What do they stand for?
I’ve grown up with Republican parents. I would hear them talk about the issues in the news and I would agree with them because, being my parents, I thought they were always right. When George W. Bush ran in 2000 I was 5 years old and my parents talked about how they liked his family values. By the time I was 8 years old I would tell my parents I was a Republican. I took it so seriously that I even told them that I was going to be the first Hispanic woman Republican president.
As I got older it bothered me that I didn’t have a reason to be a Republican besides that my parents were. So in sixth grade I looked up “Republican Party” and “Democratic Party” on Wikipedia. I read a few sentences but it made no sense because I didn’t know what some terms meant like “laissez-faire,” “fiscal” and “Reaganomics.” So I Googled “Republican beliefs” and the websites I found were more helpful.
I read that Republicans have traditional family values, like the woman staying at home and taking care of the children while the man works. Republicans believe in lower taxes and less government spending. I knew from my dad that Republicans were against abortion and for the death penalty. Republicans are against same-sex marriage. Republicans are conservative, which means they stick more to tradition.
I read that Democrats believe in social programs like welfare and food stamps. They believe that higher taxes and more government spending will increase prosperity for everyone. Democrats support abortion rights and same-sex marriage but are against the death penalty. Democrats are liberal, meaning they are more open to change.
After reading all of this I thought I had a clearer understanding of what each party stood for and I was sure I was a Republican. I think there should be less spending on welfare because I’ve seen some people misuse it. I am against abortion and for the death penalty. I don’t think we should destroy the chance for another human to be born and if someone commits a horrible crime like mass murder they should get the death penalty.
I didn’t know much about the debate over same-sex marriage so I didn’t have a view on it yet. But in eighth grade I started hearing people debating whether two people of the same gender should be allowed to marry. I thought, “If they love each other, there shouldn’t be a problem.” Even though my parents are conservative, they taught me to be open-minded. I became a supporter of gay rights and same-sex marriage.
I thought my support of gay marriage made me a Democrat
I knew Republicans were against gay marriage because I’d heard the debate over Prop. 8, which was a California proposition that took away the right of same-sex couples to marry. I thought that to be part of a political party you had to agree with everything. Since I didn’t, I thought I must be a Democrat or a “moderate,” which at the time I thought was someone who is not a Republican or a Democrat.
After the 2008 election when I was in ninth grade, I heard about Meghan McCain, the daughter of Senator John McCain. She was a popular topic on the news because even though she’s a Republican and the daughter of a former Republican presidential candidate, she supports gay marriage, is pro-choice and believes in legalizing marijuana. I became even more confused.
The summer before junior year I was thinking about my future. I want a family but I also want to have a career. I’ve always known that Republicans are traditional when it comes to family but I never thought much about it. I’ve seen it in my family; my parents decided it was better for my mom not to work so she could raise me. So I thought, “I think differently about this too. Does that make me more of a Democrat than a Republican?” I liked being a Republican but I wasn’t going to give up my belief just to agree with a political party. I felt like I had to give up being a Republican even if I didn’t want to.
I finally got my doubts cleared up during my U.S. history class junior year. My teacher was talking about what makes a person a Republican or a Democrat. I asked him, “What if someone has a view that’s not Republican, like being for same-sex marriage, but the rest of what they believe is Republican?” He said that not every Republican thinks the same way. There can be Republicans who have views that are more like Democrats. I finally got the answer to my question. I felt relieved. I could be a Republican even though not all my views were Republican.
I hope that reading this article helps you understand the difference between a Republican and a Democrat and how you can figure out what party you identify with more. If you’re stuck in the middle, you might be a moderate, which means you have a few views from both parties. I’m a moderate Republican—I’m not a hardcore Republican but I’m also not a liberal. Knowing what party you are will make your decision easier when it’s time to register to vote and you get asked what political party you want to be part of.
For more of L.A. Youth’s 2012 Presidential Election coverage
Why the election matters to me. Even though she can’t vote, 17-year-old Avika cares about issues like jobs and college costs.
Comparing Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Where the presidential candidates stand on the issues.