Being a Hoosier comes with a love-hate relationship with college basketball and the stereotypical Midwestern niceness that makes for awkward conversation when trying to open the door for someone. It also comes with a set of core values. Either a product of my own upbringing or the upbringing of those around me, Indiana’s core conservative values, such as fiscal responsibility, the pursuit of the American Dream and individualism are ones to which I subscribe. Despite being a self-identified liberal, those conservative values are important to me in living a full life, in and outside of politics.
I grew up in an urban area on the east side of Indianapolis, a place where the number of beer bottle caps outnumbered the blades of grass at the local park. My family was broke. My friends were hungry. Everyone around me was suffering. We drew comfort in hearing about policies that promoted the welfare of and assistance to those less fortunate. The policies my friends, family and I supported were rooted in the value of fiscal responsibility. Giving people free or cheaper healthcare and helping them buy food is one of the best ways to promote financial responsibility. People who do not understand what it’s like to have money may not understand how to use it. Programs such as the Affordable Care Act and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program gave our family the ability to save for things such as textbooks and family trips. The current conservative agenda sees these as handouts. We weren’t farmhands, but we definitely were working hard. It was a tradition of hard work that we kept and passed down through each generation.
Conservatism, at its core, is about the connection humans can make…
My family and I practiced things based on tradition, but traditions change as time passes. It’s a generational telephone game. From my experience, most people in Indiana are conservative because that’s how they were taught to pursue the American Dream. That same way of thinking was passed to me. I noticed more as time passed after the 2016 presidential election. At first, those who sided with then presidential candidate Donald Trump, who is not actually much of a conservative, seemed to be the moral opposite of me. I thought that the president’s views were disgusting and that the same must be true of his supporters. Now, cursed with the whimsical collegiate exploration of ideas, I have come to understand why conservatives seek comfort in President Trump. Drive around northern and southern Indiana, and you will see it. Many times during his campaign, Trump offered help to the disadvantaged farmers of rural America, so they could pursue their American Dream. These were people carrying on their traditions. Whether it is following after their grandmother in shucking corn or working at your family’s owned bakery. I wasn’t much different. My grandmother was a server, my mother was a server, and in high school I joined the business to help pay for college and novelties.
For some poorer or disadvantaged people, liberal politics kept us alive and kept our families together. However, conservative policies did the same for many farmers and the middle class. I highly doubt I would have ever become a registered Republican, but if my upbringing had been different, there might have been a better shot.
It was never a matter of how people with the color of my skin, no matter how brown it is, could acquaint themselves with the conservative agenda. Conservatism, at its core, is about the connections humans can make despite their differences. Inclusivity has been the hallmark of liberal ideals and politics, when conservatives should have been the first to jump at the opportunity. There does not need to be any doctrine or set of rules to label who has the ideology of the people. In retrospect, the ideological divide is the most American part of politics. While I admit that partisanship should be at the forefront of all policies, my experience has always led me to believe that it was impossible to do so. Those differences in ideas and institutions are the leading factors in a rich democracy. We just need to acquaint ourselves with the other sides.
Many of us believe different things, but we all are much more similar than we give ourselves credit for. We’re all connected by the same principles and values that make us American.