I grew up in a Republican household. I love my Republican family (as well as my many Republican friends). But from a young age, I knew I was a Democrat at heart. I knew it as clearly as I know that I’m tall, and left handed, and have brown eyes. It seems as if it wasn’t even a choice on my part, but more of a predisposition. But why? At the tender age of 10 or so, I wouldn’t have been rationally assessing and comparing the policy positions of the two parties (although as a budding nerd, I probably could’ve taken a decent stab it it). Why then? I think it comes down to deep-seated intuitions about morals and values. Democrats have always cared deeply about protecting and lifting up the disadvantaged and about providing equal opportunity for all. We’re not rugged individualists and we don’t tend to engage in “Us Versus Them” thinking and we’re not afraid of changing the status quo for the better. Instead, we build community by working in service to one another. This sense of building a caring community and striving to provide fairness and justice and opportunity for all citizens — not just the white and the wealthy and the powerful — is what appealed to me at a gut level and at a young age. It still appeals to me now. Now more than ever!
I remember back to the early 1980s when I first moved out west to go to school at New Mexico Tech. Love Canal, the first Superfund site, was still in the news and I was studying earth science with an ambition toward contributing to the environmental movement. I was writing to a childhood friend and proclaimed, “Is this a great country or what? I have the opportunity pursue my dreams. I can grow up to be whatever I want!” I didn’t fully understand until years later that not everybody had the same opportunities as I had. I was born on 2nd base and didn’t even know it! My family was by no means wealthy, but we had stability and sufficient resources to live in a nice neighborhood and go to good schools. All I had to do was to work moderately hard and not screw up too badly. I have since come to understand that many in our society don’t have nearly the same opportunities and they certainly have far less margin for error.
I’m grateful for all the advantages I’ve received. And like any good Democrat, I want to “pay if forward” (https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/16/opinion/sunday/the-science-of-paying-it-forward.html). I can’t undo the privilege conferred on me by birth and gender and race. But I can use my many advantages along with some of my time, and money, and energy to help elect democrats and to work to create a society that offers improved opportunities for all. And that is why I am a Democrat.