Confessions of a former Democrat

April 26, 2017
T. Keith Gurnee

T. Keith Gurnee


In today’s bitterly divided national government dominated by the hardening extremes of each party, where are we headed? Whatever happened to the reasonable moderates of this world? Have we witnessed the death of common sense? If positions harden any further, it seems like we are heading toward America’s second Civil War, if not anarchy.

While the Republican Party certainly has its issues, whatever happened to the Democratic Party that I once belonged to? As a former member of this County’s Democratic Central Committee over 40 years ago, I was proud to support the party of Truman and JFK and fighting that of Nixon. But cracks in my political beliefs began to appear with LBJ’s expansion of the Vietnam conflict, the sheer incompetence of Jimmy Carter, and the lies of Bill and Hilary Clinton. It was they who compelled me to drift away from my political origins.

Then after enduring the eight years of the Obama Administration and Nancy (just pass Obamacare and then read the law) Pelosi, the 2016 elections had the Republicans surprisingly and convincingly winning the presidency and majorities in both Congress and the Senate.

As the dust continues to settle in Trump’s first 100 days in office, it is difficult to swallow what my old Democratic Party has become: little more than a shadow of its former self. I’m a moderate “little ‘r’” republican now, and I’m not a big fan of Donald Trump, but I’ve accepted the reality of his election. Clearly the country was looking to shake things up in 2016 and people got what they voted for.

But how do the Dems respond? They have become the new party of “no.” Rather than accepting the results and trying to rebuild their leverage by compromising with Republicans, what’s left of the Democrats have declared all-out war on the GOP. In doing so, they have ceded the national agenda they had coveted so much to the very party they despise.

Democrats need to face reality. As with all wars, the Dem’s jihad against Trump will have its consequences and those consequences seem direst for the Democrats. What Dems are doing now is akin to shooting themselves not only in the foot, but in the head. Consider the following:

·         In the 2016 elections, the Democrats forgot about working people while choosing to embrace the dogma of limousine liberals. While they may have won in the big urban areas, they lost the rust belt and middle America. And what do they do in 2017? They elect ultra-liberal, big-city urbanites like Nancy Pelosi as House minority leader and Chuck (I never met a microphone I didn’t like) Schumer as Senate minority leader. Have they gone totally tone deaf?

·         While Trump stumbled out of the gate with his initially unsuccessful attempt at “repealing and replacing Obamacare” without a single Democratic vote, it’s just a matter of time before the Republicans get their act together and pass an acceptable bill over the unanimous objection of Democrats. It now looks like that will happen sooner rather than later.

·         With the Dems signaling their adamant opposition to any Trump’s Supreme Court nominee during the Gorsuch confirmation hearings, it opened the door for the Republicans to resort to the “nuclear” option they used to confirm him. No one is more responsible for this outcome than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Despite his feeble attempts to deflect the blame onto Republicans, he can’t escape his full responsibility for this outcome.

·         By opening that door to replace conservative Justice Scalia with the conservative Gorsuch, the Republicans can now use the “nuclear option” to replace any future Supreme Court vacancies, including those currently occupied by liberals. While this would be devastating to the Dem’s agenda, they and Schumer will deserve all the blame for setting the stage for letting this happen.

·         With the House Committee investigating WikiLeak’s and Russia’s troubling involvement in the elections of 2016, it has been lost on the Dems that those leaks revealed the essential truth of what Hilary Clinton, Donna Brazille, and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz were doing behind closed doors in their management of the Democratic Party. That truth was there for all to see. Yet why can’t Dems see that?

·         The failed foreign policy of the Obama administration that relied upon appeasement and hollow threats gave rise to today’s Isis terrorism, North Korean aggression, Iran’s intransigence, and the use of chemical warfare in the Syrian conflict. Dems need only look in their historic rear view mirrors to ask “What would Harry Truman or John F. Kennedy have done?” The answer: precisely what Donald Trump has done with his strike on Syria.

·         Then came the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the waning years of Obama’s presidency. While I did not vote for him, I still had great hopes that the first African-American President would have an impact on ending racism in this country. Instead, he fanned the flames of the BLM movement while alienating law enforcement and doing nothing about the soaring rate of “black-on-black” crime which is statistically overwhelming our inner cities from Los Angeles to Chicago and from Baltimore to Dallas.

·         It is only a matter of time before the “Sanctuary Cities” of San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles start feeling the financial pain of losing federal funding upon which they have become so dependent. Instead of enacting local laws to enable the breaking of our immigration statutes while coddling the criminal contingent of illegal aliens who victimize the innocent, they choose to ignore the distinction between “legal” and “illegal” immigrants. Instead of trolling for new constituents illegally, Dems would be better served by working constructively with Republicans on a meaningful reform of our immigration policies. If they don’t, they and the sanctuary cities will get everything they deserve.

·         Yet in California in particular, the Dems are riding high. In this bluest of blue states, the party is dominated by and beholden to the most powerful political force in the state—the public employee unions. The runaway costs of public pensions threaten to swallow the state whole, prompting ever more taxes that are taking us on a treadmill to oblivion.

·         With the Dems holding all of California’s executive offices and two thirds of the State Legislature, California is now in the grip of a “monoparty:” a government of, by, and for one party. While that might thrill Dems, our system of checks and balances, common sense, fiscal responsibility, and adult supervision are all missing in action in our state’s governance. As a result, California is teetering on the brink of fiscal insolvency despite its heavy dose of tax increases.

·          And back to that old question: Whatever happened to well-reasoned moderates? If anything, they are a rarer and more endangered species than Republicans in California. Even moderates are being branded as “alt rights” by today’s so-called “Progressives.” Meanwhile, our state and some of its notable cities and counties are devolving into little more than “zealocracies”: governments of, by, and for zealots.

It was Thomas Jefferson, the father of the Anti-Federalist Party that evolved into the Democratic Party, who once said: “That government which governs best, governs least.” Yet today, the party of Jefferson  is all about big, heavy-handed government trying to expand by increasing dependence on the government dole.  Over-regulation, over- taxation, and over-zealous intrusion into every aspect of our lives represents the essence of what my old party has become. Perhaps if its adherents revisited Jefferson’s earlier statement, they might find the path to redemption.

While I am no longer a Democrat, I firmly believe that a healthy two party system is essential to democracy. But at a time when Dems should be reflecting and regrouping nationally, they have all but relegated themselves to the ash heap of irrelevance. Given the political calculus of the upcoming 2018 election season when far more incumbent Democrats will be trying to hold onto their seats than Republicans, the Dems will have a much tougher time keeping their seats than Republicans.

It will be truly interesting to see when or if my old party will ever wake up and smell the coffee. If not, they will be reaping a whirlwind of their own making.


Republicans had the chance to elect a moderate, like John Kasich. Instead, they are turned to being as extreme as the Democrats. Everyone loses.


John Kasich was an egomaniacal banty rooster who had no chance. Trump is neither a moderate nor an extreme conservative. He’s a Maverick who is evenly appreciated and reviled by the electorate. If you think he’s a conservative, just ask real conservatives and they will tell you that he isn’t. You’ve been listening to the mainstream media too much…


It has occurred to me that the election of Trump in the republican primaries was precisely because a “moderate” approach to fixing Obama’s egregious policies would likely have little- to no impact. Ironically, it was because of the massive let-down that everyone felt after eight years of Obama that allowed Trump to win. That and all the democrats could muster were Hillary and Bernie. Either of those reasons alone are enough to elect Trump, but we got both reasons.

I hope the republican party does not devolve like the democrat party has, otherwise we are all up the creek without a paddle. I would love for both parties to be better, but I am doubtful at this point. As always, the republican choice was the lesser of two evils (or the slower of the crashing and burning).

Of course, if I am not “bashing” Trump, I must be for him. If I dislike Obama’s policies, I must be racist or whatever-ist. Turns out, I’m just bored. Tired of stupid, and seeing stupid being paid so well.


You forgot to point out, any criticisms – regardless of how noble or honest they are – will be viewed as “right wing” propaganda. Every time I criticized Obama or a democrat, I would be branded a republican and the conversation would cease being a conversation.

While I am not a republican, it is awfully hard to criticize republican policy in California. Our state (and local governments, for the most part) are a mess and seem to get worse each year. Gross incompetence and negligence are not only ignored, but seemingly rewarded! One only has to look at San Luis Obispo to see this clearly.

One of my favorite “party” lines for my zealot leftist-progressive friends is, “Hey, do you think JFK would earn the democrat party nomination today?” – Of course he would not. Then again, I doubt he’d even win the republican one, that’s how far we’ve shifted the Overton window on policies and ideologies.

A decent piece, Mr. Gurnee, thank you for your contribution to the site!

roy in nipomo

You were lucky. Any time I criticized Obama’s policies I was labeled a racist. His father’s genetics had far less to do with my criticisms than his mother’s politics.


For those of us who can remember long ago, it is sobering to realize that if JFK were alive now he would be a Republican…The Democrat mainstream has moved quite a ways further left than ever before.


Very articulate column and very informative of what has happened, what is happening and what may happen. The what may happening is what I’m fearful of. I’m a Republican and that doesn’t mean that all Democrats are wrong. Hopefully some day reason will return to our government and we all can move forward. In the meantime I think we are in a very scary situation.

I remember over 60 years ago when it was touted what the 10 point plan was for Communism to take over the United States. That is why I’m fearful as most of those objectives have been accomplished.


But how do the Dems respond? They have become the new party of “no.”


You mean “no, I don’t matter.”

It’s a trifecta at the federal level. Presidency, House, and Senate belong to the Republicans. They don’t need one Democrat to accomplish anything.

roy in nipomo

Kind of like Sacramento and the Republicans, huh?

Jorge Estrada

Thanks for the pleasurable read and yes “a whirlwind of their own making.” California is overdue for a major whirlwind and earthquake too. If they both happen together, in that mess, people will help each other and relearn what is important.

The Identarian

You have reflected my thoughts almost entirely. Although I have never been a Democrat. My parents taught me common sense on politics from a young age.

I would go further than you on California. I believe the state is now an arm of The Government of Mexico rather than an American state. If you are illegal and from Mexico you can virtually get anything for “free” in this state. Some of the biggest Democrat politicians in California are elected from districts that are effectively 100% Latino. Those politicians are elected by small numbers overall (and who really knows how many are illegal) voters. The laws these politicians introduce (licences for illegals, free tuition, etc) reflect this, effectively giving California away to Mexicans.


A very well written piece, thank-you for your time.

To answer your question of where have all the reasonable moderates gone, I think a lot of us are just dying of old age.


As a former Truman/Kennedy dem I agree completely Keith. The dems have been hijacked by the alt-left and worse and they don’t even see it… let alone understand it. This is not good.


I have always considered myself a wide-swinging moderate with views that spanned the spectrum of traditional Democrats and Republicans with Libertarians thrown in to the mix too. It just depended on the issues. I am not sure who you consider the “alt-left” but to my eyes, the Dems have been hijacked by the corporate elites at the national level. The party itself always contained a wide spectrum of views but managed to find a way to compromise (often imperfectly) their way to a platform. Since the Bill Clinton era, they have shifted their emphasis to corporate profits from blue collar working people and that has killed the middle of their base.

Still, I probably lean more Democrat nationally than Republican because that party has been hijacked by extreme right wing loonies to the point that Ronald Reagan would likely be considered a RINO if he were to enter politics today. Give the influence of theocrats like Cruz and the thinly-disguised racists like Bannon, the corporate socialists like Ryan & McConnell are the sane (if corrupt) portion of the party now and that is truly sad.