“Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an ailment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction, than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.”
James Madison, Federalist No. 10, 1787
I was first introduced to the Federalist papers when most people were – 11th Grade AP US History. While Madison’s opinions on factions originated from the American political climate of the 18th century, they’re even more relevant to the American political climate today. We’re about to see what will probably become one of the most contentious political races in our history, preceded by partisan battles of some of the most preposterous, egotistical, and – in my opinion – pathetic nominee candidates, most of whom can’t stop attacking their opponents long enough to actually tell anyone what their real plans are. Candidate aides are spreading rumors about other candidates dropping the race, candidates are apologizing for false attack adds, fact checking on most of the debate claims demonstrates rampant lies – what exactly has brought the American political system to this point? The typical response of “that’s just politics” is not good enough, especially for members of my generation.
My generation is repeatedly targeted as “lazy”. Older members of our society like to claim that we “don’t know how good we have it”, that nobody does anything but sit on their computers, we have no work ethic, and that when they were our age they worked two part-time jobs to put themselves through college. Well, first, let’s focus on just what my generation is faced with. When older generations were our age, it didn’t cost $80-$100 thousand to make it through four years of school. Jobs didn’t require more than a bachelor’s degree – sometimes even if that. Most of us are lumped in with “Millennials,” even though we were born at the beginning of the 1990’s, and not actually after the millennium. And, in fact, many of us hate that terminology – especially when it allows our elders to write us off completely. In reality, we’re the first generation in a long time faced with the very real possibility that we won’t make more income than our parents; that we have to start in unpaid or extremely low paying jobs that we’re overqualified for because all of our research and hard work in school doesn’t count as “experience”; that we’re already behind in where we’d like to be financially because we’re all $30,000 or more in debt; and we face the fact that minimum wage jobs are no longer enough to support a person on their own. We’re forced to choose more school for the chance at a better job at an age when our parents and other members of past generations were already married with children. We’re trying to find ways to afford our own health insurance, car insurance, rent, groceries, move up in our career fields, pay for more school or pay off student loans, and fighting to be taken seriously by a society that repeatedly makes it abundantly clear that it doesn’t care about our needs, wants, or ambitions.
However, we’re also the generation that are finding new ways to make our own money – running our own businesses with network marketing companies, setting up non-profit organizations, creating new companies and websites, or apps. We volunteer and donate to causes we believe in because, unlike previous generations brought up in the mistrustful world of the Cold War, we’ve been taught to generally care about other people and animals – regardless of what country they may be from. We’re involved in things like Living Wages Campaigns, Occupy Movements, End-It, Greenpeace, or the ASPCA. We care about the millions of immigrants that want to come to this country for a better life: what happens to them (whether they entered legally or illegally), what they do here, and how they’re working to achieve their own American Dreams. We also care that we have jobs when we graduate, that there will one day be a light at the end of our endless debt tunnels, that we will make our families proud, that we won’t have to worry about future companies imposing their own religious beliefs on us, that we’ll be able to pay for medical emergencies if they occur, that we might one day be able to buy a new car or a house, that we can have or adopt children – without our sexual preferences or orientations being a problem.
What does my mini-rant have to do with our political party system? A lot. We’re facing candidates that are more concerned with making fun of the makeup other candidates need before a debate than they are about telling us what exactly their plans are to help us with all of the things we’re worried about. Their campaign offices are staffed by “millennial” volunteers, aides, and interns – most of which are unpaid. Republican candidates yell for banning all Muslim immigrants, building a wall with Mexico, carpet bombing ISIS controlled areas, “religious liberty” (I will explain the quotes, I promise), and appealing Obamacare; Democratic candidates yell for more federal social programs, increasing Obamacare, reducing the military, and arguing about state department secrets in emails (among other issues with HRC). Amidst all the arguing, legitimate and false attack ads, celebrity and political endorsements, blatant racism, and complete willful ignorance of specific parts of the U.S. Constitution, few candidates have truly addressed the major issues to “millennials” – other than ranting about Planned Parenthood or whether or not birth control should be free. Both political parties are facing huge divisions and pushes to change – and the fates of both of these parties, whether they like it or not, rests on the shoulders of all of us “millennials”.
Personally, I have yet to really find a candidate that represents my interests, both within the party I identify with most – the GOP – or the opposite. It’s not just me – many of my friends from high school, undergrad, and my time in grad school feel the same way. We’re a generation that’s tired of choosing the lesser of two significantly large evils. Many of my friends – especially given my chosen career field – have asked how I can possibly remain a conservative or want to vote one into office, especially with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz waging their own anti-Muslim campaigns. So, I’d like to explain it – something I’ve become very adept at after remaining a conservative after attending William & Mary for four years (it’s one of the most liberal schools in Virginia, if not the entire country). My own unique brand of conservatism – and my not so loving opinion towards the current GOP candidates and party in general – begins, of course, with a little background information.
My parents are the only Republicans in our family. My maternal grandfather – who “will not be called a Democrat” – has never voted any other party into office (meaning he has never voted for a Republican), is the most religious and truly Christian person I have ever known, and is the person who taught me the value of hard work. He worked two full time jobs – one farming, and one as a manager at Kroger – to put himself through college, and graduated with a 4.0 from Virginia Tech. My paternal grandparents never went to college, or graduated high school. My grandmother met my grandfather because he was on the same navy ship as her brother, she was 16 and agreed to fly from Suffolk, Virginia to California to marry him. They worked hard all of their lives, and are still working today, part-time at the antique store my parents and aunt own together. My grandmother, while not highly educated, is one of the smartest and strongest women in my life, and has always been a role model for me. She’s the nicest lady you will ever meet, unless you do something to harm her family – then God won’t even be able to help you. My grandfather has only ever voted for a Republican once in his life (I’m not supposed to know this, but my dad told me), and that was to re-elect Ronald Reagan, supposedly because the Democratic option wasn’t “worth shit”.
My parents have both worked my entire life – and I grew up in a household where my mother out-earned my father in terms of income, fairly significantly. Neither of them has ever had a problem with that – and to me, it was definitely one of my first examples that gender didn’t matter. I wasn’t aware that equal pay, or women in a family earning more than the man, was rare, thought of as different, or anything like that until I was much older. We didn’t really talk about money – my siblings and I had whatever we needed, and got things we wanted if we earned them – behaving, doing our chores, our homework, and earning good grades in school. Both my parents have multiple degrees – one my dad worked especially hard for, and just got his master’s while I was at William & Mary. My mother is a pharmacist, and my dad has been a realtor, home inspector, radon tester, entrepreneur, and in-home counselor while I’ve grown up. Not only did they have my younger sister and I, but they also took in my older siblings – both of whom are my dad’s first cousins. My older brother moved in with them as a young teenager, right after they were married. My older sister’s parents died in the Value Jet crash in the Everglades, and my parents were her legal guardians. Their fathers are my grandfather’s brothers. My family has always operated under the principles of helping each other and others whenever possible, are highly active in church, and are generally interested in bettering the community.
All of this has instilled in me both a work ethic and a drive to be the best possible anything I can be. I’ve never been told I can’t do something because I’m a girl by anyone in my family. I played football in the yard with my older cousins as a child, I was taken on boy scout troop trips (and was in girls scouts later). I was taught survival skills, how to hike, shoot, hunt, cook for myself, sew (by my mother and grandfather), take care of animals, babysit my younger sister, and literally anything else I wanted to do. I was interested in Paleontology (mostly from Land Before Time – my love of Jurassic Park came later) as a youngster, and so on a summer family vacation, my parents took us to a museum that allows you to participate in digs in Thermopolis, Wyoming. My younger sister wrote a report on the Liberty Bell and wanted to see it, so we took a family vacation both to DC and Pennsylvania to see the Washington Memorial, Museum of Natural History, the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Valley Forge. We were encouraged when we wanted to play soccer, gymnastics, do ballet (Megan, not me haha), learn instruments, join Chorus in middle and high school, act in plays at the Barter Theater, do high school musicals, get a dog, take horseback riding lessons, attend governor’s schools, anything we wanted – as long as we were willing to put in the time.
While, obviously, this all adds up to my sister and I attending college and our parents’ supporting us on whatever our chosen career paths are (Anthropology and Journalism), it also demonstrates something else. Our parents would not allow us to be told we couldn’t do or be whatever we wanted – especially if the reason we couldn’t do it would be because we are females. Our church experiences followed something similar. I grew up in the Church of Christ, and as I got older it became more and more obvious that the churches in our area were not interested in anyone getting an education – but especially women. The elders starting “encouraging” high school and middle school students to come to special meetings, all about how everyone at school would by lying to us, that any form of evolution is not real (how they explained variation in a species is beyond me), and that we should be focusing on being good Christian men and women rather than college. Meaning – boys should go to their Preacher’s school and women should shut the hell up, get married young, and pump out a lot of babies. We changed churches during my Junior year of high school, and the Christian Church we attended was COMPLETELY different in the best way.
The first question I was asked when I met with the Pastor and Youth Pastor at the church was what I wanted to study in college (they had probably talked to my parents first, but based on my past experience in church, the assumption that I was definitely going was a nice change). When I said anthropology they both avidly discussed findings in ALL FOUR subfields, including evolutionary discoveries in Africa. Even more refreshing – they’d bothered to read Darwin, they both had degrees in Theology from accredited universities, and they were not interested in telling young people that they shouldn’t go to college, or that they shouldn’t go for any career field that they wanted. It definitively changed my experience in church, and because of my friends and the leadership there, I have continued to attend church as an adult. Part of my conservative views are admittedly shaped by my religion. However, unlike several of the louder members of the republican party and many of the candidates, I don’t think the federal government has any business in anything to do with religion.
All of this has had an effect on my political views. So have my time in school, my degrees, my professors, and discussions with my friends. The point of all this is that we’re a generation that have been raised differently – told we can be what we want rather than that we have to fit gender stereotypes, have our own religious or personal influences, and have role models on both sides of the political spectrum. What it comes down to, for me at least, are the issues.
Ted Cruz’s idea of religious liberty is not any form of religious liberty I want in a country I live in. He wants businesses to be able to force their own views on their employees by determining what kinds of birth control and contraceptive can be available on their health care plans. Fundamentally, as a conservative, this violates two of the basic tenants of the party – or as the party claims it, anyway. 1) Separation of church and state, which must be important based on a strict interpretation of the Constitution. The federal government, and businesses, have no right to object to health care on religious or “moral” grounds. 2) This extends the federal government – something I definitely don’t want. Kasich could not have said it better during the debate: “If you’re in the business of selling something, practice commerce…if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, say a prayer for them and hope they change their ways, and move on with your life.”
Separation of church and state is also an issue with “ban all Muslims” comments. Yes, there are terrorists from Syria and Middle Eastern countries. Yes, immigrants were responsible for the San Bernadino attacks. However, that does not mean EVERY Muslim that wants to emigrate to the United States should be banned. It’s blatantly racist. So are Trump’s comments that illegal immigrants are all criminals and rapists. Speaking from experience, rapists in this country can be people who are born here just as easily as they could be an immigrant. You’re not going to lower crime or rape rates by banning any specific racial or national group of people. Statistically, illegal immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes because committing one and getting caught would be the fastest way to get them deported. Building a wall, even if that wall is “10 feet higher,” is not going to stop people from wanting to come here. There’s also no real way of getting Mexico to pay for something without a trade war – and our economy is suffering enough as it is.
Other hot button issues include abortion, gun control, and obamacare. My mother lost her job, right after I started at William & Mary, because the small business pharmacy she worked for couldn’t afford the new healthcare requirements for all their employees, and ended up laying off pharmacists and techs. Three very important people in my life still can’t afford health insurance – even after going through the obamacare website and trying to find something – one of which makes too much money to avoid the tax. Two of them work at minimum wage, and two work very hard labor jobs. So, in case you need me to spell out my thoughts – it doesn’t work. Giving everyone access to healthcare is great, I love the idea. But it has a website that crashed more than actually worked it’s first 6 months, and it isn’t getting everyone access to affordable healthcare. When you make too much to avoid the tax, but not enough to actually pay for the healthcare options, something isn’t adding up.
As for gun control – first off, I’m a legal gun owner. I have two long guns and three pistols. I clean them properly, keep them stored properly, and am a very accurate shot (my dad and Chuck made damn sure of it). I also have a concealed carry permit, and do so where it is legal, and occasionally open carry because I live in Alabama and my research can be VERY dangerous (I study moonshine stills… remember?). That being said, I’m all for any more stringent background checks any of the candidates have put forward – mostly because I know, as a legal gun owner that follows all the rules and as a person who’s never committed a crime, they won’t be applicable to me. I also know that more gun crimes occur because of guns purchased illegally than those purchased legally and stored safely (meaning not giving teenagers or children, or family members with severe mental health issues, access to them). People illegally selling guns are some of the sleaziest and most disgusting people in the criminal world, in my opinion. And anything that can be done to stop them, should be. However, the second amendment exists. I don’t care how “antiquated” you want to say the constitution is. Going by that logic, the rest of the bill of rights – including your right to speak about your opinions with no government repercussions – should be considered antiquated as well. You can’t pick and chose, as much as everyone would like to.
Abortion is probably one of the most controversial topics of our lifetimes. My views on it are probably not what other Christian conservatives want to hear, entirely. First off – birth control needs to be free and available, because it has been proven time and again that young men are not using condoms. It could be because they don’t know how or where to buy them, how to use them, or they could just be that asshole that wants to say “they’re too big”. Who cares? If you can’t trust men to be responsible for it, then give women the chance to be. How could they possibly not know how to use a condom, you might be asking? Because in most states, the only thing they are taught in school is abstinence only. It’s nice to think we live in a world where you tell kids to not have sex, and then they listen to you. Unfortunately, we don’t. Teaching teenagers how to have sex safely, and what kinds of resources they have for birth control and contraception, could literally save lives (some STDs can be fatal). Secondly, while for me personally, abortion will never be an option, that doesn’t mean I think my beliefs apply to every woman in this country. More importantly, as a supporter of a small federal government, I think that the federal government has no business telling me or anyone else in this country what we can or cannot do with our bodies. Leave it up to the states or localities – which is what the Supreme Court has already done. I also think that some of the resources focused on getting women not to choose an abortion should be redirected at helping the women that go through with that choice. I know organizations do help women once they’ve made that decision – a close friend’s mother is responsible for doing just that at her church – she organizes baby showers and getting women who choose not to get an abortion food, baby food, clothes, and anything else they need. But that’s not the majority. If we’re going to claim abortion should be illegal on moral grounds, we need to do the moral thing and help out after the babies are born.
So…. what does it come down to in terms of candidates? Well, I will readily admit I have an extremely biased opinion on Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson. HRC’s biggest accomplishments as Secretary of State were getting Americans in Benghazi tortured to death and proving to the entire country that she’s so out of touch she doesn’t understand why email security was necessary for her job – or even what she could legally put in those emails. She’s played the game of politics well, which is something that is finally not a good thing, at least in the millennial viewpoint. Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, egotistical asshole. I am extremely disappointed in the fact that people of this country actually like and agree with what he’s saying. Ted Cruz…. is a disgusting human being. That’s harsh, but he’s never proven anything different. Republicans don’t like him, democrats don’t like him…. basically, the Tea Party likes him. Don’t even get me started on what I think the Tea Party has done to the GOP. And Ben Carson, honestly I’m not quite sure how the man got his degrees. You have to be incredibly intelligent to be a neurosurgeon, but he repeatedly proves he has no idea what he’s talking about. I thought my grandfather was going to suffocate from laughing when he heard the “Joseph built the pyramids” line… his response, when he could talk, was that “obviously that man has not read his Bible closely.” A great offense, in my grandfather’s opinion – especially if you want to talk about the Bible publicly. That leaves the only centrist Republican option – John Kasich – who unfortunately can’t win without a bunch more support, and has no chance of being the VP nominee (I think Christie is pulling for it with the Trump endorsement); Marco Rubio – not great, but I suppose that’s my next choice since Jeb has dropped (ESPECIALLY over Donald Trump); and the socialist option, Bernie Sanders.
Why this post is entitled “A Conservative Without a Party” is because honestly, I have no good options. Bernie Sanders, at least, has made a point of talking to every group of people you can possibly imagine in this country – including Native Americans, which is a huge step in the right direction, in my opinion. His social program ideas are great, if he can find a way to pay for them and not go into further national debt. However, I highly disagree with reducing the military or ignoring the threat of ISIS – it is a threat, whether we like it or not. But we don’t need to resort to quoting Ronald Reagan and acting like this is the Cold War all over again – which is why I feel I have no party with the GOP. This isn’t the Cold War. In fact, the tactics on both sides are entirely different. We don’t need to operate under a state of fear – something many of the Republican candidates seem to advocate for. At this point, I’m hoping someone gets the nominee over Donald Trump – but I’m faced with the reality that after Tuesday, that probably won’t happen. I’m then faced with yet again choosing the lesser of two evils – but the only really hard decision, for me, would happen if it came down to Trump or Bernie. The fact that the leading options for both groups are from the extreme sides of both political parties should demonstrate that they are no longer working. The democrats seem to be accepting this much better than the GOP – and I think after this election it may finally be the time that the GOP wakes up and realizes that Cold War tactics and the Tea Party can’t, and won’t, win any elections.
Well, that’s my very long political rant. It’s mostly a word vomit as I think through the issues facing me personally and my generation – and how many of us feel no real connection to the two party system as it is today. Something needs to change; what exactly it is that changes will largely depend on the outcomes of Super Tuesday and the upcoming election.