Why I Became a Republican
Now probably seems like the oddest time in history for an educated, millennial woman to become a Republican. So why am I doing it?
Basically, I stopped caving to social pressures, focused on my personal values, started thinking critically about the things I read, see and hear, and allowed myself to trust my own judgements and decisions.
There’s a lot of propaganda on both sides of the aisle. Because I grew up in a pretty liberal town, I honestly used to think of Republicans as evil. I remember being told by friends that I was a bad Democrat for even suggesting Paul Ryan could be good on poverty.
But the caricature I was presented didn’t match the reality I observed. I remember reading The Wilderness during the 2016 election and thinking, Paul Ryan truly cares about poverty and he and Marco Rubio are the only people I’ve seen with policy ideas (negative income tax) truly suited to the 21st century, where technology is headed, and the effects it will have on society.
But admitting I was thinking about what it would be like to be a Republican and help advance these policies felt like a complete betrayal. It would be years until I found the courage to be contrarian enough to follow my own path and conscience, intense peer group pressure be damned.
I’d always felt too moderate to fit in with my peers. Though I respect him as a person, I wasn’t a fan of Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate because I found him too liberal. While his focus on providing equal opportunities to all Americans resonated with me as a core value, I found his plans to fulfill that value somewhat outdated and unnecessarily ideological. It was odd to me that being so moderate would make me a controversial figure in my peer group.
So I didn’t feel like I totally fit in with the Democrats. But there was this narrative I’d always been fed that if you were conservative and you said you cared about the poor or the downtrodden or refugees or anyone who wasn’t a wealthy, white male, you were being insincere. Republicans were evil and not capable of having basic human goodness, especially the religious ones.
But when I lived in Nebraska for 8 years, I observed first-hand how patently false that caricature was. Nebraska is heavily Catholic and Lutheran and Catholic and Lutheran social services did so much work for the poor and the downtrodden. Even though I was registered as a Democrat, I actually voted for a Republican for the Nebraska unicameral because of all the great work he’d done to help repair the damaged foster system in our state.
Because of religious conservatives, Nebraska was able to bring in many refugees, even when it was becoming controversial. I’d always been taught by liberals that religious conservatives were inherently evil but I saw them in practice as quite moderate and compassionate and a huge force for good.
Liberals also made me think Mitt Romney was evil which I later found to be completely untrue. The 2012 campaign was brutal. I came out thinking, thank God we don’t have an evil “vulture capitalist” in office who only cares about making money and doesn’t care who it hurts, etc.
Years later, I decided to apply to a few consulting firms, including Bain. In doing my research, I realized how ridiculous the evil “vulture capitalist” caricature was. That strain of conservative is so far from evil, it’s laughable.
Mitt Romney is not like Wolf of Wall Street, he’s more like Ben Wyatt from Parks and Rec. Sometimes he tells people realities they don’t want to hear, but that’s because that’s what good problem-solvers do.
That wing of the Republican party is mainly just math and accounting nerds and policy wonks who love solving problems. They’re highly intelligent and very nice and a crowd I’m comfortable hanging out with because I’m a similar problem-solving sort of nerd.
I believe that’s where I belong. It feels, for the first time in my life, like political home. That sort of Paul Ryan/Marco Rubio/Mitt Romney problem-solving, “policy nerd” wing of the party may not be the dominant one currently, but I’d like it to be.
I’m afraid for what our country will become if it doesn’t find its voice and become a dominant strain of GOP ideology and then a dominant strain of political thought in American politics as a whole. That’s why I’m working so hard lately to help promote it. I believe it can save not just the future of the Republican party, but the future of the American Republic as a whole.
As I’ve stated previously, I believe governments work better when they run more like businesses. My business background/knowledge comes predominantly from the tech industry, so I was very excited when I realized Paul Ryan’s thoughts on eliminating poverty could’ve come almost directly from The Lean Startup.
He believes in, and actively promotes through legislation, evidence-based policy making. The problem today is, “we don’t measure success based on outcomes, based on results.” By following Paul Ryan’s approach, the debate becomes not about ideology or Republicans vs Democrats, but about which policies/programs objectively lead to fewer Americans in poverty.
It’s about deciding objectively on the “what” (eliminating poverty) and then being flexible on the “how” based on objective metrics of success. It probably seems obvious to Silicon Valley types that policy should be made this way, but if we actually did it Paul Ryan’s way, it would be absolutely revolutionary for our country.
As someone with a background in social and behavioral sciences, I also think his view on what poverty is is correct. It’s more than a lack of money. “Poverty is a form of isolation. We’re isolating people from the rest of society.”
Recent advances in social physics by Sandy Pentland at MIT support this view. Poverty is harmful because it limits exploration outside of and, at its most severe, engagement within the community. It’s the isolation which affects brain development in children and is the worst poverty trap.
But what moved me enough to join the Republican party was more than just the correct understanding of what poverty is and how to solve it, it’s the value system that underlies why it’s important to do so.
People ask Paul Ryan “Why do you care about [poverty]? You’re a Republican.
I’m also an American and I believe in the American ideal, the condition of your birth, it doesn’t determine the outcome of your life. You work hard, you play by the rules, you can get ahead. You make a mistake in life, you can redeem yourself. The problem is, a lot of people in this country don’t believe that anymore. If the American ideal isn’t true for everybody, it’s really not true at all, is it?
The reason we should all care about poverty is it’s really a challenge to who we are.”
I agree with that sentiment to my core. And that’s how Paul Ryan turned me into a Republican.