As I have written before, I grew up in a Republican household in rural Texas. My parents were Republicans, and I was taught at an early age how important it was to vote. I vividly recall holding either my mom or dad's hand while they waited in line to vote at the local fire station. They voted in every election - presidential, mid-term, local. They were never terribly political, but I remember their excitement when Reagan was elected, and then Bush Sr. So, even if it wasn't stated outright, they were Republicans and I knew it. I, like many kids do, assumed that since they were Republicans, and since I admired and respected them so much, that made me a Republican too.
The first presidential election I was eligible to vote in was in 1996. I was in college, and had not registered in the town where I was in school. So, I didn't vote. I voted for Dubya in 2000. YES, I did it, I own it. I have come to terms with my shame on that, though it took me years. (On a side note, I used to watch Bill O'Reilly, and Hannity and Colmes back in those days, so I'm also a reformed Faux News watcher as well.)
Between the 2000 and 2004 election, that little war of choice called Iraq happened. This is when my transition began. I listened to the case they made for war, and nothing made sense. Things didn't add up - why were we invading a sovereign country that had NOTHING to do with 9/11? Why am I watching bombs exploding on national TV at night, like this is something I should be proud of? I was disgusted.
Iraq started it all for me. I then began to question EVERYTHING. And what I found was that I had been sold a big ass pack of lies for years. Oddly enough, it wasn't hard to figure out - I simply hadn't LOOKED.
Trickle-down economics DOESN'T work. Regulations aren't all HORRIBLE JOB KILLERS. Tax cuts for the wealthy DO NOT CREATE JOBS. Cutting taxes in a time of war BLOWS UP THE DEFICIT. People on welfare are not all LAZY MOOCHERS living the high life on the government dime. Climate change is ABSOLUTELY F*ING REAL!
Even with these realizations, I couldn't quite bring myself to vote for a Democrat. I felt like a traitor. I didn't vote in 2004. Between 2004 and 2008, I continued my quest to learn as much as I could. I researched, I found websites that had more progressive viewpoints. Huffington Post was one of the first I stumbled across, and then somehow I found the Daily Kos. I was a lurker here for quite some time before I actually signed up.
For the 2008 election, I acknowledged the inevitable - I was going to vote for a Democrat. I had already decided to vote for Obama before John McCain chose his running mate. But once Sarah Palin stepped on the scene, holy shit!! I thought I was in the Twilight Zone. Are they serious? How anyone could believe she was a serious candidate for VP of the United States was beyond me. It was at this time that I made my first ever donation to a political candidate.
The 2008 election was one of the nastiest displays I had ever seen. I have never heard such nonsense. Palling around with terrorists, Reverend Wright, Ayers, Kenyan, Muslim, birth certificates, he isn't a "Real American" with "Real American values."
The once respectable party I was a member of is overrun with racists, misogynists, science deniers, forced birthers, and stupid ass baggers dressed in stupid ass costumes. (though I realize the "baggers" pretty much encompasses all the rest of those categories.)
I am a Democrat because I believe in science. Climate change cannot, and should not, be ignored. I believe in a social safety net, and in helping my fellow citizens through hard times. I believe in a living wage. I am tired of seeing the middle class decimated by policies that benefit the super rich. I want money out of politics, and I'm tired of the rich buying elections. I do not believe that religion belongs in our government, or in our public schools. I believe that voting should be made easier for all, not made harder for those who just don't vote the "right way." I believe healthcare is a right, not a privilege for those lucky enough to afford it. I believe women should be paid equally with men for their work, and I believe that abortion is a choice for a woman, her doctor, and her God (if she believes in one) only. I believe people who love each other and want to marry should have that right, regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe in equality and opportunity, and I will continue to fight for all my fellow citizens to have those things.
And here is my last thought for you. Some of you are lifelong Democrats. I see a lot of talk about the party needing "better dems." I do not disagree.
But, as someone who came from the other side, I encourage you to embrace all who come to our side. It is a journey, and for many, a difficult transition. It requires reflection, genuine interest, and an openness to new ideas. And once that process is started, I believe it will continue. Once the mind is open, anything is possible.
I went from a Republican, to a hesitant Democrat, to a full-blown, raging liberal. Had I been dismissed or frowned upon during my "hesitant Democrat" phase, who knows where I would have ended up?? I was fortunate enough to have people around me that were willing to discuss things with me, and help me find answers to my questions. I learned an enormous amount by lurking on this site. I have no doubt this site will have more just like me who show up - and we should do our best to answer their questions, and help them along their journey -because you never know where that journey will end.