On why I registered to be a Republican this morning…
[Note: Post updated below]
Like so many other broken camel backs, for me the last straw was shockingly minor:
“I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
The above is the response by the Romney team to the terrible and senseless killings in Lybya this morning; it was issued immediately after the tragedy. Predictably, the section I highlighted turned out to be a complete fiction, rendering the entire statement void of any value other than a continued push to win power by presenting the President as an America-hating terrorist sympathizer. Worse, it was irresponsibly done in the middle of an emerging international crisis. Same old, same old, right? Probably. But for me, it was that last grain of sand that tipped the scales. It moved me to go online, download a voter registration card, and change my party affiliation.
By sometime next week, once that registration has been processed by the State of Oregon, I will officially be a member of the Oregon Republican Party.
Let me explain.
Since I have been of voting age, I have been a registered Democrat. Initially, that actually meant something to me. As a young man I thought of the Democratic Party in a manner similar to the Los Angeles Dodgers: They were my team, and I was backing them regardless of their chances, their play or their roster. Years of watching the Party eventually cured me of that; over the years I came to realize that they were as self-serving and corrupt as the party they opposed. Their actions since I have come to that realization have only confirmed this observation. 
Over the past decade or so I have considered myself an Independent; I have voted for Democrats in two of the last three Presidential elections, and Republicans in two of the past three Gubernatorial elections. I have never been willing to officially register as an Independent, however, because by doing so in Oregon I would not be permitted to vote in the primary elections. So while I have not necessarily felt like a Democrat, remaining so has simply been the path of least resistance.
So why oh why, you might be forgiven for asking, am I now – after all of these years – opting to throw in with the GOP?
Being a principled pragmatic, I do not believe that it is the purity of a particular ideology that leads our nation to its greatest moments; rather, it I believe is that tension between conflicting points of view, toward a common goal, that brings out the best in us. The modern-era United States has always worked best, in my opinion, when the progressives’ push to reach for the stars has been tempered by the conservatives’ grounding in fiscal reality. Or, if you prefer, when the conservatives’ recognition that traditions anchor us to a sense of community and shared values is challenged by the progressives’ Quixotic and inspirational insistence that we can be better. I want a John F. Kennedy to tell us we can – and should! – put a man on the moon; I want a Ron Paul to ask us how exactly we plan to pay for such a venture. I want a Ralph Nader to show us where we are falling down on our promise to our most basic ideals; I want a Ronald Reagan to show us where we shine brighter than all those that have come before us. For much of my adult life, I’ve usually been able to count on the two major political parties – corrupt, money grubbing whores though they may be – to ensure that these yins and yangs unwittingly steered our ship toward something worth sailing to.
Today, however, I feel like we only have one side that’s keeping up their end of that bargain.
This November I will be asked by the GOP to vote for Mitt Romney to be the next President and lead us into the future. And though that candidate drops lots of soundbites about limited government and fiscal restraint, the platform he has been forced into by his party is both expensive and radical. Though he harps on the deficit, he is proposing to increase military spending $1 trillion, and is promising lush benefits with social security and Medicare – all while cutting taxes. His method for making the math work is a Dukakis-like assurance that with a few tax loopholes cut here and there it will all just kind of work itself out – all the while refusing to identify even one of those loopholes. He’s been hawkish on the concept of a pre-emptive war with Iran. Though he campaigns hard on the country’s inability to afford Obamacare, he has stated that there are some parts he finds terrific, such as the pre-existing conditions sections – the very sections that make it cost so much.
In fact, almost everything Romney campaigns on strikes me as endemic of today’s GOP: heavy on tactics, light on values.
For example, since the Catholic-employer contraception kerfuffle, the GOP has been telling anyone that will listen that it takes the position it does because an American’s religious freedom is the most sacred and bedrock of all liberties. For them, abandoning even an ounce of religious freedom is the non-starter, the hard line that they must draw in the sand. You hear this so often these days, in fact, that you’d be forgiven for not remembering that it was just a year ago that these same Republicans were the ones that called for government interference to stop houses of worship being built all over the country. From the GOP’s perspective, religious freedom was less important prior to last winter because putting the government’s power over that freedom led to votes; it’s been the most important thing ever since last winter because opposing the government over the faithful led to votes. (I think it’s a good bet that in the aftermath of what happened in Libya this morning, we might well see yet another reversal on the foundational importance of religious liberty before November.)
That’s not holding dear the first amendment as a fundamental value – it’s using it as an expedient political tactic.
I could go on and on, (and on… and on…) but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I agree with Tim that our country needs a force to back due process; likewise we need a force to fight for fiscal restraint in actual deed and not just rhetoric. We need a conservative party that looks to curry favor from those scientists, mathematicians and economists that temper the grand ideas of the Democrats, not one that panders to attorney groups that attack public libraries because Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire promotes witchcraft. The lofty schemes of progressivism need to be honed by sound opposing reason, not bumper stickers and talk radio.
Because of this, I have decided to join the Oregon Republican Party.
My effect will be miniscule, and because I’m me and today’s GOP seems more concerned with driving out “RINOs” than building consensus… well, lets just say I’m not exactly waiting for a Thank You card. But I’m tired of watching the party that should be anchoring my state and my country in a badly needed realism jetting lightspeed in bat-shit crazy trajectories as they attempt to chase birth certificates, magical lady parts and some de jour version of the illuminati.
So I’m going to be a Republican, and I’m going to cast my primary vote for the most fiscally conservative, grounded in reality, non-magical believing candidate that’s thrown his or her hat into the ring. I trust the Democrats in Oregon to put up a quality candidate with Big Ideas, even if many of those ideas are terrible. I don’t trust Republicans in Oregon to put up a quality candidate to be the adult voice of reason that demands careful consideration of those Big Ideas. So I’m going to make sure that someone who would be that candidate gets at least one vote.
 For example: I don’t know that it was a story of note outside of the Pacific Northwest, but for decades the most popular and powerful mover and shaker in Oregon’s democratic party was a man named Neil Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt’s resume highlights include serving as Mayor of Portland, Governor of Oregon and the US Secretary of Transportation under Carter. In 2004 local reporters, investigating a series of Goldschmidt’s conflicts-of-interests, uncovered information about crimes far worse. Goldschmidt, it turns out, had been caught having coerced a 14-year old neighborhood girl into sex for at least a year in the 1970s. Worse, it turned out that this information was well known to many in the Democrat Party of Oregon, including Bernie Guisto, the county sheriff at the time of the rape, and Ted Kulongowski, the Governor of Oregon at the time the story broke.
Update: I said in this post that I wasn’t exactly sure exactly how welcome I’d be, what with me being me and all. Yet hours within posting, Allen Alley – Chairman of the Oregon Republican Party – took the time to comment below and welcome me. As my father would say, Mr. Alley is a gentleman and a scholar. Kudos to him, and many thanks as well.