A few weeks ago I was at a bar meeting new people, and I struck up a friendly conversation with a girl. I told her I wrote for PolicyMic, and she asked what articles I had written. I mentioned my anti-feminist article I published back in April. She backed away from me with a look of horror on her face. It was if I had told her I had a vial of bubonic plague in my purse.
“Wait a minute,” I said, emboldened by my shot of liquid courage. “You don’t even know my reasons for not being a feminist. Hear me out first.”
I was lucky this time; not only did she listen, but she actually agreed with some of my criticisms of feminism. We parted on good terms and wished each other a pleasant evening. If her reaction is any indication of what I’m about to face, I’m guessing I’m going to get a lot of horrified looks in the coming weeks and months when I tell people I’m a conservative. That statement does not go over well in a city as liberal as New York, but I can’t hide who I am.
I voted for President Obama three times: the first was in the Connecticut primary in February 2008, that year’s Super Tuesday; the second was in the general election later that year; the third and final time was for his re-election in November 2012. I was proud and happy to do it. I would even go so far as to say that I would do it again if I had the opportunity to do so. Being part of electing the first mixed-race leader of the free world was an electrifying experience, and one I hope to tell my grandchildren about as many times as they will hear it. And it will be my last action as a Democrat.
As a woman of color, the Democratic Party is more of an inheritance than a choice. Questioning or disagreeing with the party we are born into is heresy. You are not allowed to fume at the people you elected into office to do their job to represent your interests: you can only mourn that the Republicans are mean. Affirmative action, despite statistical evidence that it does little to advance the plight of poor minorities in this country, is enshrined as a sacred cow, the hot iron one does not touch. If you are not a Democrat and live above the Mason-Dixon line, the assumption is you are against civil rights, social progress, women, people with disabilities, black people, immigrants, sunshine, happiness, and rainbows.
I am here to tell you that I am in favor of all these things. Except maybe rainbows (they’re overrated, anyway).
My decision to leave the Democratic Party has not been an easy one to make. Considering the alternative — joining the party whose radical fringe include the Tea Party and talking heads like former Governor Sarah Palin gave me pause. Did I want to be associated with reckless media personalities like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck? I quickly realized, however, that my fears were unfounded. The extreme Right is to conservatism as Pat Roberston is to Christianity — certainly the loudest voices with the longest reach, but fundamentally misrepresenting the core essentials of the values they claim to espouse.
There were a lot of things I was unhappy with about the Obama administration, but I’ll name two that struck closest to home. The first was Guantanamo, and the second was the student debt crisis. Call me idealistic, but such a brazen disregard for human rights on an international stage makes us look hypocritical in the worst way possible as we condemn our enemies for similar atrocities. If our foreign policy made the United States look bad under the Bush administration, then what does Obama’s mere lip-dismissal of Guantanamo make us look like?
Secondly, it has not been easy for me to watch Congress shuck and jive while the student debt situation reached cataclysmic proportions. I felt like the demographic that put Obama in office — those annoying text-messaging narcissists known as millennials — were hurting the most. We have the highest unemployment rates, the least work experience, and the most debt. And Congress has watched us flounder without so much as throwing us a life-saver. Still, I repressed these concerns, even though I was harboring serious doubts about my Party, the “progressive” party whose mandate was to help ensure a brighter future for the next generation, so that civil rights and all that jazz could, you know, progress.
But then, two things happened the same week that changed my mind irretrievably: the first was Edward Snowden scandal and, purely by accident, I discovered the publication American Conservative. As I watched the drama unfold in Hong Kong, I knew deep down that I could not belong to a party that continued to violate the basic Fourth Amendment rights as the Patriot Act had done. I read a few articles on the American Conservative and I found people smarter than me articulating in clear, persuasive language the nameless discomfort that had been floating in my chest like a dark cloud.
The American Conservative’s motto “Ideas over Ideology, Principle Over Party” resonated with me, because I discovered that what I wanted was more than a party line: I needed to validate my core beliefs, which take precedent over any party or political ideology. I believe in personal freedom, which includes the right not to be terrorized by one’s own government. In this age of ingenuity we can find other ways to bring those who wish to harm us to justice. There is a place at the intersection of security, the law, and privacy where all three can exist without mutual conflict. It’s called the Constitution of the United States of America.
The liberal media spun Barack Obama’s election as a momentous occasion because of the color of his skin. As great as it is that a color barrier was broken, we didn’t elect Obama because of his heritage; we elected him because he represented a legislative agenda that we assumed would stop and reverse the policies that began under the Bush administration. That didn’t happen enough for me to believe the progressives had the policies that would be the panacea this country needs. Ultimately, I’m leaving the party because I love my country. It shouldn’t matter whether or not I’m a conservative; what’s most important is that we raise the level of debate in this country through informed discussions that lead to policies that benefit all Americans. We can’t do that with one party. We need liberals. We need conservatives. We need the Independents. We need as many groups as we can get. The progress and welfare of this country should be our top priority, not individual agendas for specific groups.
I’ve got no aught with liberals. I respect their ideals even if I disagree with their politics. While I won’t call myself a feminist, I stand with women’s right to choose and to end domestic and workplace violence. But at the end of the day, it’s about putting aside our prejudices and silly pigeonholes to take up the mantle and make this country great again. Before we are liberals or conservatives, feminists, or activists, tree-huggers or big businessmen, we are Americans, and we must understand that we all need each other to push this country in the right direction: forward.