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How I Became a Democrat

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A long time political junkie, Jo discusses the development of her political ideology.

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My Introduction to Politics in the USA

I first became interested in politics in 1960, the year I graduated from high school, and the year of the Kennedy/Nixon election. I found Kennedy a very attractive candidate—mainly because of his gorgeous hair and beautiful family. But my family were Republicans: we liked Ike. I liked Ike the same way I liked the Yankees during the World Series. That was the team my big brother liked.

My family's allegiance to the Republican Party dated back to the days of my great-grandfather who had been born just after the Civil War. I was always convinced we had been on the right side in that war. I felt no identification with those Southerners who thought “we” had lost the war. The Republican Party was the party of Abraham Lincoln. I was very proud of it.

How my Political Ideology Developed Through the Years

I could not vote in the 1960 election. (18 year olds were not given the right to vote until 1971). But I was still interested in the political process and watched much of those conventions on our small black and white television.

I also watched that year as four young black students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's counter in North Carolina. Later I watched the freedom riders who came south to test the segregation laws and the angry mobs who attacked them. I watched Bull Connor use fire hoses and police dogs to attack peaceful demonstrators in Birmingham. And in 1963 I watched news reports of the four little girls killed when a bomb exploded at a church in Birmingham where they were attending Sunday School.

Then in 1964 I watched as Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. When the bill originally met with fierce opposition from Southern Senators, mostly Democratic, a bipartisan Senate committee came up with a compromise that attracted enough Republican Senators that they were able to overcome a filibuster by the opposition. Remember when compromise was still possible in Washington?

Even though this bill had been passed with a large bi-partisan majority, the Republican candidate for President that year, Barry Goldwater, fiercely opposed the bill during his campaign. This seemed to me like throwing gasoline on an already volatile situation and taking advantage of the anger for political purposes. I thought it appealed to some baser human instincts.

1964 Republican Candidate for President Discusses His Views on Civil Rights Bill

Here I Stand

“We've lost the South,” President Johnson reportedly told fellow Democrats. And I've watched through the years as that has happened and the South has turned solidly red. Even some of those Southern Democratic Senators, originally opposed to the Civil Rights Bill, became Republicans.

The Democratic party may have lost the South, but they gained my allegiance as I watched the political process closely during those and subsequent years.

I hear some people say there's no difference in the political parties, that they're all the same. No, they're not. Both parties may have philanderers, opportunists, even scoundrels, in equal proportions, but they're not the same. They stand for different things. They support or oppose different issues, and I believe political decisions need to be based on issues, not personalities. I never even liked Lyndon Johnson personally. He didn't even have good hair. But I sure did like the stand he took on civil rights and other issues. And more importantly, the position the Democratic Party has taken on these issues.

To those who call themselves Independents I sometimes want to say, “Get off the pot.” The two-party system may not be ideal; it may even change over time. But, right now, that's what we have. Look at where each party stands on the issues and decide which party best fits your own views. Voting for a Democrat one year and a Republican the next sounds a little schizophrenic to me.

I have an acquaintance who is a Republican and admits she is a single issue voter. She was adopted and feels strongly about abortion. If her mother had chosen to have an abortion, she says, she would not be here. That is the most important issue to her and the reason she's a Republican. I respect that decision of hers. It is based on an issue.

Of course, civil rights is not the only issue that I agree with the Democrats on. I tend to be liberal in my thinking. I support Social Security, Medicare, universal health care, and gay rights. I don't know, though, if I would have been as strong a supporter of the party if it had not been for what I observed in the civil rights struggle during those formative years.

Even though I may be liberal in my thinking, when it comes to politics, I am practical. I believe in compromise and am not dismayed if I don't always get everything I want. I know that progress sometimes takes time. I am often annoyed by extremists on both sides.

I also believe that both political parties are necessary. Without progressives there might be little progress, and without conservative we might go too fast.

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Comments

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on July 12, 2018:

Brad, "My comment is still valid".........Not really.

Brad on July 11, 2018:

Jo

My comment is still valid. But if that is where you want to leave it, have a nice day. Bye!

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on July 11, 2018:

Hi, Brad. This article was just my personal history, How "I" became a Democrat. I came of age during the '60s, so that is what I wrote about. It was what shaped me politically. But the issues that keep me in the Democratic party are issues like gay rights, women's rights, fair labor laws, affordable health care for all, environmental protection, and I could go on and on. That's just not what this article was about.

Brad on July 11, 2018:

Jo Miller

And what political positions have you seen since 1964 to continue your support of the left? Does this article even bring us into the 21st century?

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on July 10, 2018:

Thanks for your comment, Virginia. I consider myself a progressive also, and for many years I always voted in the primary for the most progressive candidate running. But, for the time being, we are a binary system, only two viable parties, and now I vote for the candidate I think is most likely to win a national election---or a state election either. Now, more than ever, that seems important to me.

Virginia Allain from Central Florida on July 07, 2018:

I grew up in Kansas so you know I thought everyone was Republican. Leaving my home state after college opened my eyes a bit and the corruption of the Nixon administration woke me up a bit too.

I came to realize that the issues like women's rights that were important to me where better supported by the Democrats so that's what I've been for 30 or so years. Now Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have opened my eyes even more and I consider myself a progressive.

I wish more people would take some time to consider if their party really represents them. Perhaps they have since so many are now registered as independent voters. Unfortunately, our 2-party system hasn't adjusted to that shift yet.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 07, 2017:

I was raised in a strong Republican family also, Scott, but left that behind years ago. Now most of my family have similar political views to mine. I have always been fairly liberal in my thinking.

promisem on August 07, 2017:

I was raised in a strong Republican home but in recent years became an independent. Even though I'm right of center in my thinking, I vote for Democrats as much as Republicans. Trump is making it even harder for me to vote Republican.

That said, I also think it's hard for me to become a Democrat for the same reason that I'm no longer a Republican. It seems both parties have shifted away from the center and left people like me as independents.

If the Democrats win big in 2018, as some expect, I hope they embrace the center as much as the left.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 06, 2017:

Your faith in our system is very encouraging, Mona. There is cause for all of us in this country to appreciate our governmental system. But this year has really been a trial for us. It gets discouraging at times.

I hope things will improve in your country. There are those who say we need more political parties in this country, but I have never thought that was the case. What we need is for more people to become involved in the political process. Trump was elected by only 25 % of the populace. Many of the rest of us are very angry with that 25%.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on August 05, 2017:

Hi Jo, I believe your system will survive and that it's working rather well. Over here, we have a rather disheveled system. It's like martial law, only it's not called that. The only independent branch is the judiciary. Media is speaking out but not as much as it should or could be. We don't have analytical shows like you have with Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer. Even Fox is challenging Trump. These are reasons why I believe democracy will prevail in the US. Not so in the Philippines.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 05, 2017:

Thank you so much, Mona. I really appreciate your pointing out the differences between our two countries. That's very interesting and significant, maybe worth a Hub.

I wrote this article several years ago, and as you are probably aware, our system is being tested at present. I'm afraid that great damage is being done and hope our system can survive intact.

Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on August 05, 2017:

I very much appreciate your sharing your line of thinking on how you became a democrat. You bring up many events that I recall, and many I never knew of. What impresses me is that you were mindfully watching all that time and forming your own opinions. There is, however, one thing I would like to point out. As you said, the two party system is not perfect. But in the Philippines we have so many parties in congress and the senate. They are not formed by ideals, but more by how a politician can get ahead in his or her personal career. It is very opportunistic. For example, when Benigno Aquino jr. was president, the Liberal Party, his party, was the biggest in congress. So many switched sides because of opportunism. For the same reason, when Duterte became president so many of those liberals switched to his party, making him own congress. You are most fortunate that imperfect though the two party system may be, it is not run by opportunism the way it is in the Philippines. Again, I am most grateful for reading this thoughtful and informative article you wrote.

Arthur Russ from England on April 30, 2017:

Thanks, I guess it shows that no democratic system is perfect.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on April 30, 2017:

Arthur, I'm happy if I can give you an alternative view of what Americans are like. Just a reminder: More of us voted for Hillary Clinton last November than voted for Donald Trump.

Arthur Russ from England on April 25, 2017:

An interesting read; it’s quite enlightening (and refreshing) to hear the views and perspective of a Democrat supporter. Unfortunately most Americans I’ve come across on social media on the web have usually been Republicans; which with opposing views and their un-willingness to listen to others with a different perspective has been an unpleasant experience for me.

As you might know, your Democratic party is very similar to the Liberal Democrats in the UK. My politics is broadly in support of Labour e.g. ‘social welfare’ issues. Although as a Labour supporter I do have some political leanings towards the Liberals (who are to the right of Labour) on some issues; and leanings towards the Green Party (who are politically to the left of Labour) on other matters e.g. environmental issues. Therefore in local and national elections there may be times when I’m happy to support on or other of the other two political parties; but I could never vote Tory (Conservative), who are politically similar to the Republicans.

My mother, and her father were stanch Labour supporters; whereas if you go further back in time, to the days before the Labour Party was a political force e.g. over a hundred years ago; then my great grandmother was a Liberal activist. So I guess Liberalism and Socialism runs in the family.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on March 04, 2014:

I'm a little of a political junkie. Don't know whether that is good or not, but I've always been fascinated with politics--past and present.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 04, 2014:

A very interesting account of your political life. Our family was staunchly Democratic when I was growing up, and I followed in my dad's footsteps for decades after. Now I'm disillusioned and don't know what I am. LOL

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 20, 2014:

Well written, and we are like-minded. The older I get the more liberal. No shame here.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on February 11, 2013:

It's okay, Jim. Some of my best friends are independents. Best of luck in breaking that paralyzing grip. I'm all for that.

Thanks for reading. Jo

Jim Miller from Wichita Falls, Texas on February 11, 2013:

jo, I do take exception to your stand on us independents. We do much more than pot sit, namely doing our best to break the paralyzing grip of polarization on this country. Plus, we are more issue-driven than any party hardliners. But you know what? I like your style, and I did not particularly care for Lynden the man, either.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on December 08, 2012:

Thanks, Beege.

A day or so ago I read your new post, and was so glad to see you back. Meant to comment but with the Christmas season haven't gotten around to it. Welcome back, and hope all is well.

Beege215e on December 07, 2012:

Jo I have been away for a long while, but as soon as i came back I read this. It is a fine example of having an opinion and a belief system based on strong personal knowledge and experience without attacking everyone else. I salute your sense of reasoning. Very well done.

Nathan Orf on June 27, 2012:

Nice hub! I particularly like the very last line, where you said that things might go too slow without progressives and to fast without conservatives. Right on!

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on September 29, 2011:

@JT Walters,

Thanks for reading and the kind comments. It is appreciated.

I think those guys in Washington may be reflecting the people who elected them.

JT Walters from Florida on September 22, 2011:

Hi Jo Miller,

Perhaps you should go to Washington and give those guys pointers on how to get along. They seem to have nothing in common.

Excellent Hub.

JT

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on September 03, 2011:

@wba108@yahoo.com, Thank you for this response. I'm all for more civility in political discussions. I don't know how we can fault the folks in Washington when our own political discussions are often so unproductive.

wba108@yahoo.com from upstate, NY on September 02, 2011:

JM- You're right and I'm sorry for using the term race-baiter when a more discriptive explanation would avoid heating up the issue and create a more open and friendly dialogue! I'll try to more careful.- Regards WBA

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on September 02, 2011:

@wba108@yahoo.com, Thank you for reading and commenting on my hub. I suspect that you and I would disagree very basically on some political issues, but I welcome your comments.

I believe there are probably race baiters in both parties, but I tried to stay away from such labels in this hub. I did not call Goldwater a racist (I don't think he was), and did not say the South turned red because of racism. You can draw your own conclusions about that. I made my decisions along the way based on what I observed.

I'm a long time political junkie and like to listen to and read thoughtful discussions about politics (both conservative and liberal). But I never listen to talk radio and very little cable news because of the preponderance of political jargon and name calling. I am not immune to changing parties again if I observe the Democrats going in the wrong direction, but name calling won't do it for me.

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on September 02, 2011:

@PThweatt, Thank you for reading and commenting, Priscilla. I really appreciate it.

wba108@yahoo.com from upstate, NY on September 01, 2011:

JM- Thank you for sharing your personal experiences on this well writen Hub! The south had abominable race problems 40-50 years ago. But today the Democratic party has seems to have many race baiters, who stir up dissention for thier own political gain. In my opinion they've increased the problems they claim to fight against.

As for corruption on both sides of the aisle, you've got that right. I see this problem as a symptom of America's moving away from the constitutional limits of government.

The out of control spending is another symptom of the same problem. Thanx again for sharing!- WBA

PThweatt on August 30, 2011:

Very well said!!!

Jo Miller (author) from Tennessee on August 30, 2011:

Thanks all for reading and commenting. I really appreciate it. Jo

Howard Schneider from Parsippany, New Jersey on August 29, 2011:

I agree with your assessments of the 2 parties and I have had a somewhat similar political journey. I became a Democrat and first voted for them in the 1976 election. Compromise is essential in politics and unfortunately the Tea Party is on some crusade. I am center left in my politics and I like to seek sensible solutions to the issues of the day. I like your political sensibilities. Great Hub.

Jenifer L from california on August 29, 2011:

You hit the nail on the head. There are clear differences, and, honestly, I consider democrats to be a bit more ethical and compassionate, concerned more for main-stream America, just your average Joes and Janes. Civil rights is a HUGE part of why I am democrat, it is also a HUGE part of who I am.

Nicely explained.

jwmurph on August 29, 2011:

This is a clear and concise account of Jo's journey from the political party of her birth and family to her own path in life. It is an explanation of what she sees as both wrong and right in the relationship of the political parties in our society in terms of fundamental social justice.

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