Political Switcher

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5 Reasons to Switch Political Parties

A young man considers his options before registering to vote in October at San Francisco State University. Photo by Ian Hill/KQED

Last week we profiled two area residents who have switched political parties: a former Republican who said he’d be voting for President Obama on Tuesday and a former Democrat who is now a registered member of the GOP. As you might expect in a contentious election year, their stories generated some heated comments in our online forums (as well as a few emails and phone calls).

That led us to wonder: if there is such a significant and widening ideological divide in the country, what would it take for other area voters to switch political parties?

To help us answer that question we turned to our Facebook followers and asked them to finish this sentence: “I would switch political parties if…”

Some of the responses we received were humorous, others enlightening. But in general, we heard five answers.

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Political Switcher: Republican Since Childhood, Voting for Obama

Mark Patrosso re-registering. (Photo courtesy Mark Patrosso)

By Lisa Morehouse

We don’t need to tell you the American electorate is polarized these days. You just have to tune in to any call-in show or even make an injudicious casual remark at Thanksgiving dinner to realize how personal our political identities are and how emotional discussing the issues and values surrounding them can be. So we decided it would be interesting to ask one Republican and one Democrat why they did what is unthinkable to so many: switch parties. Two portraits of political discontent…

Republican to voting for Obama below, and Democrat to Republican here.

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The first thing you should know about Mark Patrosso is that he was very involved in the Republican Party for a very long time. At just 9-years-old, he watched the entire 1964 Republican Convention when Barry Goldwater was nominated — even though his parents weren’t interested in politics.

If anything, Patrosso should have been a Democratic kid. He spent his childhood in East Detroit, a working-class Democratic suburb of the Motor City. In junior high, he says other kids probably thought he was a little weird when he volunteered to fill a display case with information on presidential candidate Richard Nixon. “I remember going into the local Nixon headquarters, picking up buttons, reading profiles,” Patrosso recalls.

Patrosso was just crazy for politics. “I probably actually read the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence in junior high and high school, or referred back just to understand what they really meant,” he says. “I’m not sure that my peers even cared.”
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Party Switcher: Raised a Democrat, Now a Republican

By Lisa Morehouse

(Lisa Morehouse: KQED)

Virginia Wolters says she was baptized a Catholic and a Democrat. After 9-11, her quest to learn more about U.S. foreign policy led to more political inquiries and a discovery that she probably was a conservative all along. (Lisa Morehouse: KQED)

We don’t need to tell you the American electorate is polarized these days. You just have to tune in to any call-in show or even make an injudicious casual remark at Thanksgiving dinner to realize how personal our political identities are and how emotional discussing the issues and values surrounding them can be. So we decided it would be interesting to ask one Republican and one Democrat why they did what is unthinkable to so many: switch parties. Two portraits of political discontent…

Democrat to Republican below, and Republican to Obama voter here.

Play audio:
Audio player needs Flash9+ (download) and JavaScript.

For more than 30 years, Novato resident Virginia Wolters was perfectly happy being a Democrat. Wolters grew up in a family full of union members outside of Chicago. She says she was baptized a Catholic — and a Democrat.

Though she doesn’t recall anyone saying anything specifically derisive about Republicans, she certainly understood how those around her felt. “It looked like the Democrats were the nice people,” she says. “Mom and Dad were nice, our friends were nice. Over the years I got the impression that Republicans were rich and evil.”

For Wolters, that all changed on September 11, 2001.

Those were the Kennedy years. Although she was still a child, Wolters was captivated by Jackie and John’s good looks — and the optimism around his campaign. Even the theme song for JFK’s campaign was the tune “High Hopes.” But as an adult, her political feelings lay dormant for years before springing back to life in 1992, when Bill Clinton ran for president. “I really related to the whole Clinton mystique,” Wolters says. Continue reading