This story starts before the 2000 election but let’s start there as it was the first presidential election I voted in. If you recall that election was between Vice President Al Gore and the former Governor of Texas George W. Bush. For my 19 year old brain this was an election between Tipper Gore’s husband and the son of the dude that puked on the Japanese ambassador. My thoughts on voting didn’t run much deeper than Tipper Gore wanted music I liked banned and George W. Bush was silent on the matter so I’ll vote for Bush. There were other pre-conditioning factors that lead me to vote for the Republican candidate and we will get to those shortly but just understand I cast my first ballot for President of the United States for some fairly ignorant reasons.
Now is where we rewind and explain the political conditioning I had leading up to my first presidential election. My father was, and is, a Yellow Dog Republican. He is going to vote for whoever the Republicans have on the ticket. It doesn’t matter that he thinks we should have universal healthcare, that gun nuts are the worst people on the planet, or that student loans are destroying our economy. He’s never voted for a Democrat in his life and he’s not going to start now and besides look at the stock market and his taxes (just don’t mention to him that the Trump “tax cuts” raised his taxes). While I was growing up my father was like a lot of other middle class suburban voters. They’d come of age with Eisenhower as president and benefited from the prosperity of the Reagan years. Their belief in conservative values had been rewarded, and my father was never one to shy away from sharing his opinion, and one of his main opinions in life is you can’t trust a Democrat.
My mother was very different. She votes for character. I don’t remember the 1984 election because I was three and I know she thought both Dukakis and HW were stand up gentleman but I imagine her vote went to Dukakis. In the 1992 election she 100% voted for HW because of the Gennifer Flowers thing and Clinton would have done nothing to win her over during her first time. So leading up to the 2000 election I was raised by two majority Republican voters, and the biggest impact on how a person in America will vote is how their parents’ vote.
That is my background leading up to casting my ballot in my first presidential election. After that ballot was cast I was set on a path of voting conservative in the next three elections, and as I continued to cast those ballots and meet other people with differing views I had to be able to articulate and defend my views. The conservative values of personal responsibility, focus on the family, and a respect for the founding principals of our nation. You might look at the 2016 election as a crossroads of sorts for people like me, and while I, a white, straight, cis, male, is the demographic of a Trump voter I don’t view it as a crossroads nor do I think my political opinion changed.
Here we will rewind again. Back to the 2008 election and one of the worst political moves ever made when John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain was trying to simultaneously appear to women and conservative voters. John McCain was a centrist Republican and did not think he could win without the right of his party. This lead to Sarah Palin being his VP choice and that choice legitimized some fringe elements within the party and helped foster the Tea Party movement that would lead to people like Ted Cruz.
The first time I ever heard Ted Cruz speak I called my father and told him this guy is dangerous. He is a very eloquent and captivating speaker but what he says is absolutely bat shit crazy, and remember this was a couple years before I voted for Mitt Romney. I was still very much a Republican voter at this point.
2016 for me was not a crossroads. I was not a Tea Party Republican nor was a a Reagan Era Republican. I had come of age with George W. Bush and compassionate conservatism. That phrase now sounds like an oxymoron but think of some of George W. Bush’s positions on policy. Amnesty and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in America and a slow move towards clean energy and lowering our dependence on foreign oil. George W. Bush was no great environmentalist nor a champion of immigrant’s rights, but he knew where the country was headed and instead of fighting against it he was going to guide it there. In a long run many of his policies harmed people and helped lead us to our current situation, but you can’t say that George W. Bush, the man, didn’t care about people.
So here I am in 2016 having watched Donald Trump walk down his golden escalator to tell everyone he was running for president and that Mexicans are criminals and rapists. I had been voting Republican for the last 16 years because I believed that creating a fair and equal environment that gave everyone equal opportunity was the best way to help people help themselves. A few other things had happened since the year 2000 other than Donald Trump that played a role. There was the Great Recession causing my first home purchase to become a poisoned asset, the astronomical rising cost of health insurance premiums, and marrying into student loan debt. All those forces had a factor of me walking into the ballot booth in November of 2016 and casting a ballot for Hillary Clinton, but the biggest factor of all was that Donald Trump wasn’t a conservative, didn’t represent conservative values, and was a downright awful human being.
What are these conservative values? Why are they so important to me? And why do I think Joe Biden represents them better than Donald Trump?
Let’s start with personal responsibility. This first thing to understand about responsibility is that you are culpable and responsible for how your actions impact others. For example if there is a contagious and deadly disease floating in the air and the best way to help contain it is to wear a mask in public then you are personally responsible for doing your part to help protect your fellow citizens, and beyond that you are accountable for how your actions negatively impact others.
Think about personal responsibility and our two presidential candidates. Donald Trump attacks Biden for the 1994 crime bill and Joe Biden says it was a mistake. That is taking responsibility and being accountable. Those values are the hallmark of a good leader. Meanwhile Donald Trump continues to blame testing for the amount of covid cases all while not wearing a mask nor encouraging others to wear a mask. Donald Trump views Dr. Fauci’s statement about the general public not wearing N95 respirator masks when we didn’t have enough for healthcare works as a refutation of his later statement that a cloth mask helps contain the spread of covid because Trump doesn’t understand that positions can change or that people can be wrong, learn new information, and change their opinion. For Donald Trump changing an opinion and admitting you were wrong is a sign of weakness when in reality it is a sign of personal responsibility.
Focus on the family. I think this one should be easy to understand. Education starts at home, and stable home environments help children grow up and become productive members of society, but when you hear the phrase family values or focus on the family you likely think of bigoted and hateful individuals who are too narrow minded to define a family as anything other than a man, a wife, and 2.5 children. A family is much more than that. There is your biological family and then there is the family you choose to surround yourself with. A family shouldn’t be limited to happily married straight couples with their biological children. Family should have a much broader definition. It should include single parents, couples without children, friends that choose to live together, multi-generational homes, LGBTQ couples that adopted, adoptive parents, and any other situations of extended cohabitation I left out. Family should have a very broad definition, because what the goal of a family is is to create a stable and positive environment for children to grow up in and for grown-ups to exist in, and I don’t think I need to explain how Joe Biden represents this value far better than Donald Trump.
Let’s go back to the early 2000’s and not get into the South Park Country vs Rock and Roll debate of who was more American, the protestors or the war hawks, but think about those protests. Think about the burning of effigies of George W. Bush and the American flag, and then try and recall the time George W. Bush hid in a bunker or gassed the protestors so he could walk across the street and hold a bible upside down. Donald Trump might think he’s being treated unfairly but there were chart topping songs dedicated to calling George W. Bush an idiot and I can’t think of a time when he gassed peaceful protestors or buzzed them with a helicopter. We had the debate about the Iraq War and its aftermath. It was a very public debate carried out in every form of media, and neither side attempted to win the debate by taking away anyone’s rights. Because there was a respect for the founding principles of our nation.
Today we have 230,000 and counting dead from covid, we have protestors getting snatched off the street, we have people being threatened by police officers while waiting in line to vote, we have an economic crisis that is shutting down small businesses and costing people the ability to visit with friends and family. Our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are all under assault. The President refuses to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power and openly calls for voter suppression, and I cannot understand how anyone can listen to Trump or watch his actions and call themselves a patriotic American standing up for our freedoms.
Take all this together and add in the fact that America is 20 years behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to things like healthcare, gun control, education, and infrastructure and I do not think my political position or values have changed over the last 20 years. I may have voted for W because my father was a Yellow Dog Republican and Tipper Gore didn’t like 2Pac or Rob Zombie but I had to defend that position and in the defense of that position I attached myself to core conservative values. Values that are now better reflected by Joe Biden and the Democratic Party as the Republican Party has fallen to nothing more than a bunch of reactionaries longing for a mystical time that never existed in America’s past.
Our system of government is like a giant ship. It turns slowly, but when it does it is very difficult to stop. By tying themselves to Donald Trump the Republican party is fighting against the current. Our society is naturally heading to the left. A conservative looks to guide that turn and keep the change manageable, a progressive demands swift and sudden change and damn the consequences, and a reactionary does everything in their power to resist the change and turn the ship around. You can’t stop progress, and fighting it will only make the changes more severe when they arrive. The government should be a force that guides and manages change, and this is why I view Joe Biden as the far better option and candidate more reflective of conservative values on the ballot this year, and why I still consider myself a conservative.