Tuesday, October 06, 2015

For those who converted from Republican to Democratic political views, what were your reasons for supporting Republicans and conservatism…

I was never a registered Republican but I was a registered nonpartisan for decades. Republican policies forced me to finally choose. Foecing people like Lowell Weiker and Charles Percy out forced me to choose.

Answer by Chris Joosse:

What happened… was the Bush years.  During this timeframe, the party stopped even paying lip service to fiscal restraint, limited governance, or the idea of consistent rule of law.  Instead, we got
  • medicare part D (unfunded)
  • a couple of wars (unfunded),
  • tax cuts that proved not to generate promised economic growth while squandering the only balanced budget we've seen in my lifetime,
  • non-enforcement of financial regulation for the better part of a decade and the sort of financial collapse that predictably follows,
  • the Orwellian-named 'Patriot Act' (and the un-accountable, un-auditable 4th branch of government it chartered),
  • the embarrassment of Abu Ghiraib and Gitmo, the knowledge that war funds are unaccountable and have disappeared by the pallet under inadequate and corrupt supervision, and
  • a host of needless regulatory punishment of gayness and being a woman.

I was a Republican because I like limited government, rule of law and fiscal sensibility, and I believed then that supporting the GOP was my best way of expressing these values.

When the financial crisis went down, it took with it more than half of my net worth, which made it personal.  When McCain campaigned on more Bush economic policy, it told me that the GOP refused to acknowledge that financial deregulation had anything to do with the crash, and the massive bailouts of the same people who'd profited wildly from a decade of fraud looked to me not like responsible economic policy, but a massive expansion of the role of government in economic matters, on the side of and in the pocket of Wall Street.  This broke forever the illusion I'd once had that we have a free market- what we have is socialism for the wealthy and rugged capitalism for everyone else.

On social issues (like gay marriage, reproductive politics, the war on drugs) I've never thought that legislating morality accomplishes anything but state-sanctioned discrimination.  In light of their fall from grace on economic policy in my eyes, their new priorities (thwart the president, punish gays and women for being gay or sexual, supporting draconian prison sentencing, infringing on voting practices), I found the party's positions on social/moral legislation to be not just without merit, but repugnant.

In foreign policy I'd like to see more unified politics, in which partisanship ends at our shores. I'd also like to see a lot less in the way of saber-rattling, and a lot more exercise of soft power and moral leadership- that's always less expensive, and tends not to make so many enemies out of folks who could be partners or allies.  At best, the GOP's position on foreign policy is that it's never a wrong time to undermine the president as long as it plays well back home.

On fiscal issues, I'd like to see a lot less corporate welfare and the obvious corruption that accompanies it.  I think the party's talking-point focus on 'urban takers' exploits xenophobia and bigotry, a distraction at best from where the real money is being squandered- into corporate pockets.

In terms of rule of law, I'd like to see us enforce the same set of standards on big bankers and corporate polluters as we impose on the poorest and most-marginal among us. But we don't. The GOP has declined to embrace policies that work, but has rushed to defend ones that don't- for example, trickle-down austerity, "bigger dick" foreign policy, the War on Drugs, privileging the interests of the political donor class above that of everyone else.  I see a party determined to usher in a new age of religio-oligarchy, with itself as the nexus of corporate patronage and power.

I remain conservative, but have no more faith that the GOP is a vehicle for expressing my political or moral values.  What happened to my political views can best be explained in a word: disillusionment.  The things that used to appeal to me about the GOP as I grew up (rule of law, smart economics, sensible budgeting, limited government, etc) haven't actually been real party priorities in my lifetime.  That's all been an illusion.  They were never anything but talking points, and in buying them I was never anything but a useful idiot to the GOP.

I started looking differently at policy matters, and what I saw made me angry.  In my lifetime, so-called 'conservative' efforts to outsource government functions to private contractors (because 'free markets', ha) have given rise to significant amounts of government patronage and corruption. [cite: Portal:Outsourcing America Exposed
Maddeningly, these often dysfunctional and corrupt arrangements are cited by their authors as more evidence that 'government doesn't work', and therefore more outsourcing, more dismantling of government capacity, is desirable.

During the Bush years,  I began to see that the party hadn't been expressing my values at any point in my political lifetime. I learned this after the spectacular political, moral, and economic failures of these years. What it appears to have learned is that it 'wasn't conservative enough', in the sense that it didn't pander deeply enough to its corporate masters, or perhaps in that it wasn't hateful enough to gays, women, the poor, and minorities.  And perhaps most insultingly, it still claims to represent my values while doubling down on policies that go completely against them.

I'm not the only one with this experience: Revenge of the Reality-Based Community

Subsequently, during the Obama years, the GOP has only further damaged its standing in my esteem:

  • It's work to erode voting rights protections for the poor and politically marginalized
  • Its naked pandering to the will of dark money organizations and organized religion
  • Its willingness to manufacture bogus 'scandals' and credulously entertain them for years on end, spending taxpayer money to do so (for example, congress has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars 'investigating' non-stories like Benghazi, the IRS profiling affair), Birtherism, Jade Helm, claims that Michelle Obama is secretly a man, that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim, etc.
  • It's willingness to deny climate science in the face of overwhelming evidence and scientific consensus
  • Its willingness to convict the victims of violence if they are black or poor (yep, thug, had it coming, no need for due process here)
  • Its willingness to rally to the defense of bigotry, its willingness to invent 'facts' that justify it, etc.

**Edit: in the run-up to the 2016 primaries, I've observed that the sole candidate in the field who's consistently expressed my own political values is Bernie Sanders.  Even Hillary appears to be too much a creature of the establishment for my views.  The bulk of the GOP field seem to be a pack of bullies, poseurs, and would-be theocrats long on bluster, but short on leadership.

For those who converted from Republican to Democratic political views, what were your reasons for supporting Republicans and conservatism…

con·cept: October 2015