Ronald Reagan used to say that he did not leave the Democratic Party, but the Democratic Party left him. Many people who change political parties say something similar. “Oh, I miss the days when the Republican Party was much more reasonable. Now, it has been highjacked by a bunch of radicals!”
I have departed from right-wing conservatism, in the sense that I am more open now to voting for Democratic and progressive candidates. Still, I wonder: has my ideology really changed that much?
I grew up reading literature of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. It would criticize the marriage between big government and big business: big business looking to big government to suppress competitors and grant big business unfair advantages. Well, guess what? I still agree with the John Birchers that this is a problem! More than one progressive would, too. That’s one reason for progressives’ opposition to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision: it gives special interests more power to influence government decisions for their own benefit.
When I was a conservative, I believed in fiscal responsibility. The government should try to eliminate waste and inefficiency. Well, there are Democrats who say that, too! Both sides claim to care about the deficit. And both sides create their share of them! But there have been plenty of Democratic governors who have managed to balance their state budgets. There are also Democrats who propose new government spending programs, and I think that those should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis: rather than assuming that something is getting done because the government is spending more money, we should take a look at how the money is being spent. We also shouldn’t have duplicate programs. And, rather than being too hasty to create new programs, we should consider whether there are already programs that are supposed to be doing a particular job.
I wouldn’t say that the Republican Party left me. I’m just saying that my political change does not involve me repudiating everything I believed back when I was a conservative. My problem is, though, that many Republican politicians seem pretty selective in applying their principles of the free market and fiscal responsibility. My impression is that, in many cases, their decisions on this are to the benefit of the rich, and to the detriment of the poor, or those not as well-connected. And I am not saying that the Democrats are perfect, not by a long shot.
ADDENDUM: I was thinking of turning off comments for this post, since I don’t want to get into a debate with anyone, or be asked to provide examples of what I’m talking about. This post is my general reflections, not a comprehensive research paper. I’m leaving the comments on, though, because I can learn from comments, even ones that disagree with me. Feel free to comment and to disagree, and I will read the comments. But I most likely will not get into any debates.