Forget elephants and donkeys

By By Matt Homer

By Matt Homer

It’s not a secret that many people adopt the political views of their parents. Even before high school, some students identify themselves as either Republicans or Democrats without really knowing what that means. Over time, this political affiliation also causes many to attach certain beliefs and characteristics-usually stereotypes-to both political parties. However, there eventually comes a time when we must reconcile our preconceived views with reality.

In our youth, all the variety and historical depth of a political party boils down to a few choice characteristics. As a Democrat, you may think of Republicans as greedy and arrogant with tunnel vision. On the other hand, Republicans may believe Democrats lack a moral conscience and want to turn America into a European-style social state that ignores our country’s religious heritage.

We often bring these preconceived notions with us when we enter college. So it may surprise some when what they witness in reality doesn’t actually connect with their previously established views. Such a mismatch occurred recently in the debate over the Real Salt Lake soccer stadium.

Under pressure from RSL team owners, Salt Lake County was weighing whether or not to use taxpayer money to finance the construction of a new stadium. They wanted the county to put $30 million toward the project.

Those with a stereotypical view of what it means to be a Democrat might have thought Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon would gladly give taxpayer money to finance a “public good.” This, however, didn’t happen. Instead, the mayor called for financial studies and eventually concluded it would be a poor investment of public money.

Yet no sooner had this fiscally conservative decision been made than Republican Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. decided to reverse course and send a measure through the State Legislature that rapidly approved $35 million in state funds to build the soccer stadium.

Why did a Republican-whose party was once devoted to limited government-decide to invest public money in a sports franchise? In the end, it appears Corroon has become a key-and perhaps unsuspected-ally of fiscal conservatives, while Huntsman and his expansive budget request have caught the critical eye of limited-government folks.

Many of the stereotypes that informed our political views as youth no longer hold true in reality. Not all Democrats are abortion-crazy lunatics bent on destroying free enterprise. And not all Republicans are religious zealots who sleep with guns under their pillows.

Political parties change and evolve, and so should our loyalty to them. Just because a specific political party served our parents well doesn’t mean it hasn’t changed and/or may no longer serve our own interests.

Pigeonholing political parties into an ideological box may simplify things, but it will also divorce our views from reality.