I live in San Angelo, Texas. It is not the reddest place in Texas, but it runs a good race. Most of my friends are not Democrats. They may call themselves independent or Republican, but they tend to vote Republican. Out here if you do not have Republican friends, you have no friends. Besides, normal people do not choose their friends based on politics. Only political junkies do that. So, I spend a lot of time talking with my Republican friends and acquaintances. Sometimes, we get around to talking politics. Let me tell you, lately the tenor of those conversations has changed.
A week does not go by without one or two of my friends saying how disgusted they are with the Republican Party, and not just the one in Washington, the one in Texas too. Some even tell me they are ready to leave the Republican Party. Some talk about becoming an independent, and some even half joke about becoming a Democrat. These are what I would call the Eisenhower Republicans, the center right, moderates. They are all good people and great friends.
They may only be speaking in frustration. Who knows? This is only anecdotal evidence from one person in one place, but I sense these are just ripples, that something bigger is stirring deep underneath the surface. They are people who feel politically homeless. They are people who know they need to leave and cross a bridge to somewhere, but where would they go? I try to talk with them about the Democratic Party, but almost none of them think they would be welcome there because they do not agree with some of the positions espoused by some Democrats. If there were a viable third party that fit them, they would wind up there instead. But there isn't and so they suffer through in misery.
This made me wonder, why can't we make a place for these folks in our big tent? Why can't we be open and welcoming? Why don't we proselytize and encourage people to join us, even if they don't agree with the party platform on every issue? I don't agree with the party platform on a whole host of issues and y'all haven't kicked me out, yet.
For whatever reason, we took in the welcome mat a long time ago and we seem to have lost it. We better find it, and fast. The Democratic Party nationally and at the state level is missing a golden opportunity to help usher in a political realignment that could put Democrats in power for a generation or more. The political realignment in the 60's brought African-Americans and other minorities to the Democratic Party. A lot of the white, moderates left during the political realignment under Reagan and Bush eras. It is time to welcome them home again. The Democratic Party should be more about people than ideology. We may have to make some adjustments and compromises, but that is what family does. The relationship has to be more important than being right if the marriage is going to last.
It is not too late yet, but we better start looking for that old welcome mat now, dust it off, put it out and leave it out.
Jon Mark Hogg is a San Angelo lawyer, part-time politician, and a Founder of The 134 PAC. The opinions expressed in this post are his own.