It is difficult to pinpoint the year I became interested in politics. The gradual process of discovering the relevance of politics into nearly every aspect of life was realized far after my true political ideology had been established. However, because I had no outside exposure to conservatism, I wandered into adulthood still quite unaware of the definition of my own ideology, or if one even existed. After all, I was raised in a liberal mecca controlled by and filled with union democrats. Superior, Wisconsin is a small city neighboring Duluth, Minnesota with a combined metropolitan population of 280,000, an easy number to remember as it has remained virtually unchanged over the last 40 years. Both cities have lost population while urban sprawl has evened out the numbers. While this area has been in virtual decline over the last four decades the population unexplainably continued voting in the same politicians over and over again. For all of my life, voting on behalf of me in the House of Representatives was David Obey (D, WI) [In office April 1, 1969 - Jan 3, 2011] and Jim Oberstar (D, MN) [In office Jan 3, 1975 - Jan 3, 2011]. Two men who consistently and repeatedly voted against everything I stand for were, until January of 2011, the only representation I had ever known.
On top of never being represented in Washington D.C., I also was never properly taught political definitions without classroom bias. My junior high school Social Studies teacher described the parties this way: Republicans favor the rich while Democrats support the poor and middle class. 'Liberal' means for progress and change but 'Conservatives' want everything to remain the same. By those definitions I could not have imagined myself actually being a conservative or republican. These distorted definitions were completely backed up by the text book, so I had never seriously questioned those definitions. If those were my only options, I guess I am a Liberal Democrat.
During my first year of college I still had no real idea what a liberal or conservative meant. What I did know, listening to absolute classroom dribble spilling out of the mouths of many professors and students, is that college campus was like some alternate universe. Theory and good intentions trumped logic and reality. Sharing your feelings about social issues was no longer a narcissistic exercise, but instead considered the proper road toward solution. College life became like the Donahue show. All one needed to do is stand up and say, "It is almost 1990 and I think it is terrible that racism still exists. Why can't we just treat everyone with the same respect whether they are white, black, or purple?", and the classroom would applaud while we all feel good about ourselves for being so open-minded. Minus tie dye and marijuana it was 1969 all over again. But every time discussions about diversity came up the same thought always entered my mind, 'What a load of bullshit!' The obsession with discussing racial issues was solid proof we were far from overcoming them. How can random students sharing once hidden racist feelings solve anything? My parents taught me that actions are what matters. Words cannot build trust but behavior can. It took many hours of mindless chatter in various classes before I finally decided to contribute. "I disagree with the premise.” I began, “Sharing stories about racial bias and the feelings involved is not going to solve anything.” I stated with confidence as the room began closing around me. “In fact, racism will only end the day that we all stop talking about it. Let me be the first to volunteer – as I have no particular feelings about skin color to share.” Hesitant laughter was the only response as the professor quickly redirected. “We need to all be serious about this discussion.” She demanded. It always seemed a bit closed-minded to me that she had not even considered that I may be serious.
College certainly was not the first time I questioned my educators. I was only eleven years old during the 1980 election. Candidate Ronald Reagan was despised by my fifth grade public school teacher. Reagan was described as an uneducated former 'B' actor now too old to be considered for commander-in-chief. It was suggested that Reagan's military policy would lead to conflict with the USSR, and if his naiveté did not initiate war we had to fear him simply pushing the button by accident due to senility. The boys in class were often reminded of our future draft eligibility accompanying election discussion. Wow. Frightening a classroom of children over political partisanship is disgraceful. Little did that matter, as the vast majority of parents were in agreement – and the few republicans around were afraid of being outed. The standard lines being fed to me by the adults in my life just never quite sat right with me – especially after Reagan won a landslide victory. Are they trying to convince me that Reagan won with a political platform including benefits for only the rich while intentionally provoking war? It did not add up, and became even more suspicious when Reagan won another landslide election in 1984. My 15-year-old mind then began realizing the adults in my life were not nearly as intelligent as I had thought they were. Of course, by then I was an arrogant teenager who thought everything adults requested was questionable, so the reality of my political ideology was not yet realized. I found it easy to ignore the doubt inside, recite the answers I was given, and enjoy my high school years.
The information needed to confirm my skepticism was not readily available. After all, during my college years 'Yahoo' was a drinking game and 'Windows' were the glass panes I stared out during boring lectures. Occasionally there would be touches of agreement to my ideology, and I remember two of them well. On the first day of Econ 101 my professor explained in detail the steps leading up to the breakup of AT&T. The overwhelming lesson was how government intervention and specifically price fixing consistently backfires - and often because those in charge ignore the predictable relationship between cost, supply, and demand. The federal government forced AT&T to lower long-distance prices in attempt to lower profits. But lower rates caused an explosion in long-distance usage actually increasing profits instead. He told us that what we were about to learn in Econ 101 would literally put us steps ahead of many elected officials. Another example was my Probability and Statistics professor assigning an exercise about maritime disappearances in relationship to the Bermuda Triangle. After mapping locations of every nautical disappearance over the past 100 years it became obvious that the Bermuda Triangle mystique was little more than a myth. The likelihood of disappearing within the triangle was no greater than any other high-traffic oceanic area around the world. Likely the only intended lesson was practicing statistical analysis. However, the results confirmed something I had always suspected - media sensationalism. By focusing attention on certain things while ignoring others, our media can strongly affect public opinion. If we are repeatedly told only stories about strange events within the triangle we are made to believe such events abnormally take place in that area. Yet in reality the Bermuda Triangle was a complete fabrication.
The brash Morton Downey Jr. show may have been the first time I realized my ideology could be defined as conservative. Still, Downey's shout-down debate style turned me off. My next discovery was talk radio, and a conservative host named Barry Farber. For the first time I heard my own logical observations of the world expressed across the airwaves. The discovery of Farber led me to Rush Limbaugh - still in his early years - with a humorous and entertaining style that related to my generation. At the same time I began listening to Rush I also enjoyed the Alan Colmes radio program. Colmes, a complete liberal democrat, gave me the opposite perspective I was already accustomed to, but always kept me up to date with the often indefensible liberal arguments against conservative ideals. For over 20 years since, I have remained a political junkie, and enjoy many liberal and conservative media programs on a daily basis. Modern media outlets ensure that no voice is silenced, so in 2007 I created this website as my soapbox.
Originally this site included a political forum that never really took off. Since there are other very good such forums out there I have no great desire to start another. Instead, I am using it more like a blog, a place to publish the occasionally articles I enjoy writing. I would now like to find more contributors of any political viewpoint to add interesting content to the site. Do not hesitate to contact me if you are interested in contributing to the Drive Bias website.
Sept 26, 2011