05 November 2013

Why They Defected

Although most of my votes have gone to candidates from the Democratic Party, I can't say I've ever been terribly enthusiastic about the party--or, for that matter, most of the candidates for whom I've voted.  For one thing, I think many cities--including New York--are over-regulated.  And, too often, their rhetoric about "inclusion" is simply a smokescreen.  As an example, I think Obama "supports" gay rights (and gay marriage, only after Joe Biden beat him to it) only because the finance and insurance industries employ a lot of gay men (here in New York, anyway).  And those companies are his largest campaign contributors.  

But I've voted for, if not always identified with, Democrats because right around the time I started voting, the religious zealots and hatemongers started to worm their way into the Republican Party.  And now, it seems, they are running the show.

I'm not the only one who thinks that way.  No less than Carlo R. Key says as much, with even greater depth of knowledge than I'll ever have.

Who is Mr. Key?  He's a Texas judge who decided to leave his party and join the Democrats.  That's quite a move for someone in his position.  What's even more telling, though, is his explanation for it:

 Rational Republican beliefs have given way to ideological character assassination. Pragmatism and principle have been overtaken by pettiness and bigotry. Make no mistake; I have not left the Republican Party. It left me. I cannot tolerate a Republican Party that demeans Texans based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin, or their economic status. I will not be a member of a party in which hate speech elevates candidates for higher office rather than disqualifying them. I cannot place my name on the ballot for a political party that is proud to destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of federal workers over the vain attempt to repeal a law that would provide healthcare to millions of people throughout our country. .. I would hope that more people of principle will follow me.

The man didn't pull any punches.   But there is also a note of sadness:  "I have not left the Republican Party.  It left me."  At least his move doesn't seem to be one of political opportunism, and even has fairness as a motive:  "I cannot tolerate a Republican Party that demeans Texans based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their economic status."  Couldn't have said it any better myself.

The hate that has infested the party (and, I believe much of the political process) drove Judge Key out of the Republican Party--or, as he says, pulled it away from him--also motivated another high-profile move from the GOP to the Democrats.  In North Carolina, which has tried to suppress voter turnout, Congressional candidate Jason Thigpen announced his defection the other day:

 I simply cannot stand with a party where its most extreme element promote hate and division amongst people,” Thigpen said in a statement posted to his campaign website Thursday. “Nothing about my platform has, nor will it change. The government shutdown was simply the straw that broke the camels back. I guess being an American just isn’t good enough anymore and I refuse to be part of an extremist movement in the GOP that only appears to thrive on fear and hate mongering of anyone and everyone who doesn’t walk their line.

His switch is, perhaps, even more jarring than that of Judge Key because he spent six years in the Army, two of them deployed to Iraq as a gun-truck commander for a Convoy Security Team.  But that experience is another reason why he changed parties.  He says he "didn't go to war to defend the liberties and freedoms of one party, race or one income class of Americans".  So he simply could not abide the Republicans' attempt to make keep minorites and college students from voting.

While the Democrats are welcoming Thigpen and Judge Key with open arms, the party needs to heed a message both men voice:  that their party needs to represent everyone, not just certain segments of the population.  Simply supporting gay marriage is not enough; if the party is serious about representing the underrepresented, it needs to remember the "T" at the end of "LGBT" and all members of "minority" groups.

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