As a new regular feature on DemCast, our very own DemCast Dottie will answer questions from fellow blue dots (a.k.a. Democrats in red districts) spread far and wide across the United States. Questions are gathered from DemCast readers and may be edited for length and clarity (or spelling and grammar if the case may be).
To submit questions, email email@example.com. All submissions may be published as received.
So, there’s a Democrat candidate in one of my local races who was previously a Republican. Now he classifies himself as a progressive Democrat. How can I possibly trust him? I want to. That’s what we need. Help please!
Thanks for being here!
The Queen of Blue Dots
Let’s face facts, Your Highness. There are many former Republicans who’ve joined the Democratic Party in the past few decades. Each did it for different reasons and each is a unique individual. So, while I appreciate that you would seek my counsel, I cannot possibly answer your question in full. Anyone who decides to run for office must be vetted in their own right, whether they’ve had the same party registration since the day they turned 18 or not.
That said, I feel your conundrum. I also have a former Republican on the ballot this year and admit I do cringe a little when reminded. I don’t know about yours but I take great comfort that mine changed parties long before our nation entered the current Twilight Zone era.
The thing is, I have gotten to know this candidate quite well at local meetings and events over the past few years. When he says he is a progressive, he means it. He walks the talk, so to speak. He is a decorated Navy veteran and a small business owner who also truly understands the needs and concerns of people like him here in our district. And, to be brutally honest, here in our purplish pocket of the blood red South, the fact someone used to be a Republican doesn’t hurt them in the general election.
There are candidates like mine and yours across America now. They are often people who registered as Republicans right out of high school for the same reason lots of people attend the same churches and colleges their parents did.
It takes time to find out who you are as an adult, to determine which issues and causes matter enough for you to take your stand. For some, those epiphanies come early. For others however, it can take years before a major event forces them to think critically and reevaluate their convictions.
Like her parents before her, my beloved mama was a registered Republican well into her 40’s. During the Reagan and Bush administrations, she came to understand the “Party of Lincoln’ had morphed into the party of carefully constructed cultural wedge issues epitomized by the Southern Strategy and the Religious Right’s Anti-Women’s Rights Movement. She is now one of the most progressive liberals you can imagine in her 70’s. As I couldn’t register to vote until she had already had her awakening, I had the benefit of observing her evolution in my teens. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I’d like to say that I would have registered as a Democrat at 18 regardless, but to say such a thing would be pure conjecture. None of us knows exactly how life would’ve turned out if our circumstances had been different. Trying to make factual statements about realities that never existed may be a fun pastime, but you can’t put your kids through college with wishful thinking.
As I’m sure you know, we even have some presidential candidates who used to be Republicans in our primaries this year. That does not bother me in the slightest. Personal evolution shows depth and breadth of character, not lack of it. As I’d bet most exvangelicals as well as religious converts can attest, it’s far harder to proclaim your newfound beliefs to the world than to maintain a polite status quo for the sake of Thanksgiving dinner.
The ones who should really worry us are those authoritarian types who demand every American pick a team and commit for life.
What if one day you find out your coach and team owner lied to the world, you included, and sent your teammates out to play under the falsest of pretenses? Or, heaven forbid, imagine that while you were off fighting valiantly to bring home the gold for Team Patriots, you found out the team had been bought by someone credibly accused of raping or purchasing women’s bodies in shopping malls? Or perhaps you just looked in the mirror one day and realized you’ve been so caught up with winning that you’ve been inadvertently teaching your kids to cheat?
It always takes guts to switch jerseys if you’ve been taught to see the other team as your mortal enemy.
I’m what used to be known as a GRIT, a girl raised in the south. And while I am also a blasphemous heathen who refuses to keep up with football season, I can attest that we take team loyalty seriously down here. (Go Gators!) But, while loyalty is good for team building, there are just some moments when you can’t cheer with the same old crowd anymore.
Smart people change. Leaders admit when they were wrong. Only the very young and the blissfully ignorant don’t accept those fundamental truths. Expecting politicians to take a lifetime position or oath to anything other than the Constitution and the rule of law denies their humanity at a moment when humanity is what we so desperately need most.
Now, there are those who changed after watching too much rage inducing 24-hour news or listening to too many hours of angry men blaming others for their lot in life on talk radio. I’m not talking about them. But, the ones who changed from personal life experience or intensive research are worthy of our consideration, not our contempt.
I am glad you realize this is your problem to solve, not your candidate’s, because this is on you. Get to know them. Look at their record. Listen to their stories. See who has endorsed them that you trust. Then decide whether or not you believe in them. And when you finish, go do the same with every other candidate too.
Don’t know where to start? Checkout your state’s event listings on DemCastUSA for some ideas where to meet like-minded folks. Form your own Study Group. Get involved.
See, unlike living in a monarchy, democracy is a never ending AP class in Advanced Citizenship. Your seat in class is never secure. Either you make the time to do the homework, or you flunk. But unlike a traditional curve, if too many fail the test the winners won’t be the ones who did the reading. The winners become whoever bothered to show up with their pencil on test day.And with that final odd pearl, I bid you farewell. Go forth and show the bastards we Warrior Queens do know what democracy, and Democrats, looks like.
Yours Truly (But No One’s Humble Servant),
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