Someone called me a “libtard” on social media. This is a blending of the words “liberal” and “retarded” a highly offensive word for people with developmental disabilities. The thing is, this guy had no idea I used to be a Republican. A staunch conservative pro-lifer, in fact. Like most people who are conservative, I was born into a family of conservatives. I accepted what I was taught: Democrats were bleeding hearts with no moral foundation; Democrats want to give money to people who don’t want to work for it; Democrats are pro-abortion; Democrats are stupid.
My interaction with Democrats was limited. Aside from their political views, I generally found them to be nice people. I never bothered to ask them how they came to those beliefs. I just assumed all of my preconceptions were correct. We could never be actual friends.
My transition began slowly enough. I’d been through a divorce and began questioning long-held religious points of view that weren’t matching my reality. But in graduate school, following my divorce, is when the wheels fell off. I started studying perception, belief and the way in which our worldviews are formed. I learned that much of what we believe has little to do with facts, and much more to do with how we feel about any given topic.
Still, in the 2008 election, I could not vote for Barrack Obama. Questions about his birth, stories of his questionable intellect, and his ties to Muslims caused me to cast my vote for a third party candidate. You have to remember; this is when Sarah Palin was John McCain’s running mate. I couldn’t, in good conscience, vote for someone so unhinged. I did not celebrate Obama’s win. I waited, in terror, to see what would happen.
In 2012, still unconvinced, I voted for Mitt Romney and cringed when Obama won again. I had been influenced by Dinesh D’Souza’s film Obama’s America, which made it appear Obama did not like America and was determined to destroy it, based on his radical Muslim influences. I was afraid of what the next four years would look like.
At the same time, with the release of my first book, I reconnected with my Native American heritage and began learning about what happened to our tribe. It wasn’t anything like the story of Pocahontas I’d been taught in school. Then again, the beginning of the current Republican Party wasn’t talked about in any of my social study classes in high school.
Today’s Republican Party developed out of disenchantment with the passage of civil rights. Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon tapped into white anger over the federal government’s enforcement to end segregation, pulling in many Southern Democrats and redefining party lines. The argument was made for “state’s rights,” but played into the fears of white voters. Lyndon B. Johnson took the side of civil rights and many black voters, simultaneously, joined the Democratic Party. This was a definitive change from the “Party of Lincoln,” which believed civil rights and equal rights were for everyone.
Like gay rights today, racial civil rights carried a religious undertone. Evangelical and conservative churches were opposed to civil rights and the Republican Party assuaged their concerns. In fact, Bob Jones, Sr., famously gave a 1960s sermon in which he stated “When you run into conflict with God’s established order racially, you have trouble…You produce destruction and trouble, and this nation is in the greatest danger it has ever been in in its history.”
Goldwater’s political strategist, Paul Weyrich, took this further by looking for issues that concerned Christian fundamentalists, a largely untapped voting block in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Abortion was the ticket. Millions of Christians still vote Republican based on the well-ingrained belief that Republicans will stop abortions. It’s the one area where states rights don’t apply because, many Republicans believe, abortions should be illegal for everyone. Never mind that abortion rights have largely remained unchanged since 1973.
While the Republican Party says it stands against abortion, the truth is that abortion rates have continually dropped since 1984, regardless of which party is in office. But Republican sponsored abstinence only programs threaten to reverse this decrease. 18% of abortions are performed on teenagers and 75% of people who get abortions are poor. In fact, many of the economic factors that lead people to get abortions are not addressed by Republicans, and are virtually ignored by “prolifers.” The pro-life mantra is a misnomer, detracting from larger, underlying issues.
Additionally, the Republican Party, which clamors about smaller government, has historically created larger governments and more government spending than Democrats. Ronald Regan and George W. Bush spent more federal money than anyone at nearly 20% and 46% respectively. Public policy researcher, John Goodman said, “Lyndon Johnson, of course, gave us Medicare, Medicaid and the rest of the Great Society. But when Johnson left office, these programs were relatively small. The main expansion came under Republican presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Not only that, the expansions were largely the result of executive orders!”
I found I could no longer support Republican causes, which are the antithesis of my personal beliefs and experiences. Republican ideologies ignore significant historical data, and remain, primarily, the party dedicated to preserving white male causes to the exclusion of minorities, women, and those who don’t fit their narrow version of “normal.” And by the way, denigrating people with developmental disabilities is just such an example.
America is one of the richest nations in the world with a diverse population. To become a “great” country, policies must be inclusive. Our values must include plans to propel our citizens to the forefront of globalization through education, opportunity, and social equality. If that makes me a “libtard,” so be it. At least I can tell you why and how I came to my conclusions. Can you tell me how you came to yours?