Thursday, November 8, 2012

Raised Right, I Left

In this morning's New York Times, Republican Senator Susan Collins (Maine) is quoted as saying, "It has never made sense that my party, the party of individual freedom and personal responsibility, thinks the government should be involved in issues" like abortion. "We are the party that trusts individuals to make their own decisions. That is one of the defining issues of the differences between Republicans and Democrats. So this is just bewildering to me."

Frankly, her statement bewilders me.  I grew up in a solidly Republican household in the 1960s and 70s.  As I child, I accompanied my father, a precinct captain, door-to-door at election time.  We stored "car tops" in our garage for Republican candidates.  I was proud of my collection of campaign buttons and collected autographs of local politicians.  I rode on the GOP float in the 4th of July parade.

My Republican parents instilled the values that Ms. Collins describes, and I believe that is precisely why I have moved steadily to the left for the past thirty years.  Meanwhile, the GOP has slid so far to the right, it bears little resemblance to the party my parents believed in 30 years ago. Like many though, my parents still vote Republican despite the wide gap between the party's policies and their core values.

What are those values?  Full equality for women.  A woman's right to choose.  Gun control.  How can one claim to be "pro-life" and yet support the death penalty or "pre-emptive" war?  The separation of church and state (whether Christian, Muslim, or Jewish).  Respect for human rights.  Respect for people of all races, ethnicities, religions, national origins, sexual orientations.  Gay marriage.  Free speech.  Health care as a right; not a privilege for the rich and those with full-time employment.

Growing up, I never thought of these values as "Republican" or "Democrat" but in the last few decades, these have been the values and the issues of the Democrats.  The Republican leadership has moved from "limited government" to proposing government control over women's bodies and legislating a very narrow definition of "marriage" and "family". They've moved from fiscal responsibility to policies that increase the gap between rich and poor, which ultimately cost our country more.

My parents raised me right.  And that's why I vote Democrat.