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Why John Cole Switched Parties

John Cole of Balloon Juice has an interesting post about how and why he changed from being a Republican to a Democrat. It has serious points to make about both parties, about why he simply couldn’t remain a Republican but why he also continues to be frustrated with the Democrats:

A couple of you are wondering what made me switch parties in the other thread. It was a lot of things, but part of it was finally just coming to terms with everything I believed in was bullshit. There are only so many times you can try to justify something, then watch the Bush administration cut you off at the knees, or see them get caught blatantly lying, or doing things like having their FEMA officials stage “press conferences” in which the reporters were… FEMA officials. Or all the talk about about deficit reduction while exploding the national debt. Or all the lies and lies and lies about Iraq. Torture and Schiavo were the beginning fissures for me. Every single one of you, if I were to say finish this phrase: “The sanctity of…” would be able to blurt out “marriage.” And yet, in an issue that is the business of no one but husband and wife, there was the GOP rushing to pass a national law INJECTING themselves into someone’s allegedly sanctified marriage. The fact that they were trashing the courts and ignoring medical science was just the icing on the cake.

It’s easy to say- BUT I SAW THROUGH ALL THE SHIT WAY BEFORE THAT, WHY DIDN’T YOU?

I really don’t know why. I believed it. I identified with it. It was part of who I was for years. It was my deference to authoritarianism after years in the military. It was tribalism. A lot of it is because Democrats just seem like such spineless wimps who never fucking fight for anything they believe in. I’m a Democrat now and more sensitive to language than I once was, so I’m hesitant to call Democratic officials pussies because I know it will result in 20 emails yelling at me for my sexism, but good Christ the Democrats were and still are pussies. It’s enough to make you want to smash your head through your computer monitor when you see them constantly capitulating. Republicans might be crazy, but at least they fucking fight. Whether I am right or wrong, I stand up for what I believe. I’ll put my name, my ass, and my money on the line. So watching people repeatedly cave just makes me have no respect for them whatsoever. Sure there are political realities, but good grief, stand for something. I’m honestly shocked that other than a few jackasses, the Democrats fought the good fight on this latest contraceptives bullshit. It was all of these things and above. Having said all that, eventually I hit my breaking point with the GOP.

I think the meanness of the GOP was a big part of it. The outing people on the internet, the religious fanatics, the attempts to get people fired, the absolute unwillingness to ever admit error, the smearing of the Schiavo’s husband, the gay-bashing, etc. Even if I bought into wingnut bullshit, I never thought of myself as a hater. And let’s be clear- I can be a colossal dick, but I’m not by nature a hater. I think you can understand the difference. I’m a live and let live kind of guy, I prefer growing things and nurturing things to destroying them, but I have no problem chucking hand grenades or shooting first if I think it is an imperative. I’ll help anyone who asks for it, but I’ll also not flinch before punching someone in the neck if I think they are threatening someone or something I love.

And while Republicans may very well have been crazy for decades, the outright ugliness, I think, has escalated beyond measure. The hideous treatment of Graeme Frost was the final straw, I guess. It was just the last, final, “WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” moment. You see the same thing from the same folks as they viciously attack Trayvon Martin for his horrible sin of being gunned down in cold blood.

What’s most interesting to me about it is this question of why we — all of us, not just him — sometimes persist in holding on to blatantly false beliefs and unhealthy associations. I’ve done it. I’m sure you have to. And it’s almost always the case that, once you make the break from those beliefs or associations, you almost immediately wonder to yourself why the hell you hadn’t done it sooner, how you’d fooled yourself for so long. I’ve done it on a personal romantic level and on religious and political levels as well.

I think the answer lies in our ability to rationalize. Once again I highly recommend Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson. It will help you understand your own brain’s ability to rationalize your beliefs and behavior and force you to question yourself more often. That is enormously important for anyone who wants to believe and behave more rationally.

Comments

  1. says

    Does that mean the GOP’s [current] descent into [a deeper level of] madness is potentially pushing a bunch more John (and Jane) Coles out of the party?

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    A lot of it is because Democrats just seem like such spineless wimps who never fucking fight for anything they believe in. … the absolute unwillingness to ever admit error

    Connect the dots. Is unwillingness to compromise a weakness or a virtue?

  3. plutosdad says

    That book has been on my Amazon wish list for awhile, and coincidentally my fiance just bought it for me today!
    That and The New Jim Crow are are two new books we are going to read, after just finishing up Bossypants. :) (bossypants is great btw, lots of information on the feminist fight in comedy that i wasn’t expecting)

  4. says

    Whether I am right or wrong, I stand up for what I believe.

    Yes, and that’s how we do so much harm. It’s better to not fight than fight for wrong things.

    He may as well have said:

    Whether I am right or wrong about people being murderers on the prowl, I shoot them anyway

  5. says

    And yet, in an issue that is the business of no one but husband and wife….

    Or husband and husband. Or wife and wife. Seriously, language really matters here.

    A lot of it is because Democrats just seem like such spineless wimps who never fucking fight for anything they believe in.

    Yet Balloon Juice is full of Obamabots who defend any and every damn thing the president does and denounce any dissenters as “firebaggers.”

    Reginald Selkirk:

    Connect the dots. Is unwillingness to compromise a weakness or a virtue?

    It depends on what you’re willing to compromise on. I don’t respect those who look at other people’s rights and see bargaining chips.

    OTOH, as JT (Generic) said, I don’t respect people who will go to the mat for horrible things, either.

  6. Brownian says

    Connect the dots. Is unwillingness to compromise a weakness or a virtue?

    I think it’s a thing like how American Christians are poor, marginalised, put upon victims of oppression and at the same time it’s our house and if you don’t like it you can leave.

  7. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    A lot of it is because Democrats just seem like such spineless wimps who never fucking fight for anything they believe in. … the absolute unwillingness to ever admit error

    Connect the dots. Is unwillingness to compromise a weakness or a virtue?

    This reads as though you believe that either you always believe you’re right, or you never do. You can’t really mean this, can you?

  8. howardpeirce says

    Gah. John Cole always pisses me off. He pissed me off in 2003, and he continues to piss me off every time he tries to excuse his spectacular wrongness.

    Look, John Cole was a Republican, and he believed as Republicans do. Now he’s a Democrat, and he believes as Democrats do. But, there’s no fucking reason for an intelligent, thinking person (which John Cole is) to belong to any political party.

    I’m a registered Independent. It’s an option that is available to everyone. Independent doesn’t mean “centrist,” it means “not a member of a political party.”

    Cole reminds me of a Christian who becomes an atheist, and then rushes out to join the Unitarian/Universalists.

    Let the political parties lose membership, let them bleed members the way mainstream religions are bleeding members. And then let the political parties fight for my vote.

    Some would say I’m a Democrat. I’ve not voted for a Republican since 1992; I haven’t voted for a third party since 2002 (in a local election). But I’m not a Democrat; I’m a lesser-of-two-evilist.

    If everyone, in every election, voted for the lesser of two evils, then politicians would be forced to be less evil than the other guy in order to get elected. I fail to see the downside.

  9. dingojack says

    Uh Johnno – “It’s easy to say- BUT I SAW THROUGH ALL THE SHIT WAY BEFORE THAT, WHY DIDN’T YOU?”

    I saw through the Republicans (and ‘conservatives’ generally) around 1974 (when I was nine years old), WHY DIDN’T YOU? It wasn’t as if it was concealed or difficult to grasp, so what’s your excuse?

    Dingo

  10. d cwilson says

    Connect the dots. Is unwillingness to compromise a weakness or a virtue?

    Depends on what you’re compromising on and for what.

    The problem, though, is twofold. The democrats are willing to compromise on everything while the republicans are willing to compromise on nothing, even when the democrats give them everything they want.

  11. says

    @howardpierce

    But I’m not a Democrat; I’m a lesser-of-two-evilist.

    Same. I’m not really a fan of Obama, but I don’t see him as being bad either.

    I just don’t understand the “Obama didn’t accomplish as many of his campaign promises that he said he’d do, so therefore vote for the batshit insane people” mentality.

  12. Reginald Selkirk says

    I’ll tell you why John Cole switched parties: because he’s a pussy! A weakling. Because he’s got no ‘nads.

  13. Fred Mounts says

    ame. I’m not really a fan of Obama, but I don’t see him as being bad either.

    The innocent victims of drone attacks thank you for your opinion.

  14. dingojack says

    Freddo –
    ’cause the Republicans would never do that in a million years, never ever.
    @@

    You were saying.

    Dingo

  15. Fred Mounts says

    Well, dingojack, I loathe the republicans, so if you were suggesting that I’m a conservative, you were wide-right. However, I do feel that no one who can order the slaughter of civilians should be considered as not bad.

  16. D. C. Sessions says

    howardpeirce, there are reasons for belonging to a political party besides tribal affirmation.

    Right at the top of the list is your “lesser of two evils” “plague on both your houses” point: it’s the party members (and especially the party workers who actually have an input into those narrow choices you get on Election Day. If the extent of your civic involvement is bitching in the comment sections of blogs and checking some boxes every two or four years, don’t be surprised that the results don’t much reflect your preferences.

  17. says

    D. C. Sessions “If the extent of your civic involvement is bitching in the comment sections of blogs and checking some boxes every two or four years, don’t be surprised that the results don’t much reflect your preferences.”
    What about the BCSBCSBETFY Party?

  18. woodytanaka says

    “Connect the dots. Is unwillingness to compromise a weakness or a virtue?”

    That’s not what he’s talking about. As someone who made the same trip as Cole, I can tell you that he’s not talking about being willing to compromise, he’s talking about an unwillingness to fight. It’s two different things.

  19. says

    I’m a registered Independent. It’s an option that is available to everyone. Independent doesn’t mean “centrist,” it means “not a member of a political party.”

    I’m not a joiner, personally, but I recognize the advantage of numbers for political purposes.

    Most “independents” in my experience are less so than they’d like to believe. The important thing to them is that they get to feel superior to both sides.

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