did it feel like a big deal to switch?

This is on my mind because I read a terrific profile of Elizabeth Warren’s ideological journey. You may not know that she switched political parties. I’m impressed that she pays attention, gathers data, and changes her mind when warranted. It’s a quality I value in a politician.

I’ve switched parties too, but for me it wasn’t as decisive as Elizabeth Warren. I know this is repeat info for some of you, but I grew up with a Republican Mom, and a Democrat Dad, and had positive feelings for both parties. As I went off to college I thought of myself as more of a Republican, though I was always adamant about not voting for one party.

I tried hard to evaluate candidates individually, without worrying about their political parties. I was looking for good people, who I believed had a strong moral compass, and who I believed wanted the best for our country. I knew those people could be found in both political parties. This led me to vote for both Democrats and Republicans over the years — including presidential candidates — and I didn’t strongly identify as one party or another.

When Tea Party candidates took over the Republican Party, I thought of myself as more of a Democrat than a Republican, and that still holds true. From my point of view, the Democratic Party is still left of middle, but the Republican Party continues to move far, far, far to the right, and I just can’t relate anymore. (I realize others see this shift differently than I do.)

I’m not the only one who feels the Republican Party has changed too much — especially under Trump. Here is Iowa State Representative Andy McKean on his recent decision to leave the Republican Party, and this opinion piece in the New York Times talks about how the Republican Party is nearly destroyed.

That’s super troubling to me. I want two strong parties and I appreciate the push and pull of conservative and progressive ideas. To my mind, the ideal is that both parties are pretty much in the middle — one just to the left, and one just to the right. Both parties are working toward the same goals, but each group approaches how to achieve those goals in different ways. And that’s the whole debate.

For example, the bi-partisan goal of both parties would be: Healthy citizens who have access to high quality, affordable health care. And the debate would be: We know employer-provided insurance isn’t working, and the employment landscape has changed drastically. So what should be do instead? Should it be single payer, or Medicare for all? Should we model it on a country with universal healthcare? Should we make it more of an open marketplace between states? Or are we coming up with a totally new plan?

Citizens should be able to switch back and forth from party to party without it feeling like they are losing part of their identity. Someone might like a hypothetical Republican plan on healthcare, and a hypothetical Democratic plan on immigration. And they could vote for the candidates most likely to implement those plans.

The second topic on my mind: Something is going to fill the vacuum that the currently unrecognizable Republican Party has created. Something needs to fill it. Remember, Mueller, who is continually disparaged by the right, is a life-long stalwart Republican. But the current Republican Party (I think it needs a new name for clarity; how about Trumpists?), the Trumpists don’t want people like Mueller in their party. So where do the true conservatives go? So far, conservatives have either given in and become Trumpists, or they stand independent, without a party.

This is a problem. And not just for true conservatives. Harvard polled young voters and just 23% say they’re GOP, 68% disapprove of Trump, only 18% believe Baby Boomers “care about people like me”, and 61% are concerned about moral direction of country.

Historically, we know young voters will often choose a different political party than their parents, sometimes just to be different and establish independence. But where will they go? If they don’t want to be Trumpists, and don’t want to be Democrats like their parents, then what?

I think there’s a huge opportunity for young true conservatives to establish a New Republican Party. I’m picturing something just right of center. I’m picturing a total rejection of Trumpists — a disavowal, and clear recognition that Trumpists are not true conservatives. I’m picturing this New Republican Party drilling down to core conservative beliefs, and then taking every current political issue — the environment, gun control, women’s right, etc. — and looking at them through the lens of those core beliefs. I’m picturing bipartisan goals for the country, with New Republicans debating with Democrats on the best way to achieve those goals, and then working together to actually achieve them.

I imagine it could start with a podcast, and then turn into a radio show — something that makes Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carlson seem out of place and out of touch; making clear they are voices only Trumpists would care about.

When I was 18 and heading to college, this is how I would have described conservatives:
– Conservatives prioritize fiscal responsibility.
– Conservatives work toward a healthy economy that rewards unselfish businesses and punishes greed.
– Conservatives look for ways to limit government without putting citizens’ quality of life at risk.
– Conservatives take pride in being good stewards, preserving natural resources, and truly conserving what we have.
– Conservatives prefer slower social changes, using history, data, and research to back up policy, and providing adequate time for popular opinion to get on board.
– Conservatives have no stomach for corruption and manipulation.

I don’t recognize any of those things in the Trumpists (our current Republican Party). But they still seem like decent notions and valid approaches to governance. I would be delighted to see a New Republican Party come to be. I would love to see New Republicans look at a topic like gerrymandering and voter suppression through core conservative beliefs, and then reject them as the shameful stain they are. I would love true conservatives to have a place to land that was just right of center.

What about you? Would a New Republican Party be appealing to you? Or to your young adult kids?

The third political topic on my mind is coverage of the women candidates versus the men candidates who are running for President. Here are a few articles I’ve saved:
– What Changes When the Presidential Field is Full of Mothers
– After getting burned in the last election, some women despair that a woman isn’t electable.
– Kate Manne on the way the idea of “electability” is used as a cudgel against female candidates.

I LOVE that there are so many women running for president. I want that to be the norm. I want it to be so usual and expected that no one even notices. But male-heavy coverage is making me nuts. The women are coming out with well thought out policies, and the men keep getting attention for… existing?

Fourth topic: I’m worried that our next elections won’t be free and fair. I worry about Facebook. One of the reasons Russia was able to manipulate our election was because Facebook was so scared of accusations that they unfairly censor the right. (Here’s proof that Russian interference affected the outcome of the 2016 election.) And Facebook finally admits it is under siege from billions of fake accounts trying to game its systems. I also found this article on why Twitter won’t treat white supremacy like Isis quite troubling. From the article:

“With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.

In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn’t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.

The employee argued that, on a technical level, content from Republican politicians could get swept up by algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist material. Banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all of the white supremacist propaganda, he argued.”

Your turn. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of this — switching parties, the idea of a New Republican party, election worries — any of it.

P.S. — I had lunch with my friend Susan last month when she was visiting from New York. She is a political philosopher and expressed the idea that women aren’t really interested in politics or political philosophy. I was shocked. I couldn’t relate to that idea at all. How about you? Do you feel like that’s true for the women around you? If yes, do you see the same disinterest from men too? Or do you see it as a female thing?

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