I should be a Republican. Studies show that kids tend to vote like their parents. My parents are Republican, conservative Southern Republicans. My dad block votes Republican, one party, one lever, one vote. I was raised in a Southern protestant church (Church of Christ). My dad was in the military; I was in the military. I have lived a significant portion of my life in the South: Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas. I have adopted some culture attitudes and personal habits that are a direct result of living in the South.1 I come from poor Southern rural stock, and since the Civil Rights era, poor Southern rural voters have been Republican.
Poor Southerners used to vote Democratic. This was before the GOP’s Southern Strategy. The Southern Strategy is the name for the GOP’s plan to winning in the Southern States. This winning of the South was based on fanning the fears of anti-black racism and supposed anarchy that would happen if African-Americans were given the same voting rights as their white Southern neighbors. My grandfathers were Democrats. One was a sharecropper and the other was a coal miner. Neither was moneyed or empowered in a political sense. My mother’s dad, the coal miner, was also a union organizer due to the coal mining industry’s exploitation of workers in the 1940s-1960s. Supposedly, my dad’s dad (an uneducated sharecropper) was paid to vote Democratic. Regardless of reasons for their voting, neither man would have voted Republican until the passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Today is not the late 60s, nor do I not vote Republican because of the Southern Strategy, I don’t vote Republican for a number of reasons that are both visceral (like being disgusted by the GOP’s Southern Strategy), and (what I believe to be) rational reasons. Any reader, and especially any Republican voter, could provide counterpoints to my issues with the GOP; feel free to comment.
– Evangelical Minority Even though I raised a Southern protestant,2 I do not attend any church or religious service. I do not pretend to have a personal relationship with any god. My view on religion is pretty narrowly focused on the idea of privacy. Individual religious practices and beliefs are things that are confined to one’s life. The idea that someone would push their religious views into the political realm seems abhorrent to me. In a nation of over 300 million, it is hard to imagine a single set of religious views and rules as being the only “right” way to govern both personal and public life of the nation. Governmental attempts to run a middle, secular, course is not a trumping of religious beliefs, but an attempt at ensuring that not only allowing the religious to privately practice their beliefs, but it also ensures that individuals like myself are protected from theocratic rule. The very vocal evangelical minority within the GOP is a barrier. Libertarians would agree whole heartedly with my view on religion. Unfortunately, the GOP cannot ignore this minority because of its clout within the party and its ability to garner votes. I cannot associate myself with an organization that denounces the idea of other nations being ruled as theocracies, yet is willing to be influenced by a minority that seems to desire a similar style of governing.
– “Free Market” As much as I see the theoretical idea of allowing the market to govern itself, I also know that man is not a creature to encourage and ask for a fair playing field. What men want is to gain power, money, and influence at any cost. Exploitation of workers is not just a problem of modern China, it is a problem that America has encountered time and time again in its past. As stated earlier, my two grandfathers were men who were exploited by an economic system. Viscerally, I can’t support an economic ideal espoused by the GOP when I understand that market failure is possible. Supply and demand is the cornerstone of the free market ideal, and supply and demand doesn’t take into account externalities which may lead to monopolies. Deregulation, or industries prior to regulation, does not lead to market equilibrium, it leads to exploitation.
– Historical Racism As stated earlier, the GOP’s Southern Strategy was racism. Today, there is still a tinge of racism within the GOP. Ken Mehlman, George W. Bush’s campaign manager and Chairman of the Republican National Committee stated in 2005:
“Republican candidates often have prospered by ignoring black voters and even by exploiting racial tensions,” and, “by the ’70s and into the ’80s and ’90s, the Democratic Party solidified its gains in the African-American community, and we Republicans did not effectively reach out. Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization. I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.”3
It has even been argued that the GOP has become, by default, a Southern party… or overall appealing to the South while alienating other voters in other regions.4 Eradicating this racist history and attempting to mend fences would go far within the political arena for the GOP.
– GOP Rhetoric Mix an evangelical voice (and prayer), utopian belief in free market, and racial epithets, you get a brand of politics that is more divisive than inclusive. Social conservatism is not known for friendly politicking. Opposition to same-sex marriage, “cold dead fingers” hold on the right to bear arms, yet a total disbelief in other decisions such as the constitutional right to an abortion causes the GOP to sound angry, white, and selfish. Sounding like this doesn’t mean that every Republican is angry, white, and selfish, it just portrays a certain world view that doesn’t match mine.
Overall, I know that it truly comes down to a personal philosophy on governing and personal views on societal responsibilities. I do not believe in allowing personal religious views to trump other views and beliefs. I do not believe that corporations, industries, and moneyed individual will protect individual workers and the environment. I do not trust a political party that has a past that included exploitation of white Southern voters’ racist fears. In the end, I don’t trust a party that claims the moral high ground when that “high” ground is narrowly defined by the party itself. I view my role as a citizen (and as a voter) in a manner that lends itself more to the idea of pursuing my own personal happiness while ensuring that others who are less fortunate are provided some sort of opportunity to better themselves.
*for the record I don’t consider myself a Democrat either and, yes, I will be writing a piece on why I can’t vote Democratic.
1. However, as I have gotten older and experienced the world, I have discovered that a lot of the things I attribute to the South are also present in other parts of the country and world.
2. Even as a child and living overseas, my mother ensured we went to church and “broke bread” with other Southern protestants.
3. Mike Allen, “RNC Chief to Say It Was ‘Wrong’ to Exploit Racial Conflict for Votes,” The Washington Post, July 14, 2005. Richard Benedetto, “GOP: ‘We were wrong’ to play racial politics,” USA Today, July 14, 2005.
4. Adam Nossiter, “For South, a Waning Hold on National Politics,” The New York Times, November 10, 2008.