Why am I a Republican? Many liberals/leftists/Democrats, especially black ones, have asked me that question, some politely, some not. It’s a long story that I’m only able to tell correctly in written form, because it's the only time I can tell the story without getting shouted down and/or bombarded by a parade of logical fallacies.
In 1980, the first year I was old enough to vote in a presidential election, I voted for Jimmy Carter. (Stop throwing things at me! He didn’t win!) It wasn’t for any overwhelming ideological reason. Voting for the Democratic presidential candidate was just what black Americans did back then (and still do, for the most part). In subsequent presidential election years, I did the same thing, all the way up to 1996, all without too much thought. However, by that year, the transformation was already taking place.
From 1981 to 1994, I was an active duty Air Force member and, while most of my Air Force friends and colleagues were Republicans/conservatives, I remained a Democrat. It wasn’t something we discussed too often. We just agreed to disagree on things political—not that I knew that much anyway--and let it go at that. The odd thing I didn’t notice until later was that these conservative colleagues were often the most conscientious workers and the most generous and trustworthy of friends, in contrast to most of my liberal acquaintances.
In 1994, after I exited active duty--I entered the AF Reserves in 1995—I came back home to Los Angeles to keep an eye on my great-aunt, then in her mid-seventies. I moved into the duplex that had been in my family since the 1940s and began to take courses at one of the myriad community colleges in LA.
Keep in mind that, in spite of my middle-class upbringing and having been immersed in the equality of the US military of the eighties and nineties, I still had unfocused notions that black Americans were somehow being held back by white racism and the ‘system,’ whatever the heck that meant. While partying in Germany and Japan, I hadn’t had time to ponder concepts of personal responsibility, pride of community, capitalism and patriotism, seizing opportunity, etc. I was out there defending the democratic republic, not holding a seminar about it.
Then I came home and faced reality.
Baldilocks Comes Home
My tenant in the other part of the duplex was a welfare mother with three children. One of her daughters—a seventeen-year-old who weighed roughly 300 pounds--told me, after an incident involving the police, that nothing that went on in their part of the house was my business.
My tenant’s oldest child, a young man, decided that he would “move” into the garage—without my consent--and make his domicile there. Since the electricity from the garage was on my bill, my electric bill doubled as a result. I informed his mother that the garage’s electricity would be switched over to her bill and why. When she balked and said “no,” I explained to her that she had no choice in the matter. She claimed that her son had his own money and his own “apartment” and that I should deal with him! When I explained to her that a garage was for cars and gardening equipment and that I did not have a contract with her son to squat in my garage, she promised me that she was going to move out. A couple of days later, she sent me a letter informing me that she was moving out in 30 days. (She didn’t do so until five years later, when I sold the house.)
My neighbors in the duplex next door were also welfare recipients, living on the largess of their father. They would party all night, all during the week, while, I, working two jobs and going to school, attempted to get some sleep on occasion.
My tenants constantly threw trash on our lawn and my neighbors constantly threw trash on their own lawn and mine.
Two of my cars were hit while sitting in front of my house. No note was left in either case.
Let’s not even discuss the shootings.
In other words, I, Miss Black Middle Class, finally got an up-close and personal view of my poor, downtrodden brethren and saw who exactly it was that was keeping them poor and downtrodden. Hint: it wasn’t white Republicans.