If I was 18 today, would I be a Tea Partier?

When I hit my 18th birthday, I did two things. I went out with a friend and bought lottery tickets. And I registered to vote. It was the proudest day of my life. I didn’t register with a get out the vote group like Rock the Vote. No, I went to the Registrar of Voter’s office in Riverside, CA. I saw voting as a special privilege.

One of the side effects of social anxiety for me was spending time in my car. I couldn’t sit in class and breathe at the same time. But, I also knew I couldn’t go home either. So, I often would sit in my car listening to talk radio. I graduated from high school in 1991 and I lived in Southern California. This was during the rise of Rush Limbaugh. And one of the first major stations to carry him was KFI in Los Angeles. As a child, I gravitated toward the Republican Party. When I found out my father, who left when I was 5, was a Democrat and most likely named me after Robert Kennedy, I decided that I wanted to be the exact opposite of him. I was angry that he was gone. When I was 7 years old, Ronald Reagan became the President of the United States. I was old enough to understand what was going on before he took office. The gas lines and the reason we had to conserve energy were largely the fault of Jimmy Carter. Is it any wonder why my favorite television character became Alex P. Keaton from the show Family Ties?

Sitting in my little VW Beetle with undiagnosed social anxiety made me feel extremely powerless. But, when I listened to Rush, I felt empowered. My political arguments with people echoed what I heard on the radio and television. I used to love the confrontation. It must have been extremely frustrating to see me across the table with a big smile using my photographic memory to persuade you on the value of small government.

A year after I graduated from high school, I joined the Navy. And when the 1994 election season started, I was one of Newt Gingrich’s biggest fans. I subscribed to the American Spectator magazine. I was one of the most outspoken political people on the ship. And although I was on the Pearl Harbor Honor Guard, I quit when plans were made for President Bill Clinton’s visit to the Arizona Memorial. When out golfing with a friend, we would talk about how he was going to be my advisor when I ran for President.

But, something happened after I left the Navy. The rise of the social conservative movement. I’ve never been happy about the involvement of religion in government or even politics. To me, that’s one of the reasons America is America. Freedom from both monarchies and religious persecution. Religious doctrine of any kind has no place in American government. Although, even to this day, I have never voted for a Democrat, I started to move away from the Republican Party.

Let me back up a little bit. When I was in the Navy, a rather controversial policy was set forth. This policy was called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It was a political compromise between newly minted President Clinton and the military brass. Clinton campaigned on removing the ban on letting gays serve openly in the military. But, the military and their sympathetic supporters in Congress didn’t budge. What came from that debate was a policy that stopped “official” enforcement used to dig up evidence of a person’s homosexuality. The new policy did as the name applied. We, as the military, won’t ask if your gay. And in turn, you won’t tell us. I had many friends while I served in the Navy. One reason why serving is excellent for a young person, is it gets them out of the very narrow place they grew up in and exposes them to different cultures around the world and of people in their own country with different backgrounds. I knew several guys who had never seen the ocean before arriving in Maine to board this new ship we were assigned to. I got to know guys from cities and towns alike. Guys from rich suburbias and poor urban environments. And thanks to Facebook, I can reconnect with these great people. There were a couple of guys, one in my own division, who eventually came out to me. I didn’t ask. I just happened to be a good listener. I valued our friendships. So, I wouldn’t have outed them to our superiors. They were good people. They did their job. Who cared if they were gay.

In the many years after I left the military, I have become ambivolant about politics. I think this happens to many people as we get older. We become jaded. What I saw was candidates and congress critters alike, who didn’t have a strong belief system. They all changed what they considered their core belief system when the direction of the wind changed. They wanted, nothing more than to keep their job. It’s sad to watch. Today, you couldn’t pay me to be a Senator or Congressperson. I can’t stand the process. As an example, I’ve watched someone I used to have great respect for, Newt Gingrich, go from never mentioning “God” in public speeches to make religious references in just about every speech he’s made in the last 10 years.

Today, I see myself as a fiscal conservative and social libertarian. Small “c” and small “l”. I didn’t vote in the last presidential election. I pay only glancing attention to debates. I would rather shoot myself in the eye with a million little knives than have a political argument with someone. You know what? I’m a much happier person today.

I’d like to think that I wouldn’t be a Tea Party member if I was 18 today. But, I know I’m different at this age. I’m older. I’m somewhat wiser. I have a better understanding of the process. A better understanding of human nature. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be suckered by people like Michelle Bachmann, who is a religious zealot and homophobic bigot. Or Sarah Palin, who has a weird view of American history and can’t seem to hold a job as a Governor of a State. But, if I was 18 today, I might, for a short period of time, be suckered into supporting these fools.

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About Frogtosser

A former sailor and pizza maker who is done hiding from the world and is now living life to it's fullest extent. I'm a single speed bicycle commuter who enjoys writing and photography. I'm a voracious reader. And a huge geek!
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2 Responses to If I was 18 today, would I be a Tea Partier?

  1. Henry Koren says:

    Back around 2000 I took a liking to John McCain. When McCain talked about “agents of intolerance” it really struck a chord with me. I too see myself as a (somewhat) fiscally conservative / socially liberal. Then somewhere around 2007, McCain completely abandoned his centrist leanings, nuzzled up to Jerry Falwell, took a stand against immigrants and gays in the military, and completely lost me. Plus, the Republicans turned out to be far more liberal with their appropriations than the conservatives of past generations. I guess that’s why I’m a democrat now.

  2. “They all changed what they considered their core belief system when the direction of the wind changed.”

    So, I grew up in Alabama. Growing up in the South and learning, there, about desegregation is a unique experience. One thing I remember clearly is how hardcore George Wallace was about “segregation forever” in the 60s, and then afterwards advocating for black Americans. I remember learning he justified himself by saying something akin to, “I’m a politician. I advocated for what people wanted then, and now I advocate for what people want now.” And that makes sense to me. If you want to be a politician, you have to be willing to bury your own agenda in favor of the agenda of your constituents. They vote for you after all.

    Gay rights is the civil rights issue of our lifetime. I will be surprised if there aren’t politicians of our generation who don’t change their stance on gay rights as popular opinion shifts.

    “… The rise of the social conservative movement …”

    The “social conservative movement” is fanciful, not grounded in reality, and is causing so much damage to the day-to-day experience of your average American.

    I have not gotten to experience during my adult, political life, a political environment in which the conservative movement did not advocate for backward stances on social issues.

    I could be convinced to be a conservative were it not for what I perceive to be the closed-minded, bigoted, hateful, aggressive agenda of today’s conservatives. I could be convinced to advocate for smaller government were it not for the harmful social agenda of the party of smaller government.

    (Side note: Bill Mahr makes a good point when he says, You can’t call yourself the party of small government and then make laws about Love.)

    Palin is a lunatic, and Bachman is simply toxic. I’m comfortable saying she is a Bad Person. These politicians have little appeal to the Good Republicans, the ones who simply favor small government. These politicians only appeal to people who are hateful, who hate gays and liberals and atheists and people who think differently than they do.

    It has almost become a party of hate.

    Which is one reason that I am thankful for the Tea Party.

    I respect differing political ideologies. I respect the argument for small government.

    I will never respect the argument for segregation, or for discrimination against homosexuals, or discrimination against Bachman’s “anti-Americans.”

    And so I am happy that these lunatics and maniacs now have a political party to which they can gravitate, so we can easily identify them, and so we can simply dismiss them as ridiculous.

    Perhaps now the Righteous Republicans can make some contributions to the political landscape that doesn’t include ridiculous social posturing, and that instead consists simply of arguments for small government.

    I, as a young Democrat, have never been able to consider the Republican agenda because it has never, in my political lifetime, been differentiated from the hateful, bigoted agenda of those inclined towards the Tea Party.

    So, in summary. Tea Party? Good.

    Get those lunatics into one corner. Sit them at the kids’ table so the grown-ups can talk about serious stuff.

    My hope is to marginalize these clowns, and render them unfit for consideration.

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