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I was a teenage Republican.

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In my high school yearbook, there is a picture of a 15-year-old girl discussing President Ronald Reagan's new administration. The caption reads in part, "...taxes will be cut, the government deficit will be decreased and our country will again be a world power."

I was that girl. There, I admit it. I was a teenage Republican.

Granted, I was likely parroting my parents, ardent and lifelong supporters of the GOP. Or William F. Buckley, whose stentorian tones regularly resonated from our television set. Or the John Birch Society newsletter, which lay by my father's armchair, although I found its language dull and impenetrable.

Twenty-eight years later, those beliefs are as remote to me as the combination to my high school locker. Yet, my conversion to the left was neither quick nor fleeting, unlike the convenient transformation that occurs when hitting a nasty pocket of air turbulence or spending the night in jail. For several years, I felt apolitical. In the mid-1980s, while my politically astute college classmates were building shantytowns on campus to protest apartheid in South Africa, I was at happy hour.

But after a few years in the real world, one without health insurance or a living wage, I moved left. I started paying attention and veered farther—left of the Democrats, but right of the Socialists.

Why? Because I don't want to tell you whom to marry, whether to bear children or what deity, if any, to believe in. I don't want to manipulate or execute you. I think you should have more rights than corporations. I think you should have free health insurance. I really believe that all people are created equal. I believe in clean air, water and land. I'm willing to be taxed more if it means fewer people do without. I don't want to be taxed to build bombs or wage wars.

Sure, there have been rogue Democrats—George Wallace and Zell Miller, among them—and thus, my voter registration lists me as unaffiliated. Nonetheless, I will never vote Republican for the reasons Hal Crowther explains in his essay this week, "The elephants in the room." The modern Republican Party has derailed from the tracks of Abraham Lincoln. It has become the party of punishment, judgment and hypocrisy. It is the party not only of big government, but also of oppressive, sneaky, secretive government. It is the party of fear and discrimination.

Thankfully, some Republicans espouse more moderate views. However, if the last two elections are any barometer of the electorate, they're in the minority. Indeed, there is only one scenario scarier than electing a Republican from this year's crop: Allowing 15-year-olds to vote.

  • I was a teenage Republican.

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