Ever since I became politically conscious (~15 years old on the speech and debate and mock congress teams), I've been a self-described libertarian, realist, free market Republican. Ideologically, it is extremely appealing. Everyone looks out for his or herself, is self-sufficient, rises to his/her level of incompetence, and allows everyone else the same freedom. It's an extremely empowering ideology. All of your success is due to your hard work. Any failure is due to you not wanting to work harder. Having been born and raised in the Southwest, with all of its cowboy independence, it was a natural fit. I voted Republican down the line (with the exception of Bill Clinton in '96 - who was I to turn away from peace and prosperity?).
Last week, I voted for Barack Obama for President (early voting, as I'll be out of state on Election Day).
Up until a month ago, I was going to vote for John McCain. I voted for Senator McCain in the 2000 Republican primary (and how I wish he had been President the past eight years. And for full disclosure, I did not vote for him in the Republican primary this year. I voted for Ron Paul.). However, events over the past four weeks have convinced me that I cannot vote for him again.
First and foremost was his selection of Governor Palin. I wasn't immediately opposed to her because I knew nothing about her. I took a wait and see approach. Well, I've waited and I've seen. In my opinion, she lacks the intellect, the judgment, and the temperament to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. I won't YouTube you to death, as I'm sure you've seen the interviews and debate (no press conferences though??), but I expect more from my leaders, especially after the past eight years.
McCain's political selection of her reflects poorly on his own judgment. Yes, it made sense politically. He did need to fire up his social conservative base, a base extremely wary of some of his more liberal tendencies (see campaign finance reform and immigration), but his selection of her as his running mate demonstrated that he was not putting 'Country First'. McCain selects Lieberman or Romney and I might not be writing this.
Which brings me to reason number two. The Republican social conservative base. I refuse to be affiliated with a group of people that hates/despises/thinks I am bound for eternal damnation and is pretty vocal about it due to my religion. The Republican base despises The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I used to ignore it. I will not ignore it any longer.
Reason number three: The Republicans are no longer the party of small government. The romantic allure of Barry Goldwater's Republicanism no longer exists. In today's globalized environment of multi-national corporations and interdependent economies and governments, and as evidenced by the global financial meltdown now occurring, I'm not sure a small government approach is even possible.
Over the past thirty years, Republican administrations have increased the size of government in real dollars and as a percentage of spending year on year more than Democratic administrations have. We have a party that says government has a role to play and then spends pragmatically (relatively speaking) and another party that says government should get out of the way and then does the opposite and drives spending (the size of government) up.
If I don't have my romantic and possibly infeasible option any longer, I'll go with the pragmatic. Senator Obama is no messiah. He will not change our current situation with a wave or clap of his hands. However, I believe Senator Obama has the intellect, the judgment, and the temperament to do what is best for our country. My instincts tell me that he will put pragmatism over dogmatism. Could I be wrong? Absolutely. Only time will tell, but for now, this could be the end of my own personal history (see Francis Fukuyama). Ideology from both the left and right has demonstrated that what ideology is really good at is getting in the way of doing what is right.