As a kid, I was raised Republican–but not for religious reasons. The Democrats were stupid donkeys; the Republicans were smart elephants. Abortion and gay rights were barely a blip on the fundie screen in those days. Adding religion to it didn’t happen until I started watching The 700 Club around 1987 or 1988.
I watched it on and off starting around age 12, but it wasn’t until around 14 or 15 that I started watching it every day, seeing it as important as my new determination to read the Bible daily. Pat Robertson indoctrinated me into the idea that Democrats were evil atheist liberals out to destroy all we hold dear, while the Republicans were righteous warriors saving our country from baby-killers and homosexuals and big government. I believed everything he said because he was a Christian preacher.
And yet, even though my dad was very conservative, he still told me that voting by party when the other guy is a better candidate, is stupid. He still said not to listen to Pat Robertson or the people who say we need to put prayer back in schools. He said that presidents could not do anything they wanted, that the courts told Nixon he had to turn over the tapes.
In college, chinks in the wall started coming as I took classes on Persuasion and Mass Media. I learned about logical fallacies and how words can be manipulated to bring emotional responses. I learned that The 700 Club hadn’t always told the truth about stories in the news. I learned that Rush Limbaugh was highly manipulative, how he cut people off when he didn’t like their comments and formed the reactions of listeners. Pat Robertson kept saying over and over that God told him over and over that Bush would win in 1992; when Clinton won, Pat’s only explanation was, “I guess I missed it.”
I started to recognize that everything Pat said about the cultural wars was also suspect–not abortion or gay rights yet, but everything to do with the Satanic Panic: rock music, Dungeons and Dragons, Halloween, etc. I had no idea he might be a racist until he defended a school board in 1994 that wanted to focus on white history. I began hearing about the religious right during that time, realizing finally just what Pat really was. Once in a while I’d turn on The 700 Club, but only to criticize. It took longer to break from the show’s teachings on charismatic sign gifts, which led me into believing God wanted me with guys who were very wrong for me.
In 1994, I also dated a guy for a month who was very much into Rush Limbaugh and the extreme end of the party. I was turned off when he screamed at an elderly woman in the cafeteria for saying something that he thought was too “liberal.”
So I was not an extremist by any means, recognizing by now that I had been misled by them, but you didn’t have to be an extremist Republican to be against abortion or gay rights. I was also influenced by the teachings of conservative Christianity as well.
But over time, probably starting around 1995, I began to say that it was gay sex, not the passive act of being gay, that was the sin. In the next several years, as I learned that my own behavior (introversion, NVLD/Aspergers, etc.) was influenced by things I was born with and could not change, I began to listen to the argument that being gay is something you’re born with and can’t change or be blamed for.
That particular issue took a long time to deal with, as I first examined papers put out during the mid-naughts by the liberal ends of the Presbyterian and Lutheran churches, then read Orthodox views on the subject, then realized that maybe the Presbyterians and Lutherans were right after all. Re-examining the abortion issue came later.
But as for strict politics–Because I had finally recognized the religious right for what it was, the extremist end of the party, and the fact that Pat Robertson had not told me the truth about Democrats, I was now more aware of how Republicans behaved in the halls of Congress. Locally I didn’t see much to worry about, but in Washington, Republicans were actively trying to destroy Democrats. Ever since Clinton was elected, the GOP members of Congress had been trying to bring him down. They fought everything he did, badmouthed Hillary, and started the Whitewater investigation–which all looked like a bunch of nothing.
Even though I thought Clinton was scummy because he cheated on his wife, Kennedy did the same thing, and Clinton did do some good things, such as balancing the budget and bringing us a surplus. From what I recall, I hated Clinton, but not with the passion of the GOP leaders. I agreed with Republicans on abortion, but was beginning to move further away from their views on most everything else. And when Clinton was impeached for lying about getting a BJ in the Oval Office, I wrote to my penpal saying I was done being a Republican. But I didn’t like the Dems, either, so I didn’t know where to go.
In 2000, for the first time, I liked both candidates (though I would’ve preferred McCain) and examined the platforms of both sides. I was turned off Gore, however, during one debate when he seemed to physically threaten Bush. I rooted for Bush during the Recount and thought I was more Republican after all.
But in the naughts, it all changed for good. First, I kept taking quizzes that said I agreed with everything the Democrats stood for–except for abortion rights. (That changed later as I discovered that I wasn’t being told the truth about that, either.) I supported Bush in the early years, but then things started coming out like torture, Gitmo, and a few items in the Patriot Act that seemed to overstep onto our freedoms as Americans. The more I learned about these things, and that there were no WMDs in Iraq, the more I saw Bush as evil.
And yet no matter what he did, the GOP–both in Washington and here in Wisconsin–supported it all: torture, the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq. The Dems temporarily blocked a Supreme Court pick because he helped justify torture, but to this day the GOP spins it as just being arbitrary obstructionism, which they use as an excuse for their own.
Then the Downing Street Memo came out, but got buried, everybody forgetting about it, when I thought for sure it and torture would lead to the impeachment of Bush. I remember reading it, and I probably wrote letters and/or e-mails to representatives about it as well, trying to get something done–but then it all went away. That’s when the GOP powers of persuasion really became obvious, and the way that the GOP circled their wagons and supported everything their leaders did, no matter how evil. Around this time, a venerated citizen of our little city voted against the GOP for the first time in his 105+ years, because, as he said, Bush had “hijacked the Republican Party.”
In 2004, I was now an Independent, and voted for a Democrat for President for the first time. This was also the year “Megalomaniac” by Incubus came out; even though it wasn’t actually about Bush, the video clearly was, and it just cemented what I was learning about the GOP.
In the naughts, I also learned that the opposition to the science of climate change could be traced back to the Koch brothers, who funded “studies” with fake conclusions, since their oil earnings would be affected. I learned that a lot of the ridiculous claims I was hearing from right-wing conservatives came from the John Birch Society, which also traced right to the Koch brothers. I didn’t hear about George Soros–the “boogeyman” to the GOP–until much later, but while I could find verification about the stories about the Koch brothers, the stories about Soros were very easily debunked.
I also met a very poor family and saw how their circumstances kept working against them; they were one reason why I turned Democrat: because Republican policies totally ignored the realities of poverty, expecting people to help themselves. Ironically, this family fervently voted and worked against their own interests, believing Democrats were “baby killers” and that the GOP or Libertarians were their saviors.
In 2008, I voted for McCain, since I was Independent, not Democrat. But the more I learned about Dems, the more I realized I identified with them best.
Over the years, I’ve seen and heard a lot; there have been occasions when Democrats behaved badly, but by and large, the Republican Party has been committing the largest part of the grave offenses. They have been grasping more and more for power, hypnotizing their people with lies through FOX News and various radio show hosts (such as Limbaugh). The more power they get, the harder it is to fight back.
It doesn’t matter where they are in the political chain–Washington, or locally–they have been continuously lying to the people, brainwashing them into thinking that the interests of big corporate fat cats are somehow the same as the interests of the little guy. They’ve been lying about abortion and homosexuality, while at the same time, using those issues as lures for gullible Evangelical voters.
Somehow the GOP has become “God’s Own Party” even though it goes against everything Jesus ever taught us about how to treat the poor, minorities, women, and others. Current GOP policy also violates everything the Bible teaches about treatment of immigrants. It doesn’t matter to them if it saves or improves lives or is wildly popular with the people–If Democrats propose something, the Republicans oppose it. If Dems manage to pass the thing, the GOP will try to get rid of it as soon as possible, bringing back the bad old ways under which people suffer.
They constantly harassed Obama, refusing to do anything he wanted, and criticizing everything he did. Their followers posted pictures of him as the Joker and with a noose around his neck. Obama was a good president and a devoted family man, a Christian, but the GOP painted him as EVIL and lots of people believed it.
Meanwhile, we now have a president who is the epitome of a malignant narcissist, with a history of selfishness, greed, rape and other criminal behavior, and no trace of Christianity, who is showing every sign of wanting to be dictator, yet the GOP paints him as a glorious savior who couldn’t possibly do anything wrong.
Obama did his best to promote peace, though he did make serious errors; the GOP maligned him for this. Meanwhile, Trump is an actual security risk, destabilizing the Middle East with his reckless actions and putting our country at greater risk of everything from blackmail to nuclear attack–and the GOP supports him. (I wrote this before getting the news that the GOP is upset about pulling out of Syria–but who knows if that’ll last long, either?)
They’ve been gerrymandering. We Americans keep falling further and further behind other industrialized countries, who have things like high speed rail and government-paid medical care and even pensions. Meanwhile, if we Americans can’t find a job in our small town, we’re stuck unless we pick up our lives and move away from friends and family, because the commute to a better job is too far. We Americans get easily bankrupted by health problems, and can expect to work until we’re dead, with very little vacation time. This all suits the fat cats just fine, because they’re rich and getting richer. While the little guy keeps voting against his own interests because he’s been brainwashed into thinking the alternative is “EVIL socialism.”
Encountering the TEA Party up close and personal among friends back when it started, showed me just how ignorant and harmful it actually was. I didn’t need the “liberal media” to “spin” it for me. I watched in horror as it took over the GOP, kicking out more moderate members and turning the whole party TEA. I remember, in 2007, looking at Ron Paul’s platform and thinking, “Geez, what a nutcase.” Now his nutty ideas are GOP dogma.
Some people didn’t leave the GOP until recently, because of Trump. Some people don’t seem to realize that ousting Trump will get rid of a security risk who is totally inept and self-serving–but won’t fix the problem, because the fault lines go back decades.
The TEA Party takeover of the GOP may have just happened in the last decade, but it comes from the extremism that was already there in the party for years. And it has been pushing out what was still left in the GOP of moderation and decency, until we now have this: a party that goes from criticizing Trump to kissing his backside, and defends every crappy thing he does, until now they’re trying to tell us,
“Don’t believe the mainstream media. They’re LIBERAL and can’t be trusted. Don’t believe what they tell you is in the Mueller Report. Don’t believe the whistleblower. No, only believe what we tell you. Nothing to see here–No, Kavanaugh didn’t commit sexual assault against at least three girls. No, Trump is not corrupt. No, Trump did not collude or obstruct. No, Trump did not threaten the leader of another country into helping him smear a political opponent. No, it’s all liberal lies. WE’LL tell you the truth.”
And the scariest part is when I hear loved ones repeat the lies the GOP has been saying. I post something on Facebook and friends/family react with “laugh” emojis even though it wasn’t a joke. I’ll post factual articles, while they respond with GOP talking points, and sound ignorant because those are not facts. It’s frightening what the right-wing has been doing to this country.