I’m registered to vote without a political party in Indiana; I hail from Illinois and have lived in Florida and South Carolina. I voted for Obama (’08) and Gary Johnson (’12, ’16) and have covered the full spectrum of politics, from a socialist-sympathetic in college to a straight up libertarian (small “l,” not officially with the party) now.
As a kid my parents were both Democrats, and summed up politics with a phrase, “Democrats are for the poor and Republicans are for the rich.” My mother is an Assyrian from Iraq who escaped from Saddam’s regime. She was in an arranged marriage at the time and had two children with her ex-husband.
My father came from a small mountain village in Greece near the city of Tripoli. Both grew up without wealth, and were not middle class by American standards. By the time the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003, my parents split to opposite ends of the spectrum.
My mother, who as an Assyrian and Christian had serious beef with Saddam and concerns with Islam (having faced discrimination in Iraq as a Christian), chose to serve as a contracted translator for the U.S. Army, and so now my parents are split.
The 2000 election was when I first paid attention to politics, and I really only chose Al Gore because I knew of him and because my family were mostly Democrats. My sister (technically half-sister), who lives in San Diego, had courted me at the age of 12 to support Ralph Nader, but I wasn’t actually voting so I just supported the one I saw on T.V.
My first vote ever was for Barack Obama at the age of 19. It was a very interesting moment in my life. The 2008 campaign was a communications blitzkrieg as far as Obama’s campaign went. It was full of energy and life and set me up to take positions on issues like health care (I was studying to be a physical therapist) and the stimulus packages recently passed by Congress.
As I watched the news from then on, I became disillusioned with politics. Everything seemed to be split between two sides, it almost seemed contrived or for show. I stopped believing what any politician was saying. As my mother was translating in Iraq, I became exposed to the other side of the aisle from a positive perspective. I couldn’t believe she was terrible or wrong as I had so often envisioned the conservative Right to be.
She was likely the first woman in her family, perhaps dating back to the days of the Assyrian Empire, to divorce her husband. That luxury was not afforded to women in Iraq. She met my father and chose to marry out of love, despite a history of disdain toward men.
My father was wholly accepting of her, and refused to push her past any limitations she set. He is a stern, quiet and shy type; she is rambunctious, loud, and blows out the speakers in her car. He smoked, which she hated, and so he only smoked in the garage and even slept in a separate bed if the smell bothered her. This man was not a button-pusher.
The two of them started a business together right when I was born, then she went on to set up a real estate practice. They came from countries which have remained largely unchanged since they left, and set up a life in the United States. I came to appreciate that bold departure from who they would have otherwise been destined to be.
So in 2012 when I saw Ron Paul speak at the Republican debates I was once again enlightened. Here was a man who sounded very different than any other Republican on stage, but also very different than any Democrat. I tend to support underdogs (I used a Blackberry until July 2016), and Ron Paul seemed to show that same boldness as my parents.
He didn’t win the nomination, but 2012 marked the year I decided that I didn’t care about voting out of tradition, so I cast (some may say wasted) my vote for a 3rd Party Candidate. I did so again in 2016. I figured there must be more than two choices for any one problem, and I wanted to hear and share that third choice. I preferred my candidates based on the medical thought of “first do no harm.”
That fits with my father’s lifestyle, my mother’s intense history, and my educational background. Whichever position is that which does as little harm to as few people as possible is what I would vote for. My parents always supported my being different, and maybe I just vote to be a contrarian, and having shaped much of who I am I think that I’m also the perfect blend of their opposite ends of the political spectrum.