How Was Your Day … Lifelong Republican Voting for Bernie?

How Was Your Day … Lifelong Republican Voting for Bernie?

Why you should care

Because sometimes, it’s OK to talk to strangers.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Jay Falstad
Maryland farmer at a Bernie Sanders rally in Philadelphia

It’s been amazing. One of the Bernie supporters saw my sign and handed me a “Black Men for Bernie” shirt. We gave each other a big hug. What surprised me was the sheer volume of people. I recently changed my party from Republican, so I could vote for Bernie in the primary on Tuesday.

I was 18 in 1984 and voted for Ronald Reagan. During the ’84 election, Reagan had this notion that he referred to as a “Big Tent.” He wanted the party to be inclusive of everyone. In 1988, and again in ’92, I voted for George H.W. Bush. I liked him very much. At the time, I worked in communications for the Republican Party of Delaware. I also voted for George Bush No. 2 in his first election against Gore, but I did not vote for him the second time around.

I saw myself as a Republican because I was — and to a large degree still am — in favor of lower taxes, wanting to see the government play less of a role in people’s lives. There are a lot of reasons where I thought the party was better for the country. But I remember going to an event in which Barbara Bush spoke, in 1992, and she said something … I can’t remember exactly … but it caused me some concern. It led me to believe that the party was steering in the direction of catering to the interests of the wealthy.

The party has gone in a different direction than I’d like to see it go in.

In the past 15 years or so, though, I’ve been very involved in environmental issues. I’m the executive director of the Queen Anne’s Conservation Society, which protects our county against overdevelopment. I also own a lavender farm, which my wife and I bought in 2001. We don’t use any pesticides or herbicides. We raise bees. We have a pollinator meadow and pretty much everything is self-sustaining.

Environmental issues are nonpartisan — they affect everyone. We all need clean water, clean air and good food. It seems like more and more of the Republican Party is steering away from that. Which is unfortunate, because if you go into history, it was Teddy Roosevelt who established the National Parks Service; Richard Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency; Eisenhower, who went out of his way to protect and preserve areas, rather than develop them. The party has gone in a different direction than I’d like to see it go in. Where I grew up, farms are being substituted for housing developments, and it’s the Republicans pushing a lot of this development. They were sacrificing the environment for economic reasons, not realizing that they were also destroying an entire economy by destroying farmland.

I just see this as a pendulum. There hasn’t been this kind of energy since 1980 or 1984.There was a time in the ’60s, under Lyndon B. Johnson, that we did a lot to help everybody. It was a much fairer system then. I look at what the Republican Party has done, and for all the bellyaching about giving poor people free stuff, well, what have we been giving rich people? They get subsidies for their businesses that no one else gets. The system is geared to assist wealthy people much more than poor people. The pendulum has swung in a way that we are favoring the super wealthy and companies in ways we really shouldn’t be. I think what Sanders is doing is letting the pendulum swing back.

In my view, the candidate that young people are supporting is the one you want to support: It’s their future. The older generations have had their shot.

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OZY2016

The route to the White House: news, stories and analysis from on and off the presidential campaign trail.