A few minutes ago I did the unthinkable. I changed my political party.
Politics have always been a hot button issue for me in different ways than most other people. I was the granddaughter of Senator Lucy T. Hammer, Republican, Connecticut. I attended rallies young enough to get bounced on Senator Lowell Weicker’s knee, sat at endless chicken dinners with my white gloves tucked under my thigh, stumped with her at county fairs handing out expandable sponges that read, in large black letters, Vote For Lucy T. Hammer!
She was larger than life, all five feet of her, the wife of a small-town factory owner who wanted to make a difference. Politics were the only topic of discussion at the dinner table: Political squabbles, bills for education (her passion), the upstarts on the House floor, the ones who had promise (“this new man Lieberman will go a long way,” she had exclaimed one September). We were all Republicans and there was no other option.
And just like I promised her I would never, ever, take her from her home and put her in a nursing home, I promised her that I was Republican for life.
So I have played a little cat and mouse game at dinner parties over the last three decades, championing who I agreed with but skirting the party issue, claiming independence. All the while gone cold in my heart that she would somehow hear me lean towards the ultimate disloyalty — lose faith in all that she believed in and championed. All things Republican.
But today, would she agree?
I don’t know that, but I do know I cannot skulk into the voting booth and see Republican next to my name another year. Not with the rotten whiff of Donald Trump’s cologne exuding from the newspaper pages. Not with the Republican Party’s inability to be non-partisan and represent common, basic human understanding regarding abortion, immigration, and education.
I would like to think this afternoon Lucy T. Hammer is applauding me, that she is as disgusted about her party as I am. But just like I had to ultimately move her to live near me in an assisted living facility for the last three years of her life to keep her safe, I had to change my political party to keep my politics safe. And as my finger hovered over the ‘send’ button on my computer, I had to reassure myself that deeply and truly, I was preserving her legacy of fairness and integrity with my decision.
Hello, Democrats. Let’s party.