A guest post from Bobbi Hancock, a longtime political activist from Council Bluffs.
For 25 years, I was a registered Republican.
I voted for the GOP candidate in five straight presidential elections. I caucused for Rick Santorum and worked tirelessly for Marco Rubio.
Seven months ago, I switched my political affiliation to “No Party.” Two months ago, I registered as a Democrat and volunteered to help Mayor Pete Buttigieg in his presidential run.
In 2020, for the first time, I will vote for a Democrat for the highest office in the land.
I was born and raised in a small, conservative community in Southwest Iowa. When I turned eighteen, I registered as a Republican, because my parents and most adults I knew were Republican. Ronald Reagan had been elected when I was five, and we had a Republican in the White House for the next twelve years — basically, my entire childhood.
Republican was all I knew.
In 2011, I became the “token” conservative contributor for a liberal San Francisco-based website, writing a handful of pieces per month from my end of the political spectrum. I became active in politics, garnering media credentials to the Iowa Straw Poll Debate in 2011, as well as to other candidate forums, culminating with full media credentials to the 2012 RNC in Tampa.
In early 2012, I caucused for Santorum, giving a speech that converted several caucus-goers. In late 2015, I was asked to join Senator Marco Rubio’s Iowa team, volunteering out of their Ankeny office despite living over two hours away. I put over two thousand miles on my car for Rubio, spending most of my free time helping the Senator.
Then came the Iowa Caucus. Ted Cruz and Donald Trump topped Rubio, which was the beginning of the end for me. I was a delegate to the county, district and state GOP convention, but was disappointed with what I saw around me.
Through spring and summer, I watched Trump gain momentum and win the nomination. I stopped writing altogether. He was not someone I wanted to write about, and he soiled everything around him for me.
I am ashamed to admit I voted for him, because, again, Republican was all I’d known, and I’d been told by every prominent Republican that I needed to buck up and support the party. I had heard the Access Hollywood tapes. I thought he was gross, but figured, “How bad could he be?”
I have since found out. Trump is an unapologetic racist, a misogynistic bully.
That was depressing on its own, but even more upsetting was watching Republicans I previously respected, Republicans who railed against Trump during the primaries, embrace him. Trump called Rubio “Little Marco.” Rubio stood on the debate stage and called Trump out as a despicable con man and a liar. Months later, I watched, disgustedly, while Rubio voiced his support for his former nemesis.
Over the past three years, I have seen countless politicians trade self respect for power, and I’ve seen friends and family members cheer on a man who bashes women, minorities, and immigrants. My heart ached as I struggled with my place in the party.
Last November, I changed my affiliation to “No Party,” as I knew I couldn’t be part of what the GOP had become.
Also in November, I married a man who had recently left the GOP and registered as a Democrat. We watched Morning Joe regularly, and I recorded the Sunday talk shows to check out the potential presidential candidates. Being in Iowa, we start the campaign cycle early, and I wanted to see who looked promising.
A few weeks into watching, I found myself drawn to a lesser-known candidate, the Mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg. I watched his CNN Town Hall in March and his appearances on Morning Joe and Meet the Press, among others.
What drew me to Pete was his intelligence, his humility, his faith, and his earnestness. When Pete talks about battling student loan debt, he knows from experience — Pete and his husband Chasten have a six-figure loan debt themselves. When he talks budgets and governing, he knows from being a mayor.
As a teacher, I appreciate that Pete is married to a teacher and understands the challenges facing educators. Part of my job is teaching at-risk preschool children from low-income families or families with a single parent, abuse or addiction issues, etc. The other part of my job is teaching English to students who are newcomers here. Hearing Pete talk about helping “the least of these,” supporting immigrants and refugees, helping families who worry about putting food on the table or getting decent healthcare for their children, speaks to me.
The hardest part of leaving the GOP for me was reconciling my choice with my strong Christian faith.
It shouldn’t be this way, but there is an association between conservatives, Christians and Republicans. At least, when you’re in the GOP, you see it touted as the “party of faith and family values.” I’ve seen t-shirts at events with sayings like “God, Guns, and Trump,” as if my God was on the same level as firearms and a crude politician.
I wasn’t sure I would find a Democratic candidate who shared my values.
When asked about his faith, Mayor Pete once replied, “Part of what it means to walk in the way of faith is to concern yourself with making sure the poor and sick and marginalized have your help. Not to glorify the wealthy and powerful and make them even more wealthy and powerful. That’s my understanding of my faith.”
That resonated with me. His stance on criminal justice reform, along with his support for immigrants, refugees, and others who need compassion instead of cruelty, won me over.
In May, I changed my registration to Democrat and contacted the Buttigieg campaign to see how I could help. I’ve done some phone banking and worked a few events: Des Moines’ Capital City Pride, the AARP Forum in Council Bluffs and a forum in a barn in Shenandoah.
At the last event, I had the opportunity to shake Pete’s hand and thank him for his efforts. He thanked me for being a teacher.
It feels good to be back in the political arena after a few years away, and even better to know there are still politicians out there who are truly looking out for the greater good.
by Bobbi Hancock
Photo by Julie Fleming