According to the Pew Research Center, I shouldn’t vote the way that I do. Statistics from a large study conducted last year confirm what seems like common knowledge–white, evangelical Protestants like me overwhelmingly vote Republican.
White Evangelical Protestants (all ages): 68% Republican/22% Democratic White Evangelical Protestant Millenials (under 34): 70% Republican/19% Democratic
As you may have gathered, I don’t vote Republican, and barring some drastic change to the modern Republican party, I don’t see myself doing so for the foreseeable future. This puts me in the significant minority for the combined factors of my race, religion and age. So what? Here’s the thing that makes me a little bit interesting: I am not a registered Democrat. I’m an independent who once voted for the GOP.
*By the way, it’s not common practice for me to talk about my political views. I have always believed in the old adage that it’s rude to talk about politics in mixed company (including virtually), and I think most of the people who post a lot about politics online are looking for a fight and/or attention. I’ve also worried ever since college that other Christians would think badly of me for my views (see more below). But I’m not 20 years old anymore, and I can’t be scared out of sharing my opinion because someone else may not agree.*
So consider this a coming-out party of sorts. What changed with me? Here’s the story.
I voted for the first time in the 2008 presidential primary in Tennessee, when I was 20 years old and a sophomore in college. This is before I really followed politics closely, but I checked out all of the candidates and chose someone who I thought had integrity and who had similar moral values to mine. I voted for Mike Huckabee.
During this election season, I was in college at a small, conservative, Southern Baptist university. It was a given in this environment that if you were a good person and Christian, you would of course vote Republican, and I think this is partly why I did the first time.
As that year progressed and the nominees for both parties were chosen, I started to really investigate what both candidates believed. I found things that I agreed with on both sides, but I became increasingly troubled by the Republican party’s platform. Did I really agree that taxes should be lowered for millionaires? Did I agree that it should be easier for all Americans to access and own guns? Did I agree that the government had little to no responsibility to provide for the poor? No, no and no.
And I found Barack Obama very inspiring. His positive message of hope and change spoke to me, and I believed that he would really change things for the better. I also wanted a chance to help elect the first black president. Still, John McCain is a fairly moderate Republican, and if Sarah Palin hadn’t been his nominee for VP, I just might have voted for him. But if there’s one thing I absolutely cannot stand, it’s anti-intellectualism, which to me she epitomizes.
So I voted for Obama in the general election. I felt so excited and empowered to vote my conscience, at least until my friend/roommate/sorority sister told me that she was mad at me, and that I should keep this information to myself unless I wanted everyone else to judge me, too. She also mentioned that almost everyone she knew would react badly to a black man being president, so there was no way Obama could win and I had thrown away my vote. True story: I came back to our apartment that day with a water bottle with an “Obama ’08” sticker that had been handed to me at the polls. I put it in our shared fridge. Later I found the Obama sticker ripped off of it and in several pieces in the trash can. Nice, right?
I’ve voted Democratic ever since. I don’t agree with all parts of their platform, but it most closely mirrors my values at this point. Each election year, I truly give all candidates a chance, and I could conceivably vote for a moderate Republican (a rare beast these days). But the post-Obama Republican party has so far had nothing to offer me. I find the elitist, xenophobic, racist, obstructionist strains of the GOP that have emerged over the past eight years morally repugnant, and totally incompatible with my faith in Jesus and my understanding of his teachings.
As a moderate, young, white, educated, evangelical Protestant in a battleground state, I see myself as something of a test case for what is wrong with the modern Republican party, and why their electorate is shrinking every year. Republicans want people like me to vote for them. Unless the party undergoes a dramatic change, that will continue to happen less and less.