I never wanted to be one of those tinfoil-hatted lunatics, claiming that both major US political parties are ruled by the same unseen hand. And I’m not. After being conservative in my youth and liberal in my young adulthood, I ended up abandoning both parties for an entirely different reason: I have found that both major political parties have very little to do with systems of belief about the way the world should be, and are instead simply consortiums of special interests.
You might say I’m a dreamer. But unlike the old Beatles lyric, increasingly, I feel like I AM the only one! The rise of “non-ideological” politics (ie cross-partisan compromise in the name of getting things that both sides want done) has really killed the idealism that American politics used to be all about. Indeed, touting oneself as “non-ideological” has actually become a selling point that helps politicians get elected, in what seems like a race to the bottom, to see who can sell out the core values of their party first.
It’s as if two people were having an argument, and a third party came in and said “You’re both wrong for different reasons and in different ways.” But then, after that third party left the room, the two arguing parties simply agreed to be wrong together, rather than correcting their problems.
But before we can get into where I’m at now, we need to establish my background. Don’t worry, I haven’t lived a life that was even remotely normal, so it shouldn’t be too boring.
I was born to a mixed-class marriage that didn’t quite work out. This put me in the awkward position of bouncing between neighborhoods, households, and social classes, in a joint custody agreement that ultimately gave me a pretty unique perspective, both politically and economically. On my father’s side, there was the privilege of the upper economic class. Dad was a Cold War hero turned civil litigator with ties to the intelligence community, the international banking conspiracy, petrochemical industry, GOP, Bush family, etc… Our season ticket seats to the Texas Rangers were just a stone’s throw away from Bush Jr.’s himself, back when he owned the team, and he and my father used to exchange meaningful glances that betrayed their collusion in various matters. Mom, on the other hand, was a devout Lutheran liberal artist, with a masters degree in ancient religious music, whose beautiful soprano voice made church services wonderful, even if it didn’t make her much money.
I first became politically aware at age 14, when I started watching the Rush Limbaugh show. Not realizing what a douchey loser Rush was at the time, I simply thought it was really novel that someone could make a living out of criticizing the President, as I am a bit of a contrarian. Clinton would come on TV spouting some meaningless rubbish about “building a bridge to the year 2000” (I never could figure out why you would need to build a bridge to something that would inevitably happen anyway), and then Limbaugh would deliver his rebuttal. The little anarchist in me thought this was just wonderful, and my libertarian bent continued throughout my teens, with all the typical trappings: I read Ayn Rand, PJ O’Rourke, and Milton Friedman, I thought taxes were too high and welfare programs encouraged bad behavior, etc, ad nauseum. Dad encouraged this, and Mom just rolled her eyes and endured it. I was a regular Alex P Keaton of the 90’s.
But then I started smoking weed. Not only did this get me financially cut off from my parents, as soon as they were legally able to do so, but it also broadened my perspective quite a bit. I started attending a community college, and, for the first time, was exposed to the lower economic classes. I very quickly observed that these people I had been so prejudiced against in my youth were just as smart and worthy as me, they were simply underprivileged. This was right around 9-11 and the first Bush Jr. term. The events of the times and my own personal path through life exposed me to the utter failure of Republican policies and ideologies. Trickle-down economics and deregulation caused major economic crises. Hawkish and exploitative foreign policy caused terrorist attacks on American soil.
And as these national melodramas unfolded, so did the melodramas of my personal life. Financial hardship in college made me hate Ronald Reagan for his “Tough Love” parenting philosophy, which works really well, if you want your cut-off children to become drug dealers and prostitutes. Then there was the unsettling realization that my father basically traded dear old mom in for a trophy wife. And my exposure to the upper crust of the GOP (and especially their spoiled brat pack yuppie-larvae offspring, whose privilege I despised) made me acutely aware of their moral hypocrisies, best embodied by the phrase: “Preach to the masses, dine with the classes.” (there should also be something about a Gordon Gekko coke orgy in there)
And so, by my mid-twenties, I was really guzzling that Democrat Kool-Aid. I wanted the war to end. I wanted racial, gender, and economic equality. I wanted social justice and the end of capitalist exploitation. I wanted tolerance of cultural diversity, a goal I feel includes the legalization of all recreational drugs. I wanted wasteful, cut-throat competitions to give way to fruitful collaborations and peaceful co-operation. And I still want these things today, even if I lack confidence in the Democrats’ ability to deliver them.
But more than any of these purely political concerns, I had kind of a spiritual awakening during this time. I had previously been theologically an agnostic and philosophically a Taoist, but somewhere in my mid-twenties, ritual use of entheogenic substances caused me to become a Gnostic Christian, morally at least. I’m still a big fan of hard science, but I also believe Jesus was a great moral teacher. And this was when I became a proponent of an all-inclusive, transparent society based on love, honesty, and acceptance, rather than a materialistic society based on exclusion, secrets, and lies. So, through my conversion to liberal Christianity, and what I saw as a correct and enlightened interpretation of both the canonical and Gnostic gospels, I became an ideological liberal.
And this all came to fruition in the form of the first and only vote I have ever cast: for Barack Obama. He was the first politician the American system has ever produced that I genuinely felt was worthy of my vote, and the waiting in line at 7AM that casting it entailed. He had it all going for him: the perspective he had from his struggle against racial adversity, his coolness, his intelligence and capability. Never have I felt someone to be more qualified to be President, and I was very proud to cast my very first vote for him. There were those that said my first vote should have been for Ron Paul, but this is how I feel about him.
But now, in Obama’s second term, I don’t have quite as much faith in him. For one thing, Obamacare entailed too much compromise. What should have been the product of ideological hardlining was instead the product of backroom deals. For another thing, I was not happy about Obama’s opportunism in pushing a gun control agenda in the wake of public shootings. Obama’s phony tears seemed very disingenuous to me, especially considering that he sends predator drones that kill children all the time without shedding any tears, because that isn’t an opportunity for public posturing. As a liberal Texan, I favor the Swiss model of gun control: have no standing military, but issue every citizen an automatic weapon and train them in their use in public schools. For a third thing, even though I support gay marriage, I really don’t think the government should be involved in any marriage, and I feel like it was just a crumb tossed to social liberals in order to distract us from more important battles being woefully lost. Finally, I was just as angry as everyone else about PRISM, and government intrusion into privacy.
But this blog isn’t a referendum on Obama, who I think has done a pretty good job overall despite some of my personal disagreements with a few of his policies. What really talked me out of being a Democrat, were Democrats! Not the politicians, but the voters themselves, whom I encountered in everyday life. You see, in keeping with being a born-again liberal, I moved from Dallas, a very neo-conservative town where good ol Dubya chose to retire, to Austin, the liberal Mecca of Texas, and started my career in software. I was very excited to join a liberal community for the first time ever.
But then I went through a pretty brutal divorce, the details of which court orders will not allow me to discuss. Suffice to say, I was betrayed and abandoned. Venturing out into the nightlife for the first time in 5 years, I thought, surely, my new liberal community will catch me before I slip through the cracks. But alas, xenophobic Austinites dropped the ball. I soon learned that there is no community here, just cliques. And people tend to have this really negligent, rather than progressive, attitude about social problems, best exemplified by the traffic problem. Even though the roads are jam packed, no one wants to build new roads, because then that would encourage “more outsiders” to move here and use the roads.
My exposure to a town full of Democrats run wild has not left a positive impression of the party on my mind. I always considered the Democratic party to be the party of social conscience and responsibility. But in reality, liberals can be just as spoiled, selfish, bigoted, and entitled as conservatives, they simply use different ideologies to rationalize their socially negligent, greedy, prejudiced behavior. It was as if I was living in a society devoid of compassion or empathy, despite being nominally extremely liberal. This social ostracization even included being fired from several jobs, not because of incompetence, but because I didn’t “fit in” with the corporate culture.
I was horribly mistreated by women. Not just one or two, but the entire female community. They lead me on, deliberately insulted me, talked behind my back, and were generally insensitive to my plight as a middle-aged single man. I put my best foot forward, was genuine and earnest in my quest to find my soul-mate, and the women of Austin laughed at me, the way a jock would laugh at a cripple. I really tried to make the best of a crummy situation, thinking that surely being single in a town full of liberal college girls could be fun, right? But young liberal women are not as fun as stereotypes would suggest. It seems to me they are just kind of stuck up and over-entitled. I actually wrote a whole other blog about this, so I won’t go into it too much here.
There seemed to be the usual steady stream of broke losers trying to exploit me for a hand-out, coming in and out of my life. I had grown used to that in Dallas. “I take care of you when you’re down, you take care of me when I’m down.” But by age 30, I began to feel kinda “in the red” in this whole scheme. Like I had put in more to the community than I had gotten out of it, forgiving debts, allowing people to crash, giving rides, etc… It all added up to me feeling more like an exploited benefactor than an actual friend to the community.
There was simply no tolerance for dissent or critical thinking in the groupthinking liberal enclaves I attempted to frequent. I was discriminated against by happy fascists who sought to eliminate from their in-group anyone “negative” in order to keep them from “ruining their vibe”. These spoiled, selfish brats, who were coddled by their parents and sheltered from reality, had this rose-colored view of the world, and anyone who didn’t fit into that world view was simply labelled “one of those negative people who just wants to be miserable”. (I’ve never personally met anyone who wanted to be miserable and I think that’s a total cop-out) There was just so much revisionism and censorship in the common attitudes of the liberals I would meet, it really shattered my illusion of the down-to-earth, non-judgmental, let’s-roll-up-our-sleeves-and-build-houses-for-the-under-privileged liberal. Instead there were just these petty, spoiled, groupthinking A-Listers.
In other words, I looked back and forth at the conservative pigs and the liberal people, and could not tell the difference. I learned that discrimination, bigotry, exclusion… these are things practiced by Republicans and Democrats alike. Selection bias, confirmation bias, and false consensus effect are cognitive errors that plague all humans, regardless of political affiliation. Ad hominems are all too common when trying to have discussions, even with supposedly open-minded, liberal Austinites. Lots of psychological projection. And in the end, Austin might as well have been Nazi Germany to me, simply because it is so much easier for the community to eliminate “negative people” than it is for them to eliminate negativity from people.
Maybe it’s because Texans just fail at being liberal, but Austin seems like a Libertarian town to me. Or maybe Austinites just have an 8th grade understanding of what it means to be a liberal, mistaking liberalism for mere promiscuity and drug use. It was disturbing to hear young hippie girls parrot this libertarian ideology at me that sounded like something my 65-year-old super GOP father would say. Then you had all the solipsist American Buddhists and Hindus, practicing the exactly wrong Western interpretations of these Eastern ascetic philosophies in what I personally see as disrespectful sacrilege. Then you had the Rule of Attraction idiots who have deified Oprah. Just a whole lot of victim-blaming and social negligence going on, and coming from the types of people you wouldn’t expect. The moral I learned was that people have a wide variety of self-serving philosophies that they use to rationalize shirking their social responsibilities.
In a debate about cultural tolerance, I was told, by a gay person, that “liberals are losers”, which I thought was a strange way to show gratitude to organizations like the Students For a Democratic Society, who marched for gay rights back in the Dark Ages when sodomy was against the law. When I tried to argue that my taste in intoxicants was just as genetically inherent as his sexual preference, he shook the idea off. “Drug use is a choice,” he said, “Homosexuality isn’t.” My counter argument that having gay sex and using drugs were both choices, but wanting to do these things was not a choice, was not well-received. Living in Austin has awakened me to the existence of the gay Republican. There seems to be no solidarity between gays and the rest of the liberal agenda. This I find disturbing, because at one time, their lifestyle was against the law, too, and yet they seem to have no sympathy for other oppressed cultures. Their economic ideologies are surprisingly laissez-faire.
I started hanging out with this dreadlocked Rasta man who worked at my neighborhood head shop. I had a crush on a girl he knew, but she wanted nothing to do with me. After expressing my lament of this fact, he told me that I have a “sense of entitlement”. This is coming from a guy who bangs more chicks in a year than I have in my entire life. Also, I hate to say it, but Obama, this guy was not. He was basically the embodiment of all the worst African-American stereotypes: He was a lazy, slacking dopesmoker who spent most of his time macking on Suicide Girls in their internet chat room. So, for him to say I had a sense of entitlement was really hypocritical, and a perfect example of the type of default liberal attitude you encounter in a college town, where it’s always the white man’s fault, even if it isn’t. I had a few rich college girls tell me to “check your privilege” too, and I also wrote a blog about that.
And then this stuck up ho model basically told me the same shit! “You need to quit pursuing women who want nothing to do with you just because you think women owe you something!” she said. Bitch, how the Hell are you gonna tell me that I have a sense of entitlement when you married for money?
But the culmination of this was when I went to a women’s rights protest. Standing in the middle of all these women who were fighting draconian restrictions on abortion access, I suddenly asked myself, “Why am I here?” And I realized, that I was there because I believe in things. I have ideals. But most of the women were there purely out of self interest. The majority of them knew fuck-all about being liberal. They would probably all fail a quiz on Karl Marx’s Das Capital, Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, or Naomi Klien’s Shock Doctrine. Texas is the home of the conservative feminist, so the women’s right’s protest in Austin was like standing in a sea of Ayn Rands.
This made me feel like a schmuck, because if I were to vote strictly out of self-interest, I would be voting Republican. After all, that is the party for hopeless romantic white, male, skilled workers with respectable salaries. But I vote Democrat, not out of self-interest, but because I believe in things like equality, fairness, peace, justice, and love. And yet, in a town full of Democrats, I felt inferior, the victim of bad justice, not at peace but torn by conflict, and unloved. In a town where special interests are put on a pedestal, my vanilla white-bread sensibilities didn’t seem to fit in at all. If you are gay or transexual, Austin is a wonderful town in which to be social, but don’t try to bring your heterosexuality out in public, because it is not considered acceptable. When expressing discomfort with my male gender role in the wake of divorce-related trust issues, I had women chomping at the bit to convert me to transexualism and do my make-up, but none simply willing to drop their pretense of entitlement and give me a little TLC on the house in recognition of my hard-luck case.
And that’s when I realized that the Democratic Party is made up of loosely-affiliated special interests, most of which don’t even get along. For most Democrats, membership in the party is more about “getting theirs” than any kind of liberal or progressive ideology. The feminists tend to be racist, materialist, and classist, and the minorities tend to be misogynistic Europhobes. And who am I? Well I’m just that schmucky white guy paying the bill, I guess. I don’t think I’m the first ideological white male liberal to be driven out of the liberal community by self-centered special interests who only think of white men when it is time to blame someone for something that went wrong, or pay the tab for a new entitlement program. And I want to ask them all: “Hey, I know you have a lot to gain from your political affiliation, but what have you sacrificed for it?” Do people even sacrifice themselves for things in which they believe these days, or is that just an antiquated notion to kids?
This is the same as Republicans running deficits and eroding civil liberties. It’s hypocrisy, plain and simple, and it bugs the shit out of me. Over-entitled, special fucking interests. On the right, you have the Banksters, the Military-Industrialists, Big Oil, and Big Religion. But on the left you have Feminazis, Minorities, Big Agriculture, and Government Bureaucracy. Nobody is acting on beliefs in their ideals anymore, it’s all just special interests. I always thought that equality is a general interest, but nobody really cares about equality anymore. They are too busy looking out for themselves. There is no liberal solidarity in this cauldron of special interests.
Also, it seemed like the liberals wanted to lean on the government and institutions for everything. In the wake of horrible depression, I very badly needed friends and community, but in a town full of strangers, I was instead told to “go see a shrink” by people that “didn’t have time for my drama”. Or all the people who told me to bang a prostitute or go to a strip club, even though the idea of sex for sale horribly offends my liberal sensibilities. As if to say, “We have a system in place for people like you, so that I personally don’t have to sully myself with your dirt.” This was not the kind of compassionate, all-inclusive society I had in mind when I started drinking the liberal Kool-Aid. This was Not in My Backyard Syndrome at its most ludicrous. This was justice and medicine administered by a cold-hearted government system, not a community. (an aside for the concerned, I AM seeing a shrink. It’s not helping)
I think it was probably when I was doing time for drug possession in Travis County Jail that I realized, I’m not a Democrat. I’m a liberal anarchist. I don’t believe in this whole system of institutionalized bigotry and oppression that people can turn on eachother. And when I got out of jail, did anyone thank me for not snitching? No, they avoided me like the plague and assumed I was a rat. So I came to this crazy conclusion that we need less government, but more community.
I don’t think this country needs another bailout, social welfare program, or government spy agency. What we need, is a social movement based on goodwill. Because it seems to me like people have just forgotten how to be good to eachother and that’s the real problem. Modern society is just too dog eat dog. What we need are less Al Gores, sitting in their mansions telling everyone not to be wasteful, and more Mother Teresas, who help the poor at their own expense. If there is anything that the two-party system has taught me, it’s that selfish whores run the world, and of these they call the men Republicans and the women Democrats. Unless you want to be a selfish pig or a hapless victim, there is no major political party for you.
I’m still a liberal, mind you. I still think that the idea that competition brings out the best in people is wrong and will cause the extinction of mankind if we let it. I still believe in peace, love, science, freedom, and equality. But I don’t think I’ll vote anymore, Democrat or Republican. Instead, I’m all about green parties and black blocks and anarchist bicycle shops and hippie communes where they grow their own food. I work at a software company that encourages self-management and collaboration. And I believe that revolution is coming. But it won’t be red shirts versus blue shirts, it will be a revolution of life against non-life, goodwill against selfishness, and accomplishment against regression.