During my entire life, I've displayed one and only one presidential campaign bumper sticker. YES YOU CAN guess — but you'd probably be wrong.
The year was actually 1988 and the sticker (posted in my high school locker as I was only 15 and had neither a car nor a bumper) touted my sincere and enthusiastic support for George Bush and Dan Quayle.
I was a young Republican.
My non-erotic affair with the GOP began in 1980, when I was 7. I had what, for a kid, seemed like two great reasons for liking Republicans:
1) My Iranian family was furious with Democratic President Jimmy Carter for letting Iran get swallowed by an Islamic revolution.
2) My older brother assured me Reagan would raise the speed limit on highways to 75 mph.
As I got older, my affection for the GOP evolved. My father made a good living during Reagan's 1980s, so I associated Republicans with prosperity. I also took seriously the GOP mantra of pro-business policies, personal freedom and strong national defense. Freedom, strength and cash: What more could a teenage boy want?
When I was a freshman at the University of Maryland at College Park, I was recruited by friend and frequent history classmate Scott English to join the College Republicans.
English, who is now South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford's chief of staff, tells me I was a model member. "I don't want to bust your street cred, but you were very engaged," he says.
So engaged that I was membership director for a semester in 1992. But my pinnacle as a Republican was short-lived. I quit midterm after one of my fellow College Republican officers sent a voicemail message to hundreds of people on campus in which he referred to Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski as a "dyke."
I didn't have sophisticated thoughts on equality or gay rights. I didn't even have any gay friends (that I knew of). It just felt wrong to stay.
The gap between me and the GOP grew as I did. First, I moved to the South, where Republican politics is about God, guns, gays, subsidized sprawl and race-baiting. The gap became a crevasse during the Bush years when "pro-business, personal freedom, and strong defense" wholly morphed into corporatism, torture, wiretaps and catastrophic wars.
Still, I'm not a Democrat. I'm an à la carte voter who, for the moment, mostly votes Democratic. Even if a Republican candidate comes along with some appealing economic, social or foreign policy ideas, it's hard to look past the proud, angry ignorance that so fires up the GOP base. When you venerate the likes of Sarah Palin, you alienate me.
My cat thinks he's a mountain lion.
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