As a new voter at age 18, my first presidential election was in 1984. Like many young people, I didn’t know a lot about political parties and what values each represented. To be fair, I think it was a lot harder to tell back then. I grew up on a Midwestern farm in central Illinois and leaned on my parents for guidance. Their opinion was that most of the shrieking you hear in the news come from the extremes at either end of the political spectrum. But that most people fall somewhere in the middle with their beliefs. I didn’t disagree with them then and I feel the same way now. In 1984, Reagan was seen as steady and fair. And he was in the middle. So when I registered to vote, I registered as a Republican and cast my first vote for him. That may have been the only Republican I’ve ever voted for. I consider it a youthful indiscretion.

Experiences and age have a way of revealing our values over time. As I moved through college and marriage and work and home ownership and motherhood, I started to pay more attention, understand which party cared about the same things I cared about and began to make the connection to being a Democrat. I continued to stay disassociated with either party, though I was still a registered Republican, for years. I bragged that I voted ‘person over party’ if the subject came up with friends or family. But I always voted D because that’s who cared about the same things I cared about.

Standing on the sidelines changed after the 2000 election. Bush vs Gore. I still remember the excitement I felt about potential environmental, social, and economic changes with Gore. I liked his style, I believe in what he said, I paid attention. Bush was an embarrassment – a bumbling rich boy fulfilling his family destiny. Gore wanted it to make a difference. Bush wanted it because he was used to getting what he wanted. The weeks after that race, when Florida stole the election from Al Gore as the country watched and waited to see who the next leader would be – that was when I Became a Democrat. When it was all over I felt cheated, violated, angry, and sad. I changed my registration shortly after that and have been a proud Democrat ever since.

I realized during that time that if Republicans had to cheat to win, I didn’t want anything to do with them. And they’ve continued to prove me right. Restricting voting access, gerrymandering district lines, and weaponizing philanthropy – legally – under Citizens United are actions that have altered the political landscape in this country forever. Or until fair-minded Democrats are back in power.

Here’s what I believe:
I believe more, not fewer people should vote.
I believe education is an investment that benefits everyone. EVERYONE.
I believe healthy people making a good living contribute to society in a positive way and people who have to worry about going broke from being sick or where their next meal comes from have less capacity or desire to contribute anything positive to society.
I believe in marriage equality, gender equality, and racial equality. A person should be defined by what they add to the world, not who they love, what gender they identify with, or something as superficial as skin color. Not in 2017.
I believe if you have to use words like ‘God’, ‘bible’, or ‘Christian’ to explain your political views, those views aren’t political at all.
I believe we get one planet, and we’re effing this one up…on purpose.
And I believe if we pulled the giant plug out of the wall at Facebook headquarters, we’d all be better informed, less angry, and we would find that we’re more the same than we are different.

Because most of us are still in the middle.