Requested by @LeahG
Okay this is long and probably pretentious and may make some of you dislike me. And that's okay. I'm real nervous about this one but I'm just gonna hit publish now (inspo: THINGS PEOPLE COMPLAIN ABOUT THAT I CAN'T RELATE TO BECAUSE I'M THE PERSON THEY'RE COMPLAINING ABOUT )
  1. Like many people, my initial political opinions were based on what my parents thought. My parents are staunch fiscal conservatives and social moderates, so they identified as Republicans.
    In fact, most of the people I looked up to as a child were Republicans. My community is very white, fairly religious, and pretty conservative. Even though I was well-traveled as a kid, we always went to tourist destinations like Disney or Colonial Williamsburg. Even my trip to Europe in 8th grade was with a group of 47 mostly rich white kids. I had very few experiences with feminism and diverse populations so frankly I didn't know what to care about yet.
  2. I also grew up with a strong sense of respect for authority and had a lot of trouble with people who disrespected authority figures, whether they were parents, teachers, or the president.
    George W. Bush, a controversial figure, was the president during my formative years. Hearing people call him the devil and say "he's not my president!" and roundly mock him at every turn made me very uncomfortable. I figured if he won enough votes to be president both times, people should respect him. So I associated Democrats with mud slinging, and I considered them the villains.
  3. The only other thing I knew about Democrats was that Bill Clinton was one and he cheated on his wife.
    I didn't know anything about his policies or legacy in general, but I was 7 or 8 when the Lewinsky scandal broke. I knew adultery and lying was wrong, so I thought he was bad in general. Chalk another one up for the Republicans.
  4. The liberal adults I knew were mostly loud, rude, and condescending. I didn't like that. The young liberals I knew were also mostly those things but I also thought they were naive.
    I realize now how hypocritical it was to think that people my age were ignorant and uninformed just because they don't share my opinions. But at the time I felt superior to them because the conservative adults in my life suggested that as people mature, they become more conservative. I thought being a Republican made me more mature.
  5. When 9/11 happened, I got angry and scared. I couldn't understand why we WOULDN'T go to war against the people who attacked us on our own soil, because everything I knew about history said that that was what you do.
    I didn't understand the backlash. War is bad, everyone knows that. But wasn't it keeping us safer? Weren't we sending a message not to fuck with us? America is strong! We kick our enemies in the teeth and make them say thank you! And wasn't opposing the war an insult to the troops? Soldiers are brave! My grandfathers fought in WWII and they are brave! Supporting the war means supporting the troops.
  6. Those five factors really influenced my leanings through high school. The first election I really paid attention to was 2008 when I was a senior in high school. I was 17 in November so I couldn't vote but I "knew" a few things for sure:
  7. 1) I didn't like taxes.
    I didn't understand them or the purpose of them, but I knew they made my paychecks smaller. I didn't like that. I was told that Republicans wanted to cut taxes and Democrats wanted to raise them. Easy decision.
  8. 2) According to my dad, Democrats wanted to enact legislature that would make it difficult for small businesses - like my dad's company - to operate.
    When you hear that your dad's job might be in jeopardy if something happens, you want the opposite to happen. I didn't know exactly what the circumstances of the policies he thought would penalize his company, but I knew my dad was scared. So I was scared.
  9. 3) I still didn't like the way people were demonizing Bush and the Republican candidates.
    I still struggle with this to be honest. I took issue with how the media portrayed and parodied McCain and Palin. To me, this came off as disrespectful and one-sided. I thought it was unfair, so I sided against the perceived bullies. Do I think Bush was ill-equipped to navigate one of the most complex and volatile eras of modern American history? Yes. Do I think he's Satan incarnate? No.
  10. 4) I was definitely a social liberal, but considered myself a fiscal conservative.
    I was always pro-choice and pro-gay rights, but neither of those things affected me yet. I didn't know anyone who had or needed an abortion yet. I didn't know anyone who had been raped. I didn't know any LGBTQ+ people. I didn't know many POC. Feminism was still a dirty word. But I had been indoctrinated into the "taxes are bad and only lazy people are on welfare" mindset. That was something I knew for sure affected me.
  11. So when I registered in March 2009, I registered as a Republican.
    I truly felt like I identified with their platform based on what I knew about the two parties.
  12. In college, I started to shift how I paid attention to politics and government. I spent less time listening to my parents, and more time listening to the experiences and concerns of my peers.
    I lived in a more diverse community than I had ever experienced at Pitt. Not just racially, but diverse in their religious, financial, and geographic backgrounds. Suddenly, I started to understand how things I used to not consider important were affecting people I loved. People I respected. Suddenly, I realized that many of the values of the Republican Party were in direct opposition to what I really believed and wanted for the world I lived in.
  13. I saw the reaction to Obama's presidency and realized that Republicans weren't any better at losing than Democrats.
    The absolute hatred launched at the Commander in Chief that I've seen and continue to see from conservatives is just as sickening to me as what I saw happen to Bush. So I slowly began to understand that Democrats weren't really the villains. I still maintain that you should, at the bare minimum, acknowledge that the presidency is a great and terrifying power, and no decision is completely theirs. I think everyone should respect the position even if they don't agree with the person holding it.
  14. I started paying attention to the news and reading about things for myself, rather than just panicked summaries in email forwards from my grandmother.
    I started thinking critically about policy and the actual ramifications of decisions the government makes. This both reinforced some things I thought, and completely blew the doors off on others.
  15. As 2012 approached, I wasn't sure who I was going to vote for. I considered switching to independent, but Pennsylvania was a closed primary and that if I wanted to help decide who the Republican nominee would be, I had to stay registered Republican.
    We also got extra credit for voting in the primary for one of my political science courses, so I definitely didn't want to switch to independent. I could have switched to Democrat to vote for Obama but I wasn't ready to fully commit to changing my stripes. I had spent 20 years thinking I was a Republican and I was wary to completely abandon that after less than a year of questioning that.
  16. After that primary, I didn't think about changing my party affiliation again. I was so focused on figuring out if I wanted to vote for Romney or Obama. It took me a long time and a lot of research but I finally made a decision.
    After the general election, I voted in all the midterms and local elections but never needed to state my affiliation so it still wasn't an issue.
  17. In the years since 2012, I have had a radical shift in my values. I learned about feminism and realized I already was one. I saw the direct effects of racism, both subtle and overt, on the culture in general. I met people on welfare who are working themselves to the bone to get off it. I saw how expensive it is to be poor.
  18. I have seen a Republican Congress throw the brakes on progress and, for the most part, the Party move farther to the right than I ever thought possible. I have seen gross attacks on the president, women, POC, immigrants, and poor people by the people I probably voted for.
  19. I attended a talk with the then-governor of PA, Tom Corbett (R), and heard him deflect thoughtful inquiries from my fellow students and talk to us as if we were children. I saw how obvious his distaste for young people was. I realized his education cuts were part of the reason why I had to take out so many student loans to cover rising tuition.
  20. I learned more about the historical precedents I used to point to as an explanation for my conservatism, and realized they weren't as simple as I once thought. I learned the motivations, circumstances, and necessity behind the choices people make that I may not understand or agree with.
  21. I realized I just flat out fundamentally disagreed with Republicans on most issues.
  22. But I still care about the Republican Party in theory. I still respect the fact that it's important to give at least two different value systems a shot at attaining power
    The United States Government is responsible for a hugely diverse population with needs and values specific to their local community. That's part of the reason we have states rights as opposed to one federal system with absolute power. Eliminating a voice for people who disagree with us is not the answer. It only makes them hate us more. I know this firsthand; hearing Democrats call Republicans idiots only made me detest them more, not rethink my position.
  23. Because I care about the future of the GOP and this country, I am so invested in the Republican elections. Even though I will be voting for a Democrat in November, I care deeply about the fact that Trump and his supporters are making a mockery of Republicans. I care that he is espousing his disgustingly bigoted views in their name.
  24. I care that he is preying on the fears and relative vulnerability of a people broken by widespread economic recession, an embattled political climate, and a growing cynicism regarding the future of our planet. I care that he is saying what people think they want to hear without any regard to the actual implications those views and actions have.
  25. I care that he responds to any criticism with personal attacks and slander. I care that he is inciting even deeper anti-American sentiment among both our enemies and our allies. I care that his words and actions as an individual reflect on our country as a whole.
  26. For that reason, I have decided to remain registered Republican. So I can vote against Trump in the primary.
    I do have a preference in the Democratic primary, but I will also vote for either Bernie or Hillary no matter what in November, so I feel like my vote there is not as imperative as it will be in the GOP primary.
  27. I think it's important to take a stand for what you believe in and what you respect. I believe in the political process and I respect Republicans as a whole.
    I generally disagree with them and for the sake of the American people, I hope that the extreme right starts to come closer to the center. And if I'm being honest, I hope they don't win. I really do. But I respect them and their right to a voice. They deserve a candidate, not a coward who commandeers the conversation through sensationalism designed to distract from his immense lack of qualifications. For all their perceived faults, Republicans don't deserve Donald Trump.
  28. Which is why I will vote as a registered Republican on April 26th. For the last time. For now.
  29. My vote in this primary is a vote of confidence in the future of the Party - and the process.
    There is still so, so much I don't know. And I know that as I continue to grow and live and experience and learn, my opinions will continue to shift. But I am hopeful that real change is on the horizon, and that things will continue to improve for every American citizen.
  30. Anyway, that's my spiel. Vote with your heart and your brain and your gut and your soul.