Liberal. Conservative. Moderate. Left. Right. Centrist. Populist. Socialist. Democrat. Republican. Independent.
Let's be honest: lately we've spent more time coming up with different words and connotations than deriving actual meanings and results.
Personally speaking, I'm a registered and dues-paying Republican. I've voted Party-line since I've been able to vote, but don't hold that against me, because it's not like I'm saying I voted for ultra-conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (recently defeated in Pennsylvania) or Alan Keyes over Barack Obama in the '04 Illinois Senate race... it's just saying that when I had a choice, the Democrats weren't formidable enough to secure my vote.
Specifically, I'd say there's something about limited government, low taxes, and a strong defense that resonates with me. At least that's the Republican Party I read about years ago. I saw my mom pull three boys and herself up by her bootstraps, with both Reagan/Bush 41 and Clinton in power with little change, and I've largely done the same for myself. I don't need a government slowing me down while I climb higher than any person in my entire family has ever reached...the more money they let me keep for myself, the more I can give my mom for her first-ever mortgage.
Now-a-days though, social conservatives like Santorum, Pat Robertson and other's from the 'religious right' have wrestled the Party's base to the Bible Belt and away from the more East Coast-friendly fiscal conservatives and military/foreign policy intellects of Administrations past and present (i.e. Ike Eisenhower to Colin Powell).
Having grown up in the South (Carolina and Texas), I guess I should be comfortable in this environment of social confinement and Christian-over-Common Sense policies, but lately I've grown increasingly impatient and annoyed with the (lack of) Common Sense of my affiliation's leaders.
It's no coincidence my choice for our next president, Sen. John McCain, recently sent an email to members of his PAC (political action committee) 'Straight Talk America' about common sense conservatism and getting back to the real roots of the Party. The roots guys like Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan built, strengthen and mastered.
It's funny though...how quick people are to assume things about me because of my political affiliation. They say I'm pro-death penalty (i.e. especially for innocent people); pro-big business (i.e. Halliburton); pro-life (i.e. women have no rights). Pro-military (i.e. let's fight every war possible); pro-church (i.e. learning the 10 Commandments is more important than Arts & Sciences). I could go on and on...
I even had one friend say he thought I was only a Republican because I liked being a novelty. The notion is entertaining at best, considering I look at upper-middle class, historically-privileged, educated/so-called intellects every single day whom I could more soundly argue are Democrats for self-gratifying reasons as well. However, I try not to judge one's political preferences, instead choosing to judge how they go about discussing them.
Truth be told, I'm a fairly moderate Republican at best. In latter years, I may even be confused for a moderate-to-conservatve Democrat a la Virginia Senator-elect Jim Webb (formerly of the Reagan Administration). Regardless, I don't associate myself with a party as much as I associate myself with principles. You know ... those things we used to base our political decisions on.
I'm not quite sure whom to blame for our lack of foresight with regard to our political choices. Maybe it was when we lost our popular president in 2000. Maybe it was before that, when Gerald Ford pardoned his friend Richard Nixon. Still, maybe it was slightly before that when Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy died in too short a span. Somewhere in the shuffle Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society transformed into America's Assuming Society.
Our assumptions, about political leaders/candidates ... about the views of others ... about the causes of struggle in America, have faulted us to the point that we fail to see beyond those words I listed at the outset.
Where we once tried to find common ground, we now try to find uncommon denominators. But even denominators have a numerator...meaning, even Republicans and Democrats and Independents have similar views on some issues and policies.
So whenever I start a political conversation with someone, I try to hone in on what we already agree on, what we already know, and what we both want in the future. I think when we do that, we'll stop looking at whether someone is pro-choice or pro-life or anti or for the death penalty and we'll concentrate on real-life, real-time issues like taxes and education and health care.
I don't like to spend time talking about being a Republican as much as I like to invest dialogue and effort into supporting the principles behind that word. Likewise, I think we can all agree there is no such thing as a perfect political party and our best hope is to make the party of our choice as good as possible. I guess that's why I'm sticking with the Rs through hell or high water instead of switching back and forth like a porn star.
Anyway, this wasn't about my politics as much as it was about my undying hope that one day soon, we'll replace our need for definitions and connotations with decision-making and compromises.