Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason. ~ Author Unknown
It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized I had grown up in a house fashioned from most hardened political timber. Its primary architect, my Father, was a highly intelligent self-made Midwesterner who believed hard work could overcome any obstacle. He loved America, loathed its enemies and routinely exercised his right as a citizen to write letters to public officials and the “liberal” media, expressing his support for or disappointment in a particular piece of legislation or editorial.
America in the late ’60s was ablaze with Vietnam, racial tension and civil disobedience. Fear and anger permeated the ranks of the men in the gray flannel suits. It was driven into our heads that government and its social programs were like weeds – if not pulled and pruned, they choked the growth of our economic garden. Social Darwinism was an inconvenient fact. America? Love it or leave it! North Dakota would be a nice, out-of-the-way place to shoot those who burn the American flag. Personal responsibility and a strong work ethic were building blocks of society’s DNA. This brand of conservative libertarianism drew heavily on the political views of Friedrich Hayek, who argued in The Road to Serfdom that any form of collectivism would eventually disintegrate into dictatorship and tyranny. I did not know it at the time, but I was a Republican.
If you’re not Liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not Conservative when you’re 35, you have no brain. ~ Attributed to Winston Churchill
Upon attending college in the early ’80s, I took a political left turn. I became aware of the underbelly of capitalism and the social ills that ran through the gutters of a free market society. I was outraged at the institutional prejudice and fascism of the Reagan administration which was perpetuating poverty and protecting wealth. I was convinced “the man” was to blame. The fact that “the man” was paying my college tuition did not seem to hit my radar. My predictable plunge into liberal politics was tolerated like a sort of ugly rash. My flummoxed father couldn’t comprehend how a conservative liberal arts college that spawned Henry Kravis and Peter Drucker could have allowed enough intellectual rope for my brain to become ensnared by neoclassical welfare theory.
I think my Mom understood the real cause of my ideological U turn: most of the good-looking girls in college were Democrats. I had become a political chameleon, switching colors from red to blue faster than my lava lamp. Half the time, I had no idea where my argument was going as I spun great swirls of meaningless mental cotton candy. I brought home a succession of ’60s retro girlfriends who listened to The Grateful Dead, spiked trees and laid themselves across railroad tracks purported to be transporting nuclear waste.
To my father, I might as well have defected to Havana. What he did not know was that like The Manchurian Candidate, certain words or triggers would plunge me into a conservative flashback. I had become a political schizophrenic. I was over watered by “trickle down economics,” blinded by a “thousand points of light” and left wondering what I should do for my country instead of asking my country what it could do for me.
There are many men of principle in both parties in America, but there is no party of principle. ~ Alexis de Tocqueville
After marrying and moving to San Francisco, I was aroused by the orthodox liberal theory of Northern Californians and their broad inclusive agenda. I learned that we Southern Californians had been stealing their water, polluting their environment and ignoring the warning signs of the imminent social apocalypse for years. I apologized and became very active in the community. However, as I rubbed elbows with anarchists, nihilists and liberals that made Jimmy Carter look like Hermann Goering, I kept feeling the imposter. I realized my innate values were incongruous with the views of those who secretly longed for a collectivist society. I kept thinking of Hayek and, being a student of history, believed that a free market, capitalistic society was a more reliable path to economic prosperity, creating a greater opportunity to address civilization’s deep warts.
The missing piece was personal responsibility – from those who needed to help themselves and from those where much had been given, much was expected. Business and individuals needed to fill the void created by a diminished role of government. If people failed in delivering on this implied social contract, the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” would only increase, and political upheaval would accomplish what a well-intentioned but self-absorbed society could not. I felt uncomfortable among mainstream Democrats and Republicans. I considered myself an Independent, but the likes of Ross Perot and Ralph Nader did not convince me that I’d found my tribe. I decided I was really a Demoindependican.
The Democrats seem to be basically nicer people, but they have demonstrated time and again that they have the management skills of celery. They’re the kind of people who’d stop to help you change a flat, but would somehow manage to set your car on fire. I would be reluctant to entrust them with a Cuisinart, let alone the economy. The Republicans, on the other hand, would know how to fix your tire, but they wouldn’t bother to stop because they’d want to be on time for Ugly Pants Night at the country club.
~ Dave Barry
When I moved to Europe, things only got more complicated. Every dinner seemed to result in a political attack on America, and I found myself constantly defending my country. However my brand of Demoindependicanism was confusing to the Europeans. “Are you Republican or Democrat,” a German colleague finally asked. “Neither,” I chipped. Perhaps somewhere in one of these countries was a coalition party that I could relate to – the sugar eating, fiscal and personal responsibility, social safety net, “Yes, I admit to believing in a higher power” party. I was sure the Germans had a word for this. As I evaluated the various countries with their myriad forms of governments, I felt cheated being part of a system where no political party captured the essence of my particular brand of humanity.
Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others. ~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
Returning to America was wonderful, but it did not ameliorate my conflict. I still feel like a political hobo – riding each party’s railway for a while until either out of disgust, boredom or anger I move on, incapable of making a commitment to stay. As a Demoindependican, I advocate fiscal conservatism, social activism predicated on service and open arms internationalism. This would not be the party of libertarians or populists but the amalgamation of Tocqueville, Confucius, Adam Smith, Hayek and my senior pastor. My biggest problem is finding a party and a presidential candidate that best embodies those views.