This article has been around for a little bit, so you may have already seen it. I don’t usually read The American Conservative, so I hadn’t. I must admit, I’m a little surprised to see them run something with the title “Confessions of a Former Republican“.
This isn’t one of those conversions that starts with someone being only nominally of the faith they abandon, either.
We believed in competition and the free market, in bootstraps and personal responsibility, in equality of opportunity, not outcomes. We were financial conservatives who wanted less government. We believed in noblesse oblige, for we saw ourselves as part of a natural aristocracy, even if we hadn’t been born into it. We sided with management over labor and saw unions as a scourge. We hated racism and loved Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., particularly his dream that his children would “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We worried about the rise of the Religious Right and its social-conservative litmus tests. We were tough on crime, tough on national enemies. We believed in business, full stop.
I intended to run for office on just such a platform someday. In the meantime, I founded the Republican club at my high school, knocked on doors and collected signatures with my father, volunteered on campaigns, socialized at fundraisers, and interned for Senator John McCain and Congressman Denny Hastert when he was House Majority Whip Tom DeLay’s chief deputy.
That’s entrenchment. So what causes someone like this to leave their politics behind? If you’re thinking it’s because the party moved and abandoned him, think again. There was some displeasure over hypocrisies, but that was just the wedge it took for…well, for reality to come barging in.
One of my roommates wasn’t surprised. He worked at a local bank branch that required two forms of ID to open an account. Lots of people came in who had only one or none at all.
I was flooded with questions: There are adults who have no ID? And no bank accounts? Who are these people? How do they vote? How do they live? Is there an entire off-the-grid alternate universe out there?
From then on, I started to notice a lot more reality. I noticed that the criminal justice system treats minorities differently in subtle as well as not-so-subtle ways, and that many of the people who were getting swept up by the system came from this underclass that I knew so little about. Lingering for months in lock-up for misdemeanors, getting pressed against the hood and frisked during routine traffic stops, being pulled over in white neighborhoods for “driving while black”: these are things that never happen to people in my world. Not having experienced it, I had always assumed that government force was only used against guilty people. (Maybe that’s why we middle-class white people collectively freak out at TSA airport pat-downs.)
This is a fascinating read. It’s also frustrating as hell. All of the information that finally got through to the author is well-known. It’s been available for ages. It’s been featured in national news. It’s raised when these arguments start.
Yet, still, people manage to consistently avoid that information. It is to headdesk.
(Thanks to Mike the Mad Biologist for the pointer to this article. You could do worse than to just follow his daily links and read.)