September 23, 2004
Why I Am Not a Republican (part four): my unsuccessful quest to become politically mainstream

[ Read Parts One, Two, and Three ]

It has become increasingly clear to me that this world is into "labels". Our desire for "titles" and "affiliations" is evident everywhere we look. From religious denominations to school pride, Greek societies, organizations and cults, it is quite obvious that people, all people, whether they admit it or not, wish to be affiliated with something. My reasons for not being a Republican are no different than my reasons for not being a Democrat. Quite frankly, I'm not interested in pledging sold-out allegiance to an entity with which I don't always agree. And I'm even less interested in doing so to something that can't save my soul.

I'm sure there is some deep analysis about the "pack mentality" or "the nature of gang activity" that could explain our human need to coexist amongst others who are accepting, affirming and predisposed to think like us. Deep analysis and statistics aside, I'm not entirely convinced political parties are doing the best job at fostering the critical thinking and independence of thought needed to carry us into the next millennium.

By independence of thought, I mean one's ability to distinguish and defend one's own disagreement with a particular platform of the same party to which one belongs. The ability is greatly diminished by a society that doesn't encourage proper critical thinking, and a political party system that often blurs the concept of independent judgement. One should never sacrifice their own convictions for the sake of furthering and strengthening any such entity. We should not be voting according to party, we should be voting according to issues.

Often, true identities get lost in the sea of false allegiance. I affectionately call it "the title wave". That is, the overwhelming need for others to initially distinguish themselves by some fabricated title; in this case more specifically, it's their political affiliation.

I realize that different scenarios in life bring out the "title wave" more than others. When you asked "who I am", convenience requires that I give a few buzz words, and throw out a couple of affiliations so I can immediately be pigeon-holed, categorized, cross-referenced, and indexed for future opinion. Or in other words, pegged. The pegging takes place and I am then required to think according to the norm of how society has determined my "category" thinks. It is a crisis more than anyone cares to admit. The presence of this reality offers little motivation for checking the big "R" for life.

As a prime example of this identity crisis phenomenon, I often refer to one of my revelatory (also known as a "Heavy-Revy") moments. A situation that took place in a college "African American Politics" class I once pretended to take, showed me something I hadn't previously noticed about human nature. College, as an example, is a place that brings out the "title wave" (by the way, the web is too). The professor at the time, a black woman, 24-year-old Ph.D political scholar know-it-all, clearly completely and utterly infatuated with her own "greatness" and "wonder", casually opened up the floor on the first day of class for students to "say a little about themselves". She began by subtly seeking out our adoration, telling us she'd just gotten off the phone with Condoleeza Rice.

So went the typical going around the room, introducing ourselves by affiliation and political stance: "I'm a Liberal, White, Vegan," and "I'm a Russian, left of center Roman Catholic," and so on. Granted, yes it was a class in "politics", but the professor never said "tell us where you stand on illegal aliens and your opinion of the Republican Party". No, she said "tell us a little about yourself" and left it open-ended. Apparently, to some, identity is found in political stance.

These days, we talk about political positions as though they are some sort of special dosey-do or director giving stage directions. Left, right, center, middle, center-left, right-front, up, down, left-right, middle-up! What's next? Tricks and roller skates? All the directions are making me dizzy.

So I'm Ambra, the millenial "conservative" black girl. Loddy frickin' da. I am beginning to despise the term "conservative" more every time I have to write it because quite frankly, I don't care what you call me, as long as you understand my position, and call me a child of God.

As allegiances to political parties grow, so does the mess and hatred that entangles the ecosystem of ideas. In the Genesis of political parties, one would think eternal enmity was placed between the donkey and the elephant. We're talking flaming hot, Grand Canyon type enmity with a nail bed, flashing lights and a big red sign that says "BEWARE OF IDIOTS ACROSS THE ENMITY".

Sure, Democrats and Republicans share opposing philosophies, but by nature of how our political system works, both parties have been indoctrinated to always assume the other is the anti-Christ. And while I generally maintain that the political parties influenced by "Liberal" philosophy don't rightly align themselves with my worldview, I certainly know that there are Republicans in the Senate, who would split hell wide open if today were the day of final determinations.


Behind every law, philosophy, and platform, there are live breathing humans, many of whom aren't even fully convinced of what they believe. We have lost touch with the human side and become far too acquainted with the impersonal, monolithic side of political thought. In attempts to automatically combat what the other "side" is communicating, both parties often forego thinking and reasoning for the sake of being "right".

I say this next wave of politics in America is going to be very uninteresting unless we as citizens and more specifically "conservative" citizens start doing some real thinking, strategizing and bridge-building beyond "the Republican party says".

Ultimately, I am not in search of another title or affiliation. As for those, I only need one, and that need was filled when I was 16-years-old. I will however, continue to come alongside of and support those in politics whose foundational beliefs align with my own, but most importantly, those that will legislate beyond their "opinions" , personal benefit, and the latest "pet platform".

Quite simply, I am not a Republican because I refuse to substitute my own identity for a another temporal title.

Posted by Ambra at September 23, 2004 10:59 AM

Comments

Ah, I've got you pegged, now, missy: you're one a them can't-pin-ME-down "unlabellable" types
Good stuff, Ambra.

FWIW, I think we're all combinations of lots of labels. And a label should be just about a certain proclivity toward something rather than a hard-n-fast set of rules (heck, there are republicans who think gay marriage is alright, democrats who want to end affirmative action, and Christians who don't believe in the authority of the pope). Which particular labels are offered in certain circumstances is an interesting study.

Posted by: memer at September 28, 2004 01:43 PM


Good post Ambra. I'm alittle sick of folks and their meaningless title hunts,at this point I'm only interested in titles that actually mean something like husband, father,son,or friend.

Posted by: eric at September 28, 2004 01:43 PM


Ambra I couldn't agree with you more. I sort of embraced being called a Republican. I am look at from the outside as this evil Darth Vader lord of the darkside charater

Yet my compassion for humankind goes well beyond literally teaching people how to fish.

Posted by: Demond Hunter at September 28, 2004 01:44 PM


Memer: Christians who don't believe in the authority of the pope....you mean the guy who can't hold his head up? Don't me started.....

Eric: Now if I remember correctly, you were afraid of the husband and father titles....heh.

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at September 28, 2004 01:45 PM


:D

Posted by: memer at September 28, 2004 01:46 PM


Dear Ambra,

I just re-read your 4 part series on not being a Republican. May I suggest you read up on Alexis de Tocqueville “Democracy in America” and a correlated book To Empower People: From State to Civil Society, edited by Peter Berger. I appreciate your take on being “pigeon-holed”, but if you want to be in the game… sometimes you have to be in the game. You have to pick a team.

The beauty of our republican democracy (small r, small d) is the mediating structures in our society – the associations we make. ADT said “Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations...In democratic countries knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others.” These are the “little platoons” he refers to which individuals who care (I’m avoiding using the term “conservative”) form to truly address the issues of our day.

So not to drag on, I think you may have been shielded in such a liberal bastion, that you don’t know yet about the great things conservative “little platoons” are doing. Google Midtown Educational Foundation for one.

SORRY. chimed in in wrong place. New to the stuff

Posted by: Matt at September 28, 2004 01:46 PM


Matt,

I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I understand the rules of engagement and I think it was in part 2 where I discussed how I realize in our democracy, political parties are the necessary evil. For the most part, I vote Republican. If a Democrat showed more promise than a Republican, the Dem would get my vote.

I leave out a lot of my "story" but I actually have had a pretty good exposure to both ends of the political spectrum. My decision isn't based entirely on dissatisfaction with what Republicans are and aren't doing (although that is a piece). My decision is rooted in the idea of allegiences and where I ultimately see people having the most ability to excercise their power.

I agree, good things are happening all over. But I'm not convinced the world being restored to its proper order is going to be entirely at the hands of the almighty Republicans.

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at September 28, 2004 01:46 PM


A good reminder for those of us who've taken the "R" that it's not the bee-all and end-all of who we are (or if it is, that we've got problems...). If your political party sums up your life, then overall, I'd have to say that it's a pretty shallow life. Good work.

Posted by: Jared at September 28, 2004 01:47 PM


Ambra, Yeah I'm afraid,but that doesn't mean I'm not interested. Political titles are even scarrier.

Posted by: Eric at September 28, 2004 01:47 PM


Ambra,
Eye. To. Eye.

Posted by: Darkstar at September 28, 2004 02:11 PM


Matt, that is a good reference- De Tocqueville, whose preference for private charity over government aid is often cited approvingly by conservatives, and of course the "little platoons" of Burke are well known.

But it could be argued that Republicans are also destructive of the initiative and independence of the little platoons, although to a lesser extent than Democrats. After all under various Republican regimes we got things like wage and price controls and affirmative action quotas (Nixon), all the way to the big spending Bush Administration, which seems to have never found a spending bill it didn't like.

The critique that there is "not a dime's worth of difference" between the 2 majors is overstated, but there is some kernel of truth there. Both parties embrace big government. Both parties are reluctant to make the painful spending cuts to ineffective programs that should be made. Both parties are afraid to speak too bluntly about certain social or moral issues. Both have been in bed with our terrorist supporting "friends" in Saudi Arabia. Both parties play the same game of symbolism, deception and wishful thinking when it comes to race.

Given this reality, one may well ask, why should Ambra hitch her wagon to any of the two majors, let alone Republicans? There is also the negative stigma of being labeled a "Black Republican" (roll ominous music..) to consider for some in the black community, given the identification of some rightist politicians with the segregationist wing of "states rights."

An independent stance therefore has a lot of attractions. If it could be made into a viable "third force" the little platoons may have more options to celebrate.

Posted by: Enrique Cardova at September 28, 2004 02:12 PM


Enrique, you'll see most of your comments in regards to this post have been removed (don't worry, I have them in my inbox).

Maybe you're new around here, so lemme fill you in on how not to get your valid comments answered:

1) Be antagonizing.
2) Come in the spirit of debate and argumentativeness.
3) Disregard the time of others and write dissertations.
4) Before finishing reading posts, start challenginging every single point with which you disagree.
5) Be insecure.
6) Ramble
7) Quote entire passages of my post within the body of the comments.
8)Post multiple comments consectutively.

Comments which come in a spirit specifically intended to berate me and insult my intelligence won't be tolerated 'round these parts. This place is about honest dialogue and seeking understanding.

"Why I'm Not a Republican" is an opinion piece, not an apologetic defense. I have no problem with people disagreeing with or challenging my thoughts, but if you can't come correct, quite simply, you get no love.

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at September 28, 2004 02:12 PM


Ambra, let me try to rephrase what I have written in more neutral terms:

You stated several reasons why you are not a Republican, including your impressions that Republicans are lacking in love, compassion, innovation, popularity and are boring.. We all know this is an opinion piece, but these are exactly the same charges liberals hurl againt conservatives every day, and thus they are worthy of note if coming from a conservative.

Political parties aside, there is objective evidence much to the contrary of these impressions, and as a conservative surely you know the importance of objective analysis of the data. How do you as a conservative reconcile these impressions with the data available?

For example, if Republicans are lacking in innovation and popularity, how do you account for the Gingrich years that saw a major reshaping of domestic policy, from welfare reform to a balanced budget, and the popularity of Gingrich and his boys capturing both Houses of Congress? How do you account for one of the most popular Presidents in US History, Ronald Reagan?

You also say that Republicans have repudiated the moral principles on which the US is based. This is a serious charge, one that many conservatives would not make lightly, given the history of Republicans like Reagan, Lincoln et al. So I would like to ask if you have a concrete example to back this up? How do exactly do Republicans repudiate these moral principles?

You say you have no problem with people disagreeing with or challenging your thoughts. Fine. I hope then you will respond to these comments.

Posted by: Enrique Cardova at September 28, 2004 02:24 PM


Enrique, I think the biggest run-in you're having with my opinion is that you're assuming the extreme of every statement I made. I respect the Elephant for what it is, and credit it for much fortitude in the midst of a licencious culture. But they can stand scrutiny, and the fact that I do so, doesn't automatically associate me with Liberals (although the very notion of that further proves my point about how mentally binding political parties can be).

Now to address your thoughts....

I didn't say, "Republicans are lacking in love" as a definitive statement. I said their delivery is baked into policy which doesn't always bode well with the "people".

I believe innovation is lacking because my generation doesn't see a use for conservative principles. This same stumblingblock plagues the church. By boring, I mean, there needs to be a bigger push to be relevant. I use the abstinence education platform as an example of an area I have yet to hear much innovation besides "teach abstinence in schools". And I'm one of the biggest proponents of AA that you will ever meet, trust me. But in terms of strategy, we are far behind on the influence we could be having on this area in education. Liberals KNOW the Republican argument on sex ed. Very few viable alternative strategies have been offered and trust me when I say there are many. You say these are the same charges liberals hurl, but my point is to say that Republicans need to come off their high horse and admit that they could stand to come up in some areas.

I reconcile my impressions based on the fruit that I see under a Republican administration. Some good, some bad. I realize it is a process to get to where this country needs to be. How many more stupid social organizations are run by Liberals than Conservatives? When I said the Democrats do a lot of the talking, I am referring to the issue of the urban communities and areas that have not had a strong political voice. Very rarely do you see grassroots efforts in the inner city being spearheaded by conservatives. Democrats have worn their false badge of honor because for quite some time, they've claimed to be the only ones who "really cared". The reality is, their version of "Caring" is laughable. IIt's not that I thnk Republicans don't care, I just don't think they always show it in the right way. And if the number of black or latino, etc. votes the Republican party has earned over the years is any indication, there are quite a few people that are not on board.

"if Republicans are lacking in innovation and popularity, how do you account for the Gingrich years that saw a major reshaping of domestic policy, from welfare reform to a balanced budget, and the popularity of Gingrich and his boys capturing both Houses of Congress? How do you account for one of the most popular Presidents in US History, Ronald Reagan?"

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at September 28, 2004 02:25 PM


(cont'd)

I never said they were lacking in popularity. When I speak to innovation, I am speaking to the present. To be honest, I could care less about the past at this point because the past is not what's going to usher in a movement in the younger generation.

"You also say that Republicans have repudiated the moral principles on which the US is based. This is a serious charge, one that many conservatives would not make lightly, given the history of Republicans like Reagan, Lincoln et al. So I would like to ask if you have a concrete example to back this up? How do exactly do Republicans repudiate these moral principles?"

My point is that even within the Republican party, there are people not adhering to the moral principles on which the US is based. America was formed as a Christian nation, and now there is the gay Republican platform. There are Republicans that are pro-choice. These are things that do not sit well with me. Which is why I asked, what is the ultimate authority of the party?

Posted by: Ambra Nykol at September 28, 2004 02:25 PM


Ambra,

I think you are being a little simplistic on the so-called Republican Party. This is now the ruling Party. Your inference is that Republicans are mental clones marching along the road to irrelevance. The truth to that is, I think, the failure of Republicans to grasp reality, they are the "ruling" Party in America and have been for the last ten years. This is the pivotal election. If Republicans win this election, in all three bracches of government(if you have two the 3rd is easy), they will be fresh out of excuses. If not for the war and the recession, their drunken sailor spending habits would be cause for mutany. This can't go on. Canservatives want spending in order or there is going to be some flesh taking. COnservative socal policy in unthinkable without the presidency and more Senate seats. Assuming Bush wins, then potential candidates are going to lead a rebellion against Congressional spending. Take it to the bank.

Now it's time to assail the logic of your complaint. You seem t be stuck on party loyalty and some kind of group think. Let me dispell that this way. Group think for a Congressman is what 52% of less than a million people want them to think. A Senator is the same way but they are far less accountable. With six year terms they vote and say and do what ever the party wants them to do and then 2 years prior to the election they start thinking about voting "with the people".

Compare 2 party politics to coalition politics and you really do have group think. Did you see Martin's convention of liberals up in Canada? It was scary. Talk about group think. It's nonsense to think the two party U.S. system produces group think while the parliament systems of most countries are all free thinkers. It's all utter non-sense. In our system what you think on an issue is irrelevant until you have a chance to win. Why be a horses A on issues that are not up for change? That's my theory.

Posted by: Vanyogan at September 28, 2004 02:26 PM


And then there was the castaway who was rescued from a desert island after being marooned for ten years. The rescuers were surprised to find he had built replicas of buldings from his hometown... including two chapels. "What's this one for?" they asked. "That's where I prayed an worshipped," he said.
"And the other one?"

"That..." he replied as his eyes narrowed, with firm resolve and a set jaw: "...is the one I won't go to."

---

Happy birthday Ambra!

Posted by: Bleeding Heart Conservative at September 28, 2004 02:27 PM


Ambra,

Thanks for yor response. I was away for a day. I appreciate your comments. I always attribute "little platoons" to the wrong place. As someone who took the same position about the same time in my life as you have (don't I sound like Grandpa Simpson), I found myself continually on the outside looking in. Eventually, I felt that I was committing more a sin of ommission by not fully participating in the vehicles available (in this case the political parties) then committing sins of commission by working within organizations with which I did not completely agree.

Appreciate your insight and Happy B-Day.

Posted by: matt at September 29, 2004 12:01 PM


I am a conservative Republican and proud to be so. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of the way Ambra has reached her own worldview. I would never expect her to accept my total view as a very conservative person but I think (I KNOW) I am old enough (believe me I'm old) to see and appreciate Ambra's viewpoint. When I was just a bit older than Ambra I was involved in love-ins, protesting the Vietnam War, hatred for Richard Nixon and the whole liberal agenda. But, at that age I honestly did not understand the why of it. It was just the "cool" thing to do. I evolved. Many people evolve. The blogosphere is a wonderful device in which we can share our thoughts and the opinions on important (and not important) issues.

The discussion of "titles" is interesting. I remember when we thought it very iconoclastic to be against the establishment (what ever that was and whenever it was, we were just "agin" it and thinking ourselves very clever). Now, I find that I have no problem in being labeled as conservative (perhaps radically so). I reserve the right to have different opinions on the smaller issues. The big ones are what really count. And, for me, the big issue right now is national security because the Islamofascist terrorist threat is real. I care very much about the world my grandchildren will grow up in. I care very much about Ambra and her generation. The notion that I would be more worried about my prescription drugs and my social security at a time when a real threat looms over us is silly. I listen to the moaners and groaners across the nation who whine that the government needs to give them a job, health insurance, prescription drugs, yada yada yada, cradle to grave financial and physical security is nonsense. Let's raise our expectations. We are a can-do nation and each of us must rise to the occasion. It is not enough to give a person a meal. Let's make sure they have the education/training to make their own way in the world. And that means not accepting lame excuses for failure to get that job done in the greatest land of opportunity in the world.
Now! How many have I offended today?

Posted by: Marti at October 19, 2004 08:19 PM


Ambra, your "why I am not a Republican" series is very insightful. I find much of what you say quite interesting and enlightening.

A couple of things from your series I wanted to comment on. In the first part, I believe you mentioned that many [Black] Christian Democrats believe that race comes before morality. I don't think neither one of us can speak for most Christian Democrats, so I won't try. But I can speak for myself and for those I know when I say I don't agree with that assessment. Personally, I am a Democrat because I am a Christian, not because I'm Black. While race issues are important and the Democrats tend to deal with them better than Republicans, I think that in some ways, the Democratic Party takes the "Black vote" for granted. The main reason I am a Democrat is because I believe that looking to alleviate poverty and helping those who are oppressed (no matter how they got that way) are moral issues, just as much as abortion, gay rights, and school prayer. I also think that how we conduct ourselves as the major superpower on the international stage is also a moral issue. And I think that as American Christians, we limit ourselves too much to the Republican version of what a Christian should be and care about.

I think the best part of your series was Part Three, when you speak of Jesus' model of compassion and the Republicans' apparent lack thereof. While I would argue that there are many causes, both individual and social, of what you term "disenfranchisement," I agree with you in that the Great Commission calls us to, in a nutshell, set people free from bondage.

It seem to me that many Christians give the Republicans nearly instant support because of their overt endorsement of religion, but considering the lack of importance the party gives to the commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself," I personally cannot support them...it's a matter of conscience. I would rather support a party that is clearly secular than support a party that claims to support my faith but limits and distorts it.

Posted by: Jessi at October 30, 2004 12:52 PM




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