True Blue

True Blue

Maggie Cochrane

By Erin Van Gessel

Sunday was my 20th birthday. The occasion called for some self-reflection — Do I like who I am and how I’ve spent my time? What kind of impact am I leaving on this planet? — but it also marked the two-year point of my political involvement.
When I entered kindergarten in 2000, we had a mock election following the Bush and Gore campaigns. I have to imagine that every child turned to his or her parents for guidance, as I did.

“Mom,” I asked one day over breakfast, “What’s a Democrat? What’s a Republican?” She leaned back in her wooden chair and looked at me over her glasses.

“Democrats,” she said, “want to help the poor and those less fortunate,” (She paused to let that altruism set in).
“Republicans,” she continued, “are selfish and want to keep all their money for themselves.” With that, her chair snapped back into place and she continued to read the New York Times.

Not surprisingly, I voted for Al Gore in my class election, and I was just as disappointed at his actual loss as my parents were in November.

My affiliation with the Democratic Party did not stop there, though. In fact, my experiences growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area only amplified it. I went to a high school where someone once drove onto campus in a Hummer and the nearby students booed until the gas-guzzler left. I took an English class called “Why War?” and participated in the Peace and Justice Coalition. My brother is gay and at various times members of my family have benefited from “government handouts.” So, do I come from a liberal background? 100 percent.

But I reached a point during my senior year of high school when I wanted to validate these claims. I knew that in my area, a county where 74 percent of the population voted for Barack Obama, it was easy to become “a close-minded open-minded person” as a wise friend once put it.

Thus, I started reading up. I watched Barack Obama and Mitt Romney debate, I scoured the web for political op-eds, and I pestered the few Republicans I knew until they engaged with me in ideological discussions. I soon realized that my mom’s Republican profile was not one-size-fits-all, and an improved understanding of the former enemy helped form my own views.
All of this political soul-searching coincided with my turning 18. I registered to vote ASAP and, (maybe this was overcompensating) tried to spread my election joy and register other young people, too. I registered over 50 new voters, and I encouraged each of them to research the issues at stake in the 2012 election regardless of what their families and/or peers believed.

Such autonomy in political thought is the exact point of this piece and column to follow. Phil Hoxie ’17.5 and I will alternate writing op-eds in which we explore our respective partisan beliefs. Phil, an establishment Republican, will counter my pieces from a moderate liberal’s perspective.

So, now I’ve announced where on the political spectrum all that soul-searching left me and it begs the same questions — am I pleased with what I’ve accomplished? With my impact on the planet?

I cannot yet say definitively, but I know that my two years of political involvement have brought me closer to answers. Between engaging as a voter in the 2012 election and volunteering for the Obama campaign, (oops, I left that detail out when I was trying to maintain objectivity) I have come to hold the opinion that being a Democrat betters my actions and impact as a U.S. citizen.

While my mother may have been blunt and judgmental in her original description of Democrats and Republicans, I do not think that she was without reason. I voted for Barack Obama in my first real presidential election and judging by the current state of America’s partisan system, I will continue to stay blue. I welcome Phil to challenge this plan of action, however, and anyone else through responses to this column. If you find yourself in a similar state of 20-something self-reflection, this might be a good place to start.

Artwork by JENA RITCHEY