I call on all Kossacks to submit at least one diary in the next few weeks, speaking about what the Democratic Party has meant, and means, to them. Speak of your very first introduction to progressive politics. Speak of a personal hero in the party. Speak about some family member, friend or coworker who has seen the light, and who no longer wishes to use government for the purposes of shredding our national fabric, but who wants to pitch in and sew it back together.So where to begin?
It of course helps to be the child of two liberal parents. Very Catholic, but also very liberal. Nowadays, people would look askance at that, but back then it wasn't that unusual--my parents, after all, were of the same generation as the Kennedys.
Growing up in the 70s, and going through high school in the early 80s, I remember watching the Watergate hearings on TV and thinking they were just another TV show. I remember more clearly the 1976 debate between Ford and Carter when Ford made his famous Poland gaffe. As young as I was, I always thought Carter was a fine President, and I never understood why so many people disliked him. I always thought there was something artificial about Reagan--too "slogany", as it were.
But if you want to hear what really turned me off to Republicanism, jump below the Chee-to:
Alex P. Keaton.
That's right. The character on Family Ties played by Michael J. Fox. The young, aggressively conservative, me-first, always thinking about personal profit above even the well being of his family.
And strange as it may seem, my Catholic education taught me that was anathema. First in Catholic school, then in the religious education we had when I transferred to public school, growing up during the "hippie Mass" era really gave us a good foundation of social justice and love and care for our brothers and sisters.
But back to Mr. Keaton. Even though he was a TV character, I was seeing too much of people like him in real life as I started entering college. I graduated high school in 1984, right when the campaign was heating up. I cheered when Mondale told the truth on the podium at the convention. However, I was only 17 at the time, and I couldn't vote. And I was crushed at the loss.
However, I carried on through the disgrace of Iran-contra and the hope that was Dukakis. Then came the tank. SNL had a brilliant send up of the debate where John Lovitz, playing Dukakis, looks at the camera, and says: "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy". Neither could anyone else. But I cast my first vote in a Presidential election for a Democrat.
And on it has gone. I have very occasionally voted for Republicans at the local level, but that was a long time ago, and for people who would be running as Democrats today--they may have been fiscally conservative, but they were people of principle, and believed in the fact that there was a purpose to government and that purpose was to serve the people. ALL the people.
And it's so strange today. With the advent of social media, I've connected with old friends I haven't seen in years from high school. And about 95+% of them are on the left end of the political spectrum.
Granted, we all lived in a pretty Democratic town (Oak Park, IL), but there were plenty of Republicans there as well. But most of my friends were also involved in the arts. So our minds were opened to new things. It wasn't really until I got to Arkansas that I started meeting a lot of more conservative people that were involved in music and theater and such.
But why did I become a Democrat, you ask? I think it's always been hard wired into me, and that NOT being a Democrat would be the shocking thing. My brother the banker is the closest thing to a Republican in my immediate family, and even he's more of a Clinton/Cory Booker Democrat.
As far as my extended family, most are relatively center-ish. Some are center left-ish, more are center-right. The most jaw-dropping political moment involving them happened after my father died in 2008. He had filled out his primary ballot, though--Obama over Clinton. Anyway, my aunt (my father's sister) the nun, who was 80-something at the time, heard someone mention Sarah Palin. The look that came over her face as she heard the name of "That Woman" as she called her. That election year was also the only time I ever heard her--an 80+year old nun--drop the f-bomb when talking politically about Republican policy. She would have been a nun on the bus if she could.
So anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.