I grew up in the suburbs of the south. A middle class kid in an upper class neighborhood where the local Southern Baptist church held prayer groups and events on school grounds during school hours. So the atmosphere was generally of a conservative nature.
I took this mindset to my new home in Portland, when I moved between my sophomore and junior years of high school. In my new school, I was the proverbial fish out of water. A Southern white kid from the suburbs going to an urban, under privileged minority high school. Even the schools mascots mocked me and my beliefs. We were the Jefferson Democrats for goodness sakes. What was a good Young Republican to do?
Well, argue like crazy and tell my liberal, faux hippie teachers they were nuts. I read Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative in class. I rallied for the first Iraq war. I argued against the logic of affirmative action in front of the entire school with the guest speaker from the EEOC. This last one was what two of my letters of recommendation for college referenced as my finest moment among many. I got my dander up and was a general pain in the ass.
As time went on, my politics got a little more left and a little more left until I was comfortable ensconced in the center. Liberal on social issues, conservative on fiscal ones. I was happy there until recently.
I voted for Ralph Nader in the last election because I didn't like Bush too much, and Gore even less. I voted for the centrist candidates locally. I voted yes on every ballot initative for higher spending on schools and libraries.
But as the new crop of presidential candidates begun to spring from the muck, I was at a loss as to who to root for. Bush is looking more and more like a failure on an epic scale. Dean is the democrat front runner, which isn't saying much. It looked like a write in or a non-vote for President.
That is until last Friday. I had been following the coverage of the 'drafting' of Wesley Clark at a distance, hoping he would join the race. I read the excellent article in Esquire about him. I listened to the speeches when I saw them online. I hoped. Then last Friday, the word began leaking out. He would announce his decision next week. He was '90% decided to run'. 'Here he comes' was the sentiment.
Wesley Clark is my first choice for president. My only choice. He is the perfect combination of intelligence, proven leadership, social policy beliefs, and respect worldwide that can truly turn this country around.
So today, I made my move in anticipation. I formally changed my party affiliation. I am now a member of the dark side.