Saturday, December 24, 2005

No political home

It's been an interesting year for me politically. I've been a Republican since 1980, the year I first really starting paying attention to politics, replacing my 1976 vote for Carter with my 1980 vote for Reagan. Since that time, I've occasionally voted for a Democrat in local or state elections, but never for any federal office.

Over the last 25 years, I've felt pretty much at home there. But for most of that time, I've had some major disagreements with the majority of Republicans with regards to the "social" issues. Not all of them, to be sure. But mostly with the ones concerning vices laws. I came to believe that the libertarian view toward these laws was the correct view.

So, for the past 20 years I've reconciled my libertarianism with the authoritarianism of the social conservatives in the Republican party. In the last few years, however, that's become more difficult.

What happened?

As I wrote above, the first split happened long ago over the Republican's support of drug prohibition. Being both a casual drinker and recreational marijuana smoker in the 1980's, the hypocrisy of the drug laws stood out like Mt. Everest. So that was my first real split with the orthodoxy of the Right. But I stayed put for other reasons.

It remained that way until just the last 3-4 years, when I started perusing the political forum sites of the Right. Some of the things I've read at these sites posted by "grass roots" Republicans showed me that some Republicans can be just as reactionary as anything on the Left. I'm not saying all Republicans are hateful, but judging from some of the things I read on the net, some minority truly are.

A few other things have happened over the last couple of years that's caused me to distance myself from the Republicans on the social issues. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. The Lawrence v Texas case. Many Republicans were upset with the SC's ruling that struck down the state law that criminalized homosexual intercourse, and thus counted it as a loss in the "culture wars". I think of the decision as a victory for personal freedom, regardless of how I feel about the morality of homosexual behavior.
  2. Abortion. While I've always believed that most abortions are immoral, I was never an ardent pro-lifer and I respected the arguments coming from the abortion rights side of the issue. I was finally moved to the pro-choice side by, ironically enough, something I read at National Review's online site last year. One of their regulars was wondering what the punishments for abortion would be if it were to be made illegal in the future. The response from another regular was 2-3 years imprisonment plus fines for the abortionists, with no punishment for the woman getting the abortion if she testified for the state. No word on what the punishment should be if she didn't testify for the state. All these years I've heard the pro-life folks call abortion murder, but the punishments proposed are not those for murder. This told me that even ardent pro-life people don't really think abortion is murder, just wrong.
  3. Birth control. Ironically enough, again it was something I read in National Review (dead trees edition) that once again pointed out the authoritarian leanings of the Right. Earlier this year, there was an article in the magazine re-visiting the Griswold decision from 1962. That court case overturned a Connecticut state law that banned the sale of contraceptives. As I was reading the article, not only was the author critical of the court's reasoning, he went on to make the case that there was nothing wrong with any state passing those type of laws. I couldn't believe my eyes.
  4. The 2005 elections. Don't get me wrong, I voted for Bush and I'm glad he won. Unfortunately, the social conservatives mis-read the results, and now they feel more empowered than ever politically. Not a good thing, from my point of view.
  5. The utter nonsense of this whole "War on Christmas" controversy. I just can't see how Christianity and its mission is served by picking political battles that INVOLVE religion. Politics is bad enough without bringing religion into it. Nobody wins here.
  6. The War on Drugs. For past twenty years or so I've been an opponent. But while pondering this issue this past year, I realized that this policy is not only wrong logically, but that it is wrong morally and therefore unjust. People argue about the issue like we do about taxes, in the abstract. But while taxes threaten my wallet to one degree or another, they don't put me in jail. But drug prohibition puts people in jail when they aren't deserving of imprisonment. Sadly, too many politicians, Democrat and Republican, find it all too easy to jail or fine any minority (behavioral in this case) if it will help their chances to win office.

In summary, I've come to realize that many Republicans are much more authoritarian than I'd noticed. I'm not sure how I missed it.

What we have in America today are two statist parties. They both crave power, they just have slightly different agendas for the use of that power.

For many years, I thought all the moral preening done in politics came from the Left. But over the last few years, I've seen that it comes from the Right too. I'm repulsed by it from both sides. So for the first time in many years, I really don't feel at home in the Republican party, and it is because of its social conservative faction. I'm not one, and never will be.

I guess I truly am a centrist. I find some things I like and much I dislike in the policies of both parties. If the Democrats would ever get their act together on taxes, national security, and the size and scope of government....

Well, one can dream, can't he?

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