I grew up in what you might call a genetically Democratic family, but one in which partisan heterodoxy was not uncommon. My parents voted for Dwight D. Eisenhower twice, for Richard M. Nixon in 1960, and for the occasional Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Maryland. But they were registered Democrats and, when I gained the franchise, it would have seemed somehow unnatural for me to register as a Republican. It would also have been stupid, in that Maryland was already en route to becoming one of the most reliably blue states on the map; and if one wanted a say in anything, it was going to be through the medium of the Democratic primaries.
In my early professional life in Seattle, I worked with and for Republican and Democratic representatives and senators and voted in a happily bipartisan way. But when I returned to Maryland in 1984, I had no hesitation in registering as a Democrat, despite admiring (and voting for) Ronald Reagan. (In fact, I haven’t cast a vote for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1980, when I voted for Jimmy Carter but was delighted to see him defeated.) Still, I told myself that I had to maintain my Democratic registration if I was to have any electoral leverage, however minor, in the Free State.
Declaring myself a Democrat, however, became impossible in principle after the 1992 Democratic National Convention. There, the last senior Democratic office-holder with whom I ever worked, Pennsylvania governor Robert Casey, was denied an opportunity to speak by the nascent Clinton Machine. Why? Because the twice-elected governor of a key state with a rich lode of Electoral College votes was ardently and intelligently pro-life. And pro-life people were heretics—misogynistic outliers to be expunged from the party’s national life—in the Democratic Party of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
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