I’m a Moderate. Currently, at least. A couple decades ago you might have called me a Conservative. In some circles, simply by virtue of the fact that I voted for Obama, I would be known as a Liberal. What I definitely am not nor ever will be is a Republican. Or a Democrat.
Dad was hard right. He sold Impeach Clinton bumper stickers at his gun store and blasted Republican trumpet Rush Limbaugh through the stereo he kept near the register loud enough so the cows in the neighboring fields could hear it. Dad believed Rush was right about, well, pretty much everything. Back then, so did I.
I was the cartoonist for the school paper during high school and my signature was working in the phrase “Rush is Right” into each and every cartoon I did. Sometimes it was a shirt, other times a street sign. I did it because I believed in the political doctrine espoused by Rush. He was RIGHT. So was the National Review and William F. Buckley and George Will and all the rest.
Yeah, I had a subscription to the National Review during high school. And yeah, all the girls wanted me.
My attraction to the Republicans was deeply rooted in my religious beliefs and morals. Republicans were all about family values. So was I. They were against abortion. So was I. They were in favor of a strong military even in times of peace. So was I. They were for welfare reform. So was I.
And you know what? I still am, on all of that and more.
I’m also in favor of Universal Health Care and the Buffet Rule and I sympathize with what the Occupy movement is trying to do and say (even though I think they need to get a reality check, toss the drums, and break up the circle).
When the change happened, it happened fast. By the time I registered to vote at age 18, I did so as an Independent. “You’re throwing your vote away,” my dad said. “Only in the primaries,” I countered. “Bah,” he said in my imagination as he walked away shaking his head.
Dad died almost a year later, so he never really got the see the full transformation that began, oddly enough, because of Rush Limbaugh.
When I was 17, I started really listening to Rush. I mean really listening. He sure liked to talk about himself. Loved to tell his listeners how great he was and how blessed they were to be able to hear the incredible wisdom that fell from his lips like raindrops on barren soil. His arrogance and ego were so ridiculous that they played as comedy. But I noticed something. He wasn’t winking when he said those things. He was never anything less than serious in his self interest. The comedy was just how he sold the idea.
So then I started really listening. A lot of the stuff Rush said didn’t make any sense. He betrayed the very basic rules of logic in order to make his points. He made huge leaps to get to some of his conclusions and accusations, and then didn’t back them up in any substantial way. He presented inflammatory comments from the other side with no context and then spun off into wild speculations and tales of hidden agendas and master schemes for which I had to take his word. Didn’t matter what was true or not, what mattered was what could be true. And what could be true was probably–
–oh, let’s face is it was–
Rush’s loyalty wasn’t to the actual truth, I concluded, it was to his ratings, his followers, his political party and his money. Self interest was the current that ran through everything he did. And he was honest about it! I just, for a long time, didn’t believe him.
If Rush… then what about Republicans? The Grand Old Party had money and power to protect, too. Was it possible those things could be more important than what was good for the country? Did the Republicans act out of self interest?
It didn’t matter that the GOP shared many of the same values and beliefs as me. That started looking more like a flag they were waving and less like a genuine set of ideals. If their chief priority was the perpetuation of their power and influence, then the ideals would have to change according their degree of inconvenience and the times. How could I be a part of something I didn’t trust and that could be so fluid in its composition and purpose?
I was adrift. I looked towards the Democrats. Ich. No way.
So, I registered Independent. Years passed and, out from under the gun of a party line, my political views freely lined up more with my moral and religious understanding. I ended up a Moderate. Probably a little right of center, but a Moderate. Cue roll in Dad’s grave.
Dad never could have guessed things would get this deeply divided. I often wonder what he’d make of the political realities of 2012. Of clowns like Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann and “news” stations like Fox News and MSNBC. As a guy standing in the middle, it’s super obvious to me that the two sides aren’t even having the same conversation or using the same language anymore. Would Dad see that? Or would he have grown and changed with the party line?
I have no way of knowing, of course. But I do know this: I resent being in the middle. I resent being a Moderate. I feel on the outside of just about every political conversation and, for the most part, I choose not to indulge the political side of myself anymore. I find it incredibly frustrating and exhausting disagreeing with everyone. That’s a lot of fights to pick.
It’s probably Dad in my head, but I’d rather pick a side. I don’t think the truth is always in the middle. Sometimes, one person is right and the other is wrong. Right now, unfortunately–in this country– it’s not that simple.
Maybe the real problem is that I picked a side a long time ago and I stayed there. It’s everybody else that moved.