Why I’m A Moderate

The date was September 4, 2008. I sat silently, enamored by the words of Presidential candidate John McCain. As a 13-year-old Republican, I looked up to McCain, took every word he said and believed it without question. He epitomized my dream. Someday I too wanted to be on that stage; I too wanted to speak to thousands of delegates; I too wanted to accept a Presidential nomination.

Walking out of St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center that night, I couldn’t possibly have imagined where I would be today. Then a right-wing ideologue firmly opposed to compromise, I actively limited my beliefs to those of Congress’s most radical members, blindly adhering to conservative dogma. As a strict partisan, I believed that the Democratic Party had nothing intelligent to say. My abhorrence of the opposition lasted for three years and proved to be so strong that it took an unprecedented level of political turmoil at home to change my mind.

The 2011 Minnesota government shutdown opened my eyes to the destructive effects of political partisanship. Instead of working together, both parties refused to find common ground, and as a result my home state was plunged into disarray. Thousands of government employees were laid off, local businesses saw a sharp decline in sales, and scores of popular state parks were closed during the Fourth of July weekend. After three weeks of agonizing negotiation, Democratic Governor Mark Dayton agreed to compromise with the Republicans, abandoning ideological purity in order to do what was best for the state.

I was deeply ashamed of the extremism that my representatives exhibited and the extremism that choked the Republican Party. I came to revile the Tea Party’s unabashed partisan nature, and feared that its “no compromise” message would destroy the only political party in which I believed.

From then on, I refused to call myself just a conservative; I became a moderate Republican, proud of my liberal tendencies. After scrutinizing the party platform, I realized I didn’t agree with everything I saw. Instead of taking a hard line on immigration, I became an advocate for amnesty and open borders. Instead of applauding execution, I came to abhor it. Instead of calling for an increase in military spending, I supported cutting back and paying off our debt.

Four years ago, I would have rejected the Democratic Party outright. Today is different. The government shutdown prompted a radical shift in my thought process: I finally accepted the fact that progress demands compromise. With that knowledge, I cast off the chains of “party loyalty” and realized who I really was: a moderate, willing to compromise in the name of moving forward.

Sitting at the RNC that night, I was unaware of the monumental changes I would experience over the next four years. I listened intently to words I would later reject and believed in things I can no longer support. Politics is still my dream, but, as happens so often, the path to that dream has changed. And that’s okay.