If I’m being honest, it was really a long time coming.
As a social conservative who voted with Republicans on issues like abortion, gun owner rights, and tax policy, Democratic Party leadership always sort of looked down on me for voting my conscience — and my district — during the eight years I served in the House of Representatives as a leading voice of the Blue Dog Democrats.
Of course, that’s when there was still such a thing as a Blue Dog Democrat. Today’s radical left purity tests have led to the extinction of the Blue Dog, the rise of socialist influences, and the relegation of the Missouri Democratic Party to irrelevance.
This didn’t happen overnight. In my early years in the House, Democrats numbered 72 and an even 36 of us were pro-life while the other 36 were pro-abortion. About half of us were gun owners or NRA members too. Now, today’s Democratic Party is a monolith: no room for conscientious dissenters. But, I was still willing to fight for the party that I once believed in until it was infiltrated by anti-police activists bent on defunding law enforcement.
As a man who sacrificed to protect our community as a police officer for 17 years and who now has represented more than 1,000 police officers on behalf of the Fraternal Order of Police for the last 10 years, I just don’t understand how law and order became a wedge issue and how Democratic Party leaders think it benefits the most vulnerable among us to declare war on the heroes that patrol our streets and keep our families safe.
Party leaders like Tishaura Jones, Kim Gardner, and Cori Bush, with all of their hateful and dangerous anti-police rhetoric, represented the final straw. Their non-stop lies and malicious attacks against police officers, and frankly, me personally, made it clear to me that I was fooling myself to think that the Democratic Party could be saved.
Understand that I’m talking about the leadership of the Democratic Party, not the people who vote Democrat. I believe that most voters in both parties are good people who see things much as I do: The toxic influence of the far-left is making this country a more dangerous, divided place to live.
I’ve never believed that voters were the problem, and I was always surprised by people on either side of the aisle who hated the members of the opposite party, rather than the agenda of the opposite party.
For me, I’m the product of a mixed-marriage: My father is a Reagan Republican, and my mother was a Kennedy Democrat. When you came to the dinner table, you’d better have an opinion about the issues of the day, and you’d better be ready to defend that position. Throughout my childhood, I was never firmly on the side of my mother or father; I loved them both and respected both of their opinions so I’ve always been devoid of partisan hatred. But, they were both strongly pro-union which is why I ended up running as a Democrat for public office at a time when Dems were more pro-labor. Today, Republicans are far more friendly to organized labor than they used to be while you have Democrats like Tishaura Jones and Wesley Bell actively engaged in union-busting, particularly when it comes to their dealings with my police union.
It wasn’t until right before my mother’s death that I finally admitted to myself that I was a Republican. After never voting for a Republican for president in her life, Mom confided in me that she had voted for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, and I, in turn, confided in her that I hadn’t voted for Clinton either.
So it was my mom I was thinking about last year when I colored in the dot next to Donald Trump’s name. And, it’s my mother, and so, so many others just like her — just like me, who are so disaffected with the Democratic Party — who I am thinking about now, as I share my switch to the Republican party.
It would serve politicians — and our country — well if hard-working, honest, well-meaning people, like my mom, were who all elected officials were thinking about in these dangerous, uncertain times.
Jeff Roorda is the business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association. He served as a Democratic member of the Missouri Legislature and as a police officer.