When I arrived in Oxford in August of 2015, I was a conservative.
I was raised in the South by evangelical Republican parents where the candidates’ support for pro-life policies was the litmus test. I remember riding home from elementary and middle school listening to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on conservative talk radio. In high school, most of my news came from the Drudge Report. I supported both John McCain and Mitt Romney in their campaigns against former president Barack Obama. In 2014, I voted in my first election for Republican David Perdue for the Georgia state senate.
In my junior year of high school, I started to go through a period of faith deconstruction that was followed by a period of political deconstruction in college. I began to wrestle through and struggle with these beliefs I had always believed were certain. In college, I learned from people with different experiences than my own, and this exposure to new ideas made me realize the inconsistencies of my previous beliefs. During my freshman year, I supported Marco Rubio but voted for Ted Cruz for Republican nominee for president because by the time Mississippi voted, Cruz was the only one who might beat Trump. I, then, voted for Gary Johnson for president in 2016 as a protest vote against the Republicans and Democrats duopoly of political power.
On Nov. 6, I am voting for the Democrats for the first time in my life. High school me would be so disappointed.
While many of my beliefs, both theologically and politically have changed dramatically since high school, I am very thankful that my parents instilled in me the teachings and love of Christ as a central-ethic that guides my decisions to this day.
I am still pro-life. I believe we should abolish the death penalty, provide free healthcare to those in need, welcome refugees and immigrants fleeing violence in Central America and the Middle East, end private prisons and reform our broken justice system, protect the rights of marginalized communities against those who seek to oppress them, decrease funding for war and bring our soldiers home out of harm’s way, and protecting lives from the danger of climate change, in addition to implementing policies that will decrease the demand for abortion in our country.
When I look at our two imperfect parties, the Democratic Party’s platform is more holistically pro-life than the “pro-birth” policies of the Republican Party.
The Republican Party of Donald Trump has completely abandoned those virtues my parents instilled in me in pursuit of political victory. Republican lawmakers have become a party of sycophants, stoking Trump’s dangerous ego and racist, xenophobic rhetoric to get their coveted court appointments and tax breaks for the wealthy. None hold the president accountable and even those Republicans who critique him on Twitter still flake out and vote with him overwhelmingly instead of using their leverage in the senate.
And even without Trump, the Republican party knows its actual policies are unpopular with most Americans. So instead, they must result to lying about protecting preexisting conditions, stoking white people’s fear of a more diverse America, gerrymandering and voter suppression.
This election is crucial. We need to elect representatives who will expand Medicaid for poor families, protect those with preexisting conditions, fund education, oppose the president’s racist immigration policies and dangerous agenda, and most importantly, understand the dire threat of climate change disrupting every aspect of daily life. While the Democratic Party is nowhere near perfect, this white male evangelical southerner will be joining the blue wave on Tuesday, and I hope you do, too.
Jacob Gambrell is a senior international studies major from Chattanooga, Tennessee.