Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Making of a Republican 1:the Tipping Point

Malcom Gladwell, in The Tipping Point , talks about how change occurs.  Sometimes a myriad of conditions can create a situation in which one small thing can change the course of history.  I remember my tipping point when it came to changing my party affiliation.  I was working for Tony Gallegos at the U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as his Attorney Adviser.  He had been in charge of Democrats for Reagan in California.  As a life long Democrat, I couldn't understand how he could have supported Reagan.  I still remember his response.  "Susan", he said, "it's not a religion".  Somehow, I was at a point in my spiritual journey as well as my political journey where that comment caused my own feelings to coalesce around it.  On reflection later that day I realized that I had, my entire life, treated my political affiliation as if it were a religion.  And its not.  Like Tony said, you pick the political party or candidate that gives you the most of what you want.  In a democratic society, because a political party must appeal to millions of people, you are unlikely to ever have a party that gives you everything you want, so you settle for a party or a candidate that gives you the most of what you agree with.  This is not a sign of the failure of our system but of the fact that we are a democracy.

Imagine if you were part of a committee (say, like your family) charged with redecorating a house.  It is very likely that nobody will get all of exactly what they want.  That is because no two individuals are identical (not even identical twins).  So compromises have to be made.  When no compromises have to made, it is likely because one person is a dictator and the rest submit.

I didn't become a Republican right away, but that comment touched off a reflection in me about my political beliefs.  I began to review what I believed and who I admired in a different light.  I didn't owe any political party my loyalty per se.  If that party did not produce for me the outcomes that I wanted, I was morally free to change parties.  That was really liberating.

I realized that, having been raised in a Democrat worshipping household, I had demonized Republicans just as my mother did and just as the entertainment industry and the main stream media do today.  But when Reagan came to Washington I discovered that the real Republicans I met, the flesh and blood appointees of President Reagan and their friends and associates, were actually, for the most part, nice human beings.  I was unprepared for that.    I had, for example, the opportunity to meet and talk with Senator Orrin Hatch.  He turned out to be a really intelligent, funny and interesting person to talk to.  Far from imposing his views on others he enjoyed the challenge of debating them.

That comment from my then boss was like an insidious challenge that broke down every preconception I had lived with and nurtured for 40 years.  The Democrat party had changed and had changed in ways that I did not like at all.  Under George Mc Govern, the socialist thinkers had been given a foothold and under Jimmy Carter they had taken over.  These are the people who think that the government should, if not own everything, certainly run everything  They think the government should decide what your wages are and what products a business makes.  I know this because I met a lot of them when I was younger and when I was in Washington.  Because I was a Democrat they assumed that I shared their belief systems and they were very open about what they wanted to do.

I knew that I was opposed to that kind of total control by the government and I still am.  And that is one of the reasons why I became a Republican.

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