Three days into the month, and I’m batting 1.000! With February being the shortest month, I figured it would be a great time to try and write a little each day in an attempt to get back into the swing of writing, something I used to do for money, as well as for fun. After touching on the world of finance yesterday, I’ll go back into politics, but not really about what is currently going on, but maybe how I got here and how my personal politics were shaped.
I’ve touched on this in a previous post, but that was written during the election and concerning who my late father would have voted for during the most recent election cycle. It would be wrong to say that my father’s politics didn’t influence my current political views; if anything, they might have actually helped reinforce them in a way. But it wasn’t until I left my home state at the age of 20 for the liberal Northeast that my political identity truly took shape.
I was born — and have spent — about three quarters of my life in the deep red state of Utah. I was “born into covenant” as they say around here, the third child of older parents who, at the time, were living in a small town called Orem. My parents, who were both raised in Southern California (though my dad was born in Sioux city, Iowa), had settled in Utah in the mid-1970s after my dad had left a once-promising military career a bit earlier than anticipated. My parents had both gone to Brigham Young University in the ’60s, with my dad graduating in 1965 or so and joining the Army. So that, and the proximity to family, led them to settle in Happy Valley.
We lived in that house near Mountain View High School for a little over two years, moving further north to the bustling new city West Valley City. It was there, in the middle of a small cul de sac, that I grew up. My mother actually still lives in the same house with my younger brother nearly 35 years later. My family was active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — you know, the Mormons — and that kind of dictated our relatively conservative upbringing. I was baptized, received the Priesthood, and did all the things that good little Mormon kids do, until I didn’t, but that is a story for another time.
Like most kids, I didn’t really understand politics until I was in my late teens, but I did know who the president was. I vividly remember watching the Gulf War unfold on television in 1991, and remember a lot about the 1992 Presidential Campaign, which included Ross Perot and his charts. But my dad was a Reagan Republican through and through, and when I started caring about politics, I started out squarely in that camp. One of the first political things that I read was probably some Rush Limbaugh book I took out from the library, but I couldn’t tell you the title or what it was about, other than it was probably against Clinton in some conspiratorial tone.
I did everything a good “Christian,” conservative kid from “small town” America did: I graduated high school and considered joining the Army to drive tanks, but eventually settled on going to college first. It was during my first semester at Weber State University, and that Intro to American Politics class, that I begin to shift my political views to the left. This shift was probably accelerated by the defeat of Al Gore in 2000, my first presidential election, but it was truly cemented once I finally left the state of my birth for the liberal bastion of Connecticut.
You don’t really notice the change in politics on a day-to-day basis if you stay in the same place your entire life. It took moving across the country to realize that their truly was another viewpoint to which to subscribe. Maybe it was just naiveté, living a sheltered existence in a place that is unique in a lot of different ways. Being in the military didn’t help; often being the lone “liberal” amongst a bunch of Soldiers would be something that I would learn to remember, keeping my political views to myself for the most part. (An aside: the military, at its heart, should be pretty apolitical. I enlisted under Clinton, served the bulk of my time under George W. Bush, and deployed to Iraq under Obama. My time in the military wasn’t really affected by the political party of the Commander-in-Chief, but by the geopolitical things going on in the world.)
My shift to the left side of the political spectrum happened to coincide with one of the most divisive times in American politics. Whereas I felt like the Republicans and Democrats of the ’80s and ’90s tended to be alike on issues more often than not, by the time President Obama was elected in 2009, it felt that the “purple” moderate area in the middle was getting smaller and smaller. It was getting harder and harder to stay in that shrinking middle, and I just couldn’t make myself go over to the Right. For every issue I agreed with Republicans on, there was an abhorrent belief that I didn’t, and pretty soon those abhorrent issues just started to become more important. It almost became easier to not be a Republican because I found their views on a lot of societal things to be backward, and this has only continued to get worse over the past decade.
As a person that adores Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican president, and the son of a man that loved his Republican Party, it pains me to see the “Grand Old Party” in the condition it is these days, led by childish men that have decided to place politics above country. The Democratic Party is having its own identity crisis currently — abandon the status quo for more progressive ideals? — and we may be at the nadir of both parties. I just hope that our Republic can withstand the pressure and come out on the other side relatively unscathed. And when it does, I will probably remain a Democrat.
Until next time…