A personal account of how being a political minority serves as a source of power and strength
As a lifelong registered Republican now living in New York City, it is definitely not just my imagination that I am outnumbered and surrounded by Democrats. According to the New York State Board of Elections, as of April 1, there are more than 4.9 million registered voters within New York City; just 514,000 of them are Republicans.
It’s also not just strangers around me who identify as Democrats. It often seems as though most of the people I know in real life are liberal.
Social media have made this more obvious than ever; on Election Day 2016, I scrolled past an endless stream of #ImWithHer posts on Facebook and Instagram, and my Facebook timeline is regularly filled with posts criticizing the political party to which I have belonged my entire life. What I find frustrating is that these friends crucially misunderstand conservative principles, which impedes them from understanding why anyone would choose to belong to the Republican Party.
For example, I believe in limited government because I believe that power has a corrupting influence, that big government will seek to make itself ever more powerful and that it is better for individuals to make decisions for themselves. Not wanting the government to provide everything does not mean that I am uncaring or selfish.
Believing that the president should not have unilateral power, that executive actions are only as long-lasting as the presidents who sign them and that presidents must work to form coalitions with Congress to form long-lasting legislative solutions does not mean that I hate the president and want him (or, one day, her) to fail.
I do not believe in government health care, because I believe that it is not the proper role of government to provide or be responsible for health care. I believe that such a “solution” is merely a Band-Aid that does nothing to actually address real issues, such as the outrageously inflated cost of health care or the collusion between hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies. I do not believe in government health care because I believe that government involvement will lessen the quality of health care while driving up the cost — not because I dislike the poor or don’t care if they die.
Yet, these are the conclusions I see my Facebook friends reach every single day.
In fact, my path to writing about politics and conservatism began on Facebook, as I tried to provide an opposing view and to explain conservatism to people who did not understand it or misrepresent it.
How else can I expect liberals and progressives to understand conservative principles, if no one has taken the time to explain the benefits to them or if they have not discussed politics face-to-face with a conservative before, or when many of the Republican views that receive the most media attention are often the most extreme?
Yes, it can be frustrating to feel as though my views are constantly under attack. It can be frustrating to feel like I need to defend and explain myself and my views.
It can also be liberating — to speak up, to fight back against stereotypes, to surprise people.
I have often felt like I was in the political minority, but I enjoyed that. It felt as though being liberal was expected; when people found out I was a Republican, it made me stand out.
And I was — and am — more than happy to prove (or at least try to prove!) peoples’ assumptions wrong, to try to show them that belonging to the Republican Party doesn’t necessarily mean a person is cruel, sexist, racist, homophobic, a redneck or uninformed.
More than that, I was proud to belong to the Republican Party. Not just the party of Lincoln or Reagan, but also the party of Coolidge, of Ike, of W.
In early 2016, I was out to dinner with friends when someone skeptically (and disparagingly) asked, “Is anyone here even a Republican?” I proudly shot my hand up. Out of the 20 or so New Yorkers around the table, I was the only one to do so.
I was immediately peppered with questions. How could I believe in this, how could I believe in that, didn’t this bother me, did I support that?
And I loved it.
I relish any chance to educate people regarding conservative principles and their benefits and advantages. I love to explain why people believe in the Constitution, limited government, personal responsibility, the free market and so on. I talk about the logic, and reason, and — perhaps more than anything else — the history and economics behind the conservative principles I so strongly believe in. I warn about the slippery slope of censorship, how a government that is powerful enough to give you everything is also powerful enough to take it away and how the powers given to a president one supports will also be given to a president one opposes.
I love the opportunity to show that there are reasons behind my support of these principles and that I truly believe they make America a more free country and her citizens more prosperous.
And it feels good to challenge peoples’ preconceived notions of what a Republican is. Forcing them to acknowledge they are friends with a Republican makes them have to reconcile that with how they view Republicans.
But I also take the opportunity to share my frustrations as a conservative living in an overwhelmingly liberal city and to show why liberal policies have more drawbacks than benefits…
And how it’s frustrating to listen to people complain about the high cost of living in New York City yet remain supportive of high taxes and costly big government.
And how the zoning rules of New York City affect supply and how rent-controlled apartments affect price, which make it difficult to find an apartment and costly to rent one; how people are unable to find affordable pet sitters because the government has imposed unnecessary and costly obstacles; how people are unable to rent out their apartments to earn extra cash and to save visitors money on hotels because the city has banned Airbnb; how people compare the experience of Ubers and cabs in Manhattan without realizing the city made taxi medallions so artificially expensive that cab drivers are now killing themselves because the financial obligations are so overwhelming.
And it’s frustrating when, of those 20 people at that table that night, several of them spoke to me afterwards to admit they lean conservative yet did not want to openly admit that. Now, whether that is because they were afraid of the reaction, or because they have their own issues with the Republican Party that prevent them from identifying as solidly Republican, I don’t know for sure. However, both are issues that need to be addressed.
And I would be remiss if I did not mention how frustrating it is that Republicans have a self-created urban problem. Even though major metropolitan areas now experience the largest population growths, Republicans often seem as though they have entirely given up on outreach to cities. It is incomprehensible why Republicans do not try to compete in cities where liberal policies have failed by offering market-oriented alternatives. Instead, due to the absence of a strong Republican effort, there is a lack of necessary pushback against progressive ideas and expanding government.
It’s frustrating that the Republican Party seems to have forgotten that New York City did, after all, have a Republican mayor from 1994 until 2013 — just five years ago! It’s frustrating that New Yorkers themselves have forgotten they lived under the leadership of Republicans and, not only survived, but thrived. And it’s frustrating that Republicans now often talk of rural and middle America as “real America,” despite the fact that we are all, every one of us, Americans, no matter our political party, no matter our geographic location, no matter our sexual orientation, no matter our ancestral background.
But I remain optimistic about New York City and the Republican Party’s urban outreach. At least Bill de Blasio can’t run again!
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.