A little bit of my perspective
I don't remember specific conversations or articles or whatever - I was 12 after all. The feeling that stayed with me was the perception that Republicans were orders of magnitude morally higher than Democrats. If they were elected, this country would be so much better than it was.
My best friend's parents were Democrats and I just did not understand how. I mean, they were good people - nice people - so why didn't they vote Republican? Hadn't they heard just how bad the Democrats were? Why weren't they voting for the Republicans?
My most critical and formative years were between 1994 and 2000, between 12 and 18. During those years I took a Civics class in 8th grade when all my friends began their language. I got a 99 in AP US History and a 5 on that test, as well as an A in AP US Government and Comparative Government, taught in the same year and same class period, and got a 5 on both tests. I read the newspaper as much as I could. I was somewhat of a politics junkie.
I was immensely proud that the current Speaker of the House of Delegates in Virginia attended my church. I would brag about it at school, as if anyone cared. I would follow the news out of Richmond as well as DC. Being in the Washington television area, national news was local news, and the shock and appall surrounding Monica-gate absorbed me and my family. Everything around me exuded Christian-right, Republican politics and beliefs. Everything.
Until those three words "Contract with America" started creeping back in my awareness around the time I started college. Republicans gained the White House and a couple years later gained the Senate as well, solidifying control of DC. My childhood experiences told me this was a good thing, especially in the wake of 9/11.
As we've seen in the past few years, with the ill-planning and questionable means used for war in Iraq, lack of response during Katrina, sex scandal cover-ups in Congress, Enron and other companies collapsing, Big Oil taking in the biggest profits ever, gas prices increasing as housing costs go up, ethics committees neutered as corruption abounded, issues that are supposed to be engaged through faith rather than culture or discrimination, on and on and on and on...
...I've had enough.
TWICE Republicans have beat their chests and said 'we are morally righteous and so much better than those Democrats", once in 1994 after 40 years of one-party rule, and once in 2000 following the aftermath of the Lewinsky affair. TWICE I bought into it. TWICE I believed that they really were the party that represented my beliefs and of upstanding moral values.
TWICE now I've been let down. I've had enough.
A post over at Crooks and Liars prompted me to read through the 1994 Contract With America. Read it for yourself and compare it with how Republicans are acting now.
Please do not read this as cynicism - I'm talking about the atmosphere in which I grew up. This is just my perspective, which I believe is as valid as any others' perspective.
Are all Republicans bad? No. Are all Democrats bad? No. Will I ever fully trust a political party to do what it says and "buy into" their platform as morally superior than another? No. I have to try hard to not repeat the same mistakes with Democrats now than I did with Republicans in 1994. I hope they will make changes, and I think they will. Am I getting my hopes up? No. Something tells me I'm destined to be a freaky Independent who votes for the opposite party every 4-8 years.
To conclude, who says history is useless? Let's go back to September 27, 1994, when 367 GOP House candidates signed this Contract on the steps of the US Capitol at the unveiling of their promise to America should they win the House.
They pledged: "If we break this Contract, throw us out".
Do what they told us to do.