Before I get into this, I’m not trying to drag Kurt Burdella, since it’s clear he’s feeling very unmoored right now. At the same time, we probably wouldn’t agree much on policy. But his Damascene op-ed is very interesting (boldface mine):
My first year as a Democrat has given me an appreciation of the gulf between the world views of Republicans and Democrats. Even how we digest and process information is so different. In the decade I spent working in Republican politics here in Washington, I don’t think I ever heard climate change come up as a serious topic of social conversation.
Shocking as it may be to learn, Republicans do not sit around and talk about the environment. As a Democrat, I feel like this topic is a consistent focal point of social conversations. In fact, I’ve found the same thing to be true about gun-law reform, racial inequality, social injustice and sexism. As a Republican, I just never talked about these things, but as a Democrat, I talk about them all the time.
I’ll tell you, being a Democrat is a heck of a lot more emotionally exhausting than being a Republican was, because I care about a lot more things than I used to. There must be some wisdom in the old saying that “ignorance is bliss.” It’s funny, because I remember as a Republican, we would often mock “bleeding-heart liberals” who are always “caring” so much. I think to myself now, what the hell is wrong with these Republicans who don’t seem to care about anything at all?
…I’ve spent the bulk of my life rejecting my Asian-American heritage. Quite frankly, as a Republican, this was very easy to do. The Republican Party’s attitude toward anyone who isn’t white speaks for itself. Why would I want to even pursue an association as a “minority” in a political party that spouts hateful rhetoric about minorities and pushes policies that discriminate against anyone who isn’t white? It was a pretty cowardly attitude considering how many have been brave enough to take a stand and fight for minority rights and confront social injustice.
But once I stepped away from the Republican Party, its efforts to promote racism through rhetoric and policies offended me on a very personal level. I began engaging in these issues and exploring what it means to be a minority in America. One of my favorite moments of this year was participating in a panel at Politi-con called “Crazy Political Asians.” At one point, the moderator, MSNBC’s Richard Lui, asked our panel what year each of us owned up to being a member of the Asian-American Pacific Islander community. Most people gave answers like kindergarten or middle school. My response was “2018.” It may seem like a small thing, but saying this in public for the first time was a big deal for me.
Recently, Josh Rosenau reminded me (and Noah Smith) about a series of posts where I argued that Obama was essentially what used to be called a moderate or liberal Republican (a Rockefeller Republican). Re-reading those posts, what struck me is that, while Obama et alia’s solutions were very different from what yoostabee! called liberal Democrats would propose, we did agree to some extent about the broad problems: healthcare insurance is problem, global warming is a problem, and so on. Meanwhile, conservatism as practiced, not as prmulgated by a few oddballs ensconced in think tanks, doesn’t even agree as to what the significant problems are–and that’s before you get to Comet Ping Pong territory.
To bring it back to the op-ed, once you change a deeply held identity, and for the writer, it’s clear being a Republican was one such identity, a whole bunch of other things come along with that. It’s not just a few policy changes, but a change in worldview. While this is incorrectly (on many levels) called ‘tribalism’, it’s really much more of a bubble. Once it bursts, people see many things very differently.