Why I’m leaving the Democratic Party

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Today, just before the next president is to be inaugurated, I have chosen to leave the Democratic Party.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a loyal Democrat. Growing up in a Catholic, Massachusetts family, I sometimes ask myself if I even had a choice to begin with — one can only read so many Kennedy biographies before coming to the realization that they tended to associate with a particular party. 

But I digress. Now I am considering becoming a Republican.

{mosads}My concerns that led me to this point are many, but they can essentially be divided into three larger qualms.


Identity politics

First is the increasing reliance of the party on identity politics, and the circumvention of earnest debate that results from this strategy. Not only is this brand of politics untenable — and unattractive to an overwhelming number of Americans — it stifles debate in that it simplifies and seeks to accuse in a way that is alienating as well as condescending and undeniably exclusive.

Not since the days of McCarthyism has the demand to conform been greater — and that should concern all Americans. This is not how the Democratic Party has historically operated, so to see it begin to capitulate to the likes of far-left groups (which I used to believe possessed little influence) marks a troubling shift towards extremism that mimics the Republicans’ Tea Party phenomenon of 2010. As a moderate, this is not something that I will simply accept as normal, for it is not.


Second, the Democratic Party’s recent rhetoric, with discussion of President-elect Donald Trump being “illegitimate” or impeachable, is bothersome to me, and is highly hypocritical coming from those who mocked conservatives for making similar points in 2008.

This selective concern for factual accuracy is something the plagues both parties to some degree, which is a major reason I am at least initially becoming an Independent and not a Republican. Among leadership in groups such as College Democrats and Republicans, I find it to be far worse among my liberal cohorts, which frankly gives me more hope for the future of the opposing party. We need a return to realizing that bipartisanship matters, and that compromise is favorable as well as necessary. This starts by respecting one another in spite of our differences, and realizing that diversity of opinion — both within and among parties — is healthy.

Personal reflection

Third, much of this comes down to personal reflection. 

Over the past year, as I’ve seen the party begin to change at a bit faster pace, culminating in the apparent coronation of Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) as chairman of the party, I have been compelled to consider what made me a Democrat in the first place. What it really comes down to, even more than ideological affiliation, was who my heroes were, and where I first became involved with politics, which was while living just outside of Atlanta.

It should come as no surprise that the party varies in every state, but what should be surprising is the extent to which this is the case — or at least was. Now, of course, this diversity is being phased out by political monopolizers who determine which rhetoric is acceptable. 

In 2012, I volunteered for the Barack Obama reelection campaign, as well as for various statewide candidates in Georgia, even going up to Virginia for a time. I effectively went from campaigning for self-described moderates to campaigning for much more progressive Democrats when I began college in Massachusetts. As a young, naive idealist who cared a great deal more about history than politics, the affinity I had for Democrats like the Kennedys, Jefferson and Roosevelt, and even some modern ones, went a longer way in my mind than what I saw as a greatly overlapping two-party system in which association was largely arbitrary.

Now feel somewhat differently, following a period of reflection that has been long, taxing and made up of insults, even threats on occasion. However, I am happier now knowing that I can be honest about my beliefs without regard for toting the party line. It’s something I am now doing on my site, The American Moderate, along with colleagues from both sides of the aisle who share my concern about a diametrically opposed government and populace. I encourage everyone to participate in similar introspection.

I was not the first to leave the Democratic Party as a result of this moral absolutism, which appears dangerously similar to the dogmatic nature of religious zealotry, and I surely will not be the last. These new crusaders for the church of the far left must be called out if we are to prevent the war they seek to engage in, and I hope my departure will contribute to this conversation. 

There’s a fundamental misconception that to be progressive is to inherently be on the right side of history. In this case, it couldn’t be further from the truth, and I will proudly stand athwart history in the spirit of William F. Buckley Jr. if it means preventing this divisive ideology from gaining in influence.

This is no longer the party of Kennedy, but for the sake of the country, I hope it returns to being so. Until that time comes, I cannot in good faith remain a Democrat, as heretical that may make me in the eyes of some. As the saying goes, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Perhaps Democrats just fail to realize where the road they are on will lead.

Michael J. Hout is a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Up until his resignation to become an Independent, he served on the National Council, as national chartering director, northeast regional director, and in other roles for the College Democrats of America. He was also vice president of the College Democrats of Massachusetts. In 2016, he co-founded The American Moderate, a bipartisan daily publication. Twitter: @houtmichael

The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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