I have finally escaped the plantation!! After a harrowing journey along a figurative underground railroad, I am finally free. Free to succeed or to fail. To live or to die. Free to support or criticize. I am finally free from the political bondage that is the contemporary Democratic Party. A little of my story might be instructive…
I grew up in a typical Black southern family. My parents graduated from segregated schools and encountered racism on their jobs. They were not especially political, but they did encourage us to vote. They were not particularly prejudiced against White people, but were (for good reasons) reasonably suspicious.
I grew up in a neighborhood where we were one of the only Black families. My neighbors were kind. I never recall anything racist from them, unless you consider our one neighbor referring to my brother and I as “the little colored boys from next door” while on the phone with a friend of hers as racist. Then again the same neighbor babysat us for free when my mom worked, and took us to McDonalds periodically. Our neighbor on the other side baked cakes for our birthdays, and paid my sister to help her out with chores. That was one category of White people.
The other category were those commonly referred to a “po’whitetrash” or more derogatorily as “hoogies.” They were crass and low class, at least in my estimation. They were the ones most likely to call someone “n____.” Quite honestly they were annoyances rather than threats, though my parents shaping experiences made them more passive than perhaps they could have been in confronting them. In any event, there it was.
By the time I reached high school however, my burgeoning race and class consciousness had reached a low boil. I was angry. Angry at race! Angry at class! Angry at whitey! And that anger expressed itself politically as wholesale and unquestioning embrace of the Democratic Party.
The first vote I cast in a national election was for William Jefferson Clinton, a vote I do not regret. In high school my view of the police, in light of the infamous Rodney King beating, was less than favorable. And even though my religious convictions warned against it, I was adamantly pro-choice, pro-euthanasia, and anti-death penalty (though I did believe that abortion rights should be restricted for those under legal majority). In fact, I politically supported unquestioningly and unhesistatingly the full platform of the Democratic Party and of progressive liberalism even though much of the platform, from tax policy, to social policy, violated my own personal beliefs, convictions, and yes even reasoned common sense.
Why the discrepancy?
Well it all goes back to race. I am Black. And Black people are Democrats. That’s it; end of story. As a Black man, it was the only “proper” and available choice. Anything else would be “selling out” to “the Man” and I wasn’t going to be a sellout. No matter that almost every value I was taught and held dear were contrary to the policies of the Democratic Party. It didn’t matter. I was Black and therefore a faithful Democrat.
It was actually not that difficult of a position to hold, since my major beef with Democrats were on social policy. I actually believed in socialist idealism, highly “progressive” taxation, and an abundance of regulation. More importantly though, I bought hook line and sinker the notion that to be Republican or conservative was to be racist. Nevermind that it was Democrats who:
1) upheld and defended slavery
2) upheld and defended Jim Crow
3) most adamantly resisted Civil Rights legislation
I was a Democrat and that was that. So even as I grew up and grew out of my “angry Black man phase” (which I think every person of color goes through), and came to realize my convictions were not really in line with the Democratic Party, still I voted with them. This was helped along by the fact that I live in a state that is pretty solidly Red and where even the Democrats are comparatively conservative.
So what happened? How did I escape the plantation?
Well to be honest, I grew up. And this last “historic” election made it possible. You see, this last election showed plainly what I had suspected all along, and what was blatantly apparent in my high school and college education (thankfully my parents sent me to private school in elementary). The American left has always thrived on fear mongering and racial politics. From the earliest days when Democrats battled to retain the right to hold my forefathers as slaves and to resist the “monied capitalists of the industrial northeast,” to the “if you’re White and don’t support Obama its because you’re racist,” the line is always the same.
Race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, class… whatever the category, the Democratic Party thrives on increasing its power by playing the card of anger and envy. And quite frankly much of what has been passed under the auspices of liberalism has decimated the already fragile economic life of Black Americans, while simultaneously creating a large newly enslaved pool of electoral cattle dependent on the largesse of monied, liberal, White people who can’t seem to simply leave Black people alone.
So I escaped the plantation. I first supported Hillary Clinton and became PUMA, finding a home among other disaffected democrats like those at The Confluence because I valued the competence and professionalism of Clinton over the empty suit charisma of Obama. When she dropped out of the race, I shifted my support to McCain and Palin, and I haven’t looked back.
I still think fondly on my days as a Democrat and still support some liberal ideals. But I don’t think I can go back. I value my freedom too much.