The Off-Brand Opinion: Why I’m a Republican

Ryan Brown

When was the last time you heard someone argue in favor of the Republican or Democratic Party?

No, seriously.

I remember back in 2016, my socialist grandmother had advertised a bumper sticker on the side of her white Subaru that read, “Vote Democrat: We’re not perfect, but they’re nuts!” The slogan belittled her own party, “we’re not perfect,” for the sake of an anti-Republican jab, “they’re nuts!” A politically moderate passerby could rightly translate the sticker’s message to say,  “If you’re not gonna vote for us, you better not vote for them!”

Routinely, campaigns, politicians and their surrogates focus on the negative: why you shouldn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, why you shouldn’t trust Republicans, or why you shouldn’t have spent the last three weeks playing Red Dead Redemption 2. That’s not to say you should do any of those things, or that you should always ignore someone whenever they “go negative,” but a little positivity would go a long way in a political era when opposition, detraction and cynicism reign supreme. Without an effort to understand why our political opponents see things a different way, we will continue to demonize those who disagree with us.

Awhile back, I wanted to find an answer to the question, “Why am I a Republican?” that went beyond, “Well, I know I’m not a Democrat.” It was a welcome exercise in defining my beliefs positively, using persuasion to win undecided minds over toward “enlightenment,” not bully someone into fearing “the other.” I came to the following conclusion: I am a Republican because at heart, I am an optimist. I try to see the best in those around me, and I have faith in the American people above all else. To me, Republicanism-done-right speaks in the language of optimism.

It’s why I support smaller government. Lower taxes means more dollars in the pockets of hard-working Americans who earned those wages. Sure, economic planners might claim to know where best to spend your money, but I believe that no one knows how to live your life or plan it better than you do. I am optimistic that when we lighten the burden of Uncle Sam’s yoke, families have a little extra to spend, new businesses are born, and economic opportunity grows brighter with each passing day. But I do not rest on faith alone.

I believe that an overbearing government – over-regulatory, overspending, and overpowered – is diametrically opposed to the principles of freedom and self-determination upon which this country was founded. A stronger federal bureaucracy dilutes the political power of everyday Americans, who naturally have greater authority over their state and local governments. When big government violates federalist doctrine, it weakens the states and, by the transitive property, the authority of the people. I am optimistic that when power is placed in their hands, the people will do with it what is right, so long as they themselves uphold our nation’s most intrinsic values.

And speaking of that nation, I believe that it is an extraordinary one. It’s why immigrants from all around the world have flocked to our shores and crossed our borders. The greatest experiment in political history, for all the cynicism, division, and partisanship, stands as strong today as it did 230 years ago. Our country has committed grave sins, like every other, but unlike any other, it has stayed committed – as it marched through prejudice and hate; violence and war – to the precious ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all men and women, regardless of race, nationality, or creed. And as a reward for the blood shed in defense of freedom, America has made good, time and again, on her promise: that parents might leave behind for their children a better life than the ones they led. I am optimistic that the American dream is alive and well, strengthened by our free market economy.

I believe in the right to life not because I want to control anybody, but because I believe that human life begins at conception. I would be a hypocrite to believe that and not speak out against the 98.5% of abortions performed for reasons other than rape or incest. Human life should be sacred, because it represents the truest form of opportunity: the life of each child can grow into something entirely unique and beautiful. In this way, I am proud to stand up for those who cannot speak yet for themselves.

I support religious liberty not because I condone discrimination or treating others with anything less than respect, but because I acknowledge the wishes of those who conscientiously object to practices that directly conflict with their religious beliefs. Just as no one should be mistreated or disrespected in any way for how they identify themselves or how they choose to live their lives, so too should we respect the consciences of all Americans to decide for themselves what actions are right, wrong or neutral. When the Little Sisters of the Poor are forced by the government to pay for contraceptives through mandated health care, that represents a clear violation of religious liberty.

But in a larger sense, why liberty? Why liberty for the religious? Why liberty in the form of free markets? Why liberty in the freedom of speech, right to bear arms, or exemption from unjust search and seizure? This is the most optimistic of all Republican tenets: Americans are not only entitled to these things, but empowered by them to do good. A Californian with the freedom to follow his religious conscience will find God, and use it to serve the poor and tend to the needy. A Georgia woman will take advantage of a free economy to found a future-fortune 500 company. A student on a college campus will speak out against injustice, while a Church usher becomes a hero thanks to a lawful firearm. In this way, freedom demands optimism. Undoubtedly, it can and does get abused. But if you believe that more often than not, your neighbors will use their freedom to make good decisions and to do good, welcome to the Republican Party (scary, I know).

A couple thoughts before I go:

1. I’ve omitted a few issues that some Republicans agree with that I don’t: capital punishment, immigration, tariffs — and that’s just to name a few. But I don’t feel the need to agree with everything my party says; that’s the beauty of being an individual, with your own unique sense of right and wrong, after all.

2. I’m aware that many readers’ first reactions will be to tear down what I’ve said, quickly rooting through points and subpoints to say why this is bad and that is wrong and why I am evil. That’s fine and they are entitled to do so. But, I would challenge my readers to first chew on the question that started all of this: “Why am I a ___________?” Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Van Der Linde, etc: just fill in the blank, and see where that takes you.

I hope that with more exercises like this, we might start to see each other not as demons or dunces, but as passionate, well-intentioned neighbors.

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