As two or three of you already know, I'm a guy in my mid-thirties who cast the following votes:
I was a Republican at age nine, when my friend Paul and I went door to door for the original Bush -- the semi-moderate one who raised taxes and signed some decent legislation. He had many flaws, but he hated Reagan, and nowadays, that should count for something.
When I really got into politics was the 1994 wave. Most of you probably want to throw up a little about that day, but I was genuinely excited. You see, before he became a walking joke, Newt Gingrich was actually passionate about new ideas, modernizing government, and finding better ways to serve the poor and middle class.
Now, whether that was also horseshit or he genuinely believed it, we'll never know. But this was my impetus for really diving headfirst into GOP politics. (To give an idea of where I was coming from, my heroes were RFK and JFK, in that order)
As each election passed, I found myself less conservative on issues I agreed with the GOP on, and I found less issues in which the GOP and I matched up on. These issues were, to oversimplify, social issues, economic issues, and defense/war issues.
The first to go were social issues. Exposure to something other than my 99.9% white high school, middle to upper middle class friends and family, and some actual diversity, brought me to realize that I had as much a right to my life as everyone else did their own life choices.
Second to go were the war issues. I was for the wars at first, believing (naively, again) that we could liberate the middle east from the tyranny of "bad" islam and replace it with something more moderate. The hubris! As the bodies piled up (mostly on their side) and nothing resembling what I was sold (freedom for the m.e.), I turned against the wars.
Economic issues still kept me a Republican though, as it was "obvious" that Democrats would kill the economy and Republicans would save it, grow it, nurture it, and benefit us all. Now (and I mean to illustrate a point, not to brag) I am a smart person. And yet, I bought into this despite all evidence to the contrary. I can understand why many, many people come to this same conclusion: it seems real, it is repeated over and over until it becomes obvious, and it has a certain logic to it that makes it feel real.
In any case, it was during the health care debate when things started to click for me that perhaps everything I believed in was, to put it mildly horseshit. For lack of a better term, I had been conned -- by the right-wing media, by right-wing punditry, by right-wing ideology, and frankly, by my own need to be correct.
I was also dating someone who I'd been friends with for years and years. Her father is a lawyer, and we'd spend a lot of Fridays and Saturdays dining and talking politics. He opened my eyes with one simple concept for which I had no rebuttal. He said (and I am paraphrasing a bit) the following:
"John, the government can have too much power, as you suggest. But that power has a check on it in the form of the Constitution and the legal system behind it. But corporate power has no check. It grows and it takes what it wants and there is nothing you can do about it. That is why libertarianism (closest system to my beliefs at the time) fails. It's why Republicanism fails. It's why you're wrong."
And that was it. In an instant, it all flashed before me: the lies, the horse shit, the propaganda, the things I had bought into. Twenty-plus years of advocating and writing (I have had two smaller professional gigs as a political columnist) and it was gone in an instant. My entire persona was built on this political ideology and it was gone, replaced with many things I had spent my life opposing.
So here we are in 2012, with so much on the line, and a nation divided between two competing visions of life, of fairness, of happiness, of empathy, and of promises for the future. For the first time in my life, I am on the good side, part of team I Give A Shit About Other People.
For the first time ever, I will vote for a Democrat -- and it feels amazingly liberating. Peace to all and let's bring this one home for Obama and the rest of the ticket.