Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

It’s Not Just About Trump

More than thirty years ago I had to make one of the first decisions of my semi-adult life: which political party should I join? After much consideration, I registered Republican.

This decision was not made lightly. It was not made without a great deal of thought. Back then, there were some issues where I leaned right, and issues where I leaned left, and plenty of issues where I didn’t care a whole lot one way or the other, but I had to make a choice, so I made one. The decision was made both rationally and irrationally (rational: on the issues that were most important to me at the time, I leaned right. Rational: registering as an independent would mean I couldn’t vote in the primaries. Rational: I thought I might want a county job and I lived in a Republican dominated county. See? I was cynical even then. Irrational: my father was a Republican. Irrational: I wrote a letter to President Nixon during the energy crisis and got a letter and a neat little book).

Over the years, I’ve pulled the lever (and, now, filled in the circle with the pen and fed the ballot through the scanner; this is much less satisfying than the loud ka-thunk of a mechanical voting machine) for Republicans and Democrats alike, for every office from President down to Town Clerk. I’ve tried to be informed about my choices, and I’ve never been a person who votes simply by pulling the lever for any candidate with an ‘R’ after their name. Party, to me, has always been less important than the person running for office. I was a Republican, but hardly the card-carrying, sign waving, campaign contributing type.

And now it’s time to get off the bus.

This is not about Donald Trump. Or, mostly, not about Donald Trump. In a certain way, Trump’s ascendance to the role as Republican standard bearer is a sign that the system isn’t broken, that it’s working as intended. The people spoke, the Party swallowed and said, “Yeah, okay, he’s our guy. We don’t like him, but we can’t change the rules.” (And here’s a note to the still-smarting “Bernie Bros” out there: the DNC was against you, but the rules is the rules. Don’t complain about not being able to vote in a Democratic primary if you’re an Independent or a Green or a Working Families if your state doesn’t allow it. House Rules work great in Monopoly, but not in an election) We can trace the rise of Tump to the rise of Newt Gingrich back in the 90s, which, coincidentally, is around the time I first started thinking, “Why am I a Republican?”

Some time ago I wrote in this space about change, and my belief that, in general, people in the real world change slowly. My change from Republican to Democrat has been thirty years in the making. Who has changed? I think it’s both of us. The things that brought me to the Republicans in the first place are no longer as important to me, while other issues are more important. And of the issues that weren’t issues for me then? I consistently find myself on the other side of them. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved to the left. At the same time, the Republican Party has been moving further to the right. I am not the same, but neither is the Republican Party I signed on for all those years ago.

The final straw for me was not Trump standing there smugly in Cleveland in July. It was reading the Republican Party platform. As much as I can agree with certain Republican principles (fiscal conservatism, smaller, less intrusive government), there is so much in here to object to. If allowed, the Republicans would:

-attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade, either by judicial review or constitutional amendment returning abortion control to the state;
-attempt to overturn same sex marriage;
-allow individuals and business to discriminate against same sex couples under the guise of religious freedom;
-ignore the preponderance of scientific evidence regarding climate change and would also gut environmental protections offered by the EPA, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act;
-remove women from combat roles and infantry battalions;
-replace “‘family planning’ programs for teens with sexual risk avoidance education that sets abstinence until marriage as the responsible and respected standard of behavior”;
-push this country further toward what I think of as Judeo-Christian sharia.

Maybe some of you have read this and you say, “Yeah! I’m all for it! What’s your beef?” To me, this document, this policy statement, is just not reflective of the modern world, which is in keeping with the platform writers’ statement that “We believe the Constitution was written not as a flexible document, but as our enduring covenant.” Welcome to 1789, folks.

Maybe it is just me. Maybe if I went back and read the Republican platform from when I registered to vote, I would find the same thing. Either way, I’m glad I changed. And when this election is over, I will be changing my voter registration.

7 Responses

  1. I, too, registered as a Republican when I first voted. My parents were Republicans. I loved Reagan (but then, he'd been my Governor). I even voted for Bush I the first time. Then Clinton came along. I liked what he had to say and I wasn't happy with Bush I. I realized then I was no longer a Republican, so I changed. I thought it would be hard to do, but nope. Just told them at the next primary I was a Democrat and that was it. Easy peasy!

  2. I'm another who registered Republican when I first registered to vote. I've always voted for people not party, regardless of party. It was a different world then.

    But, to be honest, I have as many issues with the Democratic party as I do the GOP. I'm currently registered as "unaffiliated." It's easy enough, before the primary, to change that and then change back if the candidate(s) I want to support require that.

    Kind of funny, though. My mother–back when I first registered to vote–had been a lifelong Democrat and had changed to Republican.

  3. -Stacy–"Just told them at the next primary I was a Democrat and that was it"–here in New York, you have to fill out a form at least 25 days before the election you wish to vote in. Not hard, really, but I also didn't want to take the chance there would be an issue. And in a certain way, I want to make a point by voting across the lines.

    -Donna–In the interests of fairness, I have not actually read the Democratic Party Platform, and I should. There are many, many problems with them (and their #1 candidate), I agree. Perfect candidates don't exist, never did, I suppose.

  4. 'm watching the political debates, news, and struggles from the sidelines. I'm Canadian. Here we have 3 parties. I've switched a couple of times over the last 43 years. Probably will again. Times change. These are only people, after all. I guess what I'm saying is I never say never. Things change. Great post, Jeff.

  5. I think most people automatically choose to be what their parents were — they were raised that way, so it's ingrained. But it takes guts to change your mind and switch later in life. It takes actually questioning the policies of gov't and principles of life. But times change also. I used to think of the Republicans as the religious ones. Now I think the Dems are because they follow the spirit of the Bible not the letter. But never in my wildest dreams could I have anticipated something like Trump. :O

  6. -Nor could I, Lexa. It's interesting, Lexa, what you say about following the spirit of the Bible, not the letter, because the Republicans believe in the Constitution as written 200+ years ago. I think that times have changes so much so that you just can't take that approach. Thanks for commenting!

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