Why John Cole Switched Parties

Why John Cole Switched Parties April 11, 2012

John Cole of Balloon Juice has an interesting post about how and why he changed from being a Republican to a Democrat. It has serious points to make about both parties, about why he simply couldn’t remain a Republican but why he also continues to be frustrated with the Democrats:

A couple of you are wondering what made me switch parties in the other thread. It was a lot of things, but part of it was finally just coming to terms with everything I believed in was bullshit. There are only so many times you can try to justify something, then watch the Bush administration cut you off at the knees, or see them get caught blatantly lying, or doing things like having their FEMA officials stage “press conferences” in which the reporters were… FEMA officials. Or all the talk about about deficit reduction while exploding the national debt. Or all the lies and lies and lies about Iraq. Torture and Schiavo were the beginning fissures for me. Every single one of you, if I were to say finish this phrase: “The sanctity of…” would be able to blurt out “marriage.” And yet, in an issue that is the business of no one but husband and wife, there was the GOP rushing to pass a national law INJECTING themselves into someone’s allegedly sanctified marriage. The fact that they were trashing the courts and ignoring medical science was just the icing on the cake.


I really don’t know why. I believed it. I identified with it. It was part of who I was for years. It was my deference to authoritarianism after years in the military. It was tribalism. A lot of it is because Democrats just seem like such spineless wimps who never fucking fight for anything they believe in. I’m a Democrat now and more sensitive to language than I once was, so I’m hesitant to call Democratic officials pussies because I know it will result in 20 emails yelling at me for my sexism, but good Christ the Democrats were and still are pussies. It’s enough to make you want to smash your head through your computer monitor when you see them constantly capitulating. Republicans might be crazy, but at least they fucking fight. Whether I am right or wrong, I stand up for what I believe. I’ll put my name, my ass, and my money on the line. So watching people repeatedly cave just makes me have no respect for them whatsoever. Sure there are political realities, but good grief, stand for something. I’m honestly shocked that other than a few jackasses, the Democrats fought the good fight on this latest contraceptives bullshit. It was all of these things and above. Having said all that, eventually I hit my breaking point with the GOP.

I think the meanness of the GOP was a big part of it. The outing people on the internet, the religious fanatics, the attempts to get people fired, the absolute unwillingness to ever admit error, the smearing of the Schiavo’s husband, the gay-bashing, etc. Even if I bought into wingnut bullshit, I never thought of myself as a hater. And let’s be clear- I can be a colossal dick, but I’m not by nature a hater. I think you can understand the difference. I’m a live and let live kind of guy, I prefer growing things and nurturing things to destroying them, but I have no problem chucking hand grenades or shooting first if I think it is an imperative. I’ll help anyone who asks for it, but I’ll also not flinch before punching someone in the neck if I think they are threatening someone or something I love.

And while Republicans may very well have been crazy for decades, the outright ugliness, I think, has escalated beyond measure. The hideous treatment of Graeme Frost was the final straw, I guess. It was just the last, final, “WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” moment. You see the same thing from the same folks as they viciously attack Trayvon Martin for his horrible sin of being gunned down in cold blood.

What’s most interesting to me about it is this question of why we — all of us, not just him — sometimes persist in holding on to blatantly false beliefs and unhealthy associations. I’ve done it. I’m sure you have to. And it’s almost always the case that, once you make the break from those beliefs or associations, you almost immediately wonder to yourself why the hell you hadn’t done it sooner, how you’d fooled yourself for so long. I’ve done it on a personal romantic level and on religious and political levels as well.

I think the answer lies in our ability to rationalize. Once again I highly recommend Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliott Aronson. It will help you understand your own brain’s ability to rationalize your beliefs and behavior and force you to question yourself more often. That is enormously important for anyone who wants to believe and behave more rationally.

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