I joined the GOP when I turned 18, just weeks after Ronald Reagan’s re-election. Since I was unable to vote in that race, I accompanied one of my conservative friends to the polling place as a kind of silent vote. I had become a big Reagan fan in high school and began learning more about conservatism through Goldwater, various books on the Cold War, and National Review. (That made me quite the hit with the ladies, as you might imagine.)
These early studies of policy, patriotism, and civic virtue led me to enlist in the US Navy and, once I got to college, challenge my ex-hippie professors. For years I voted along party lines, donated to Republican candidates, and volunteered for their campaigns. I was proud to belong to the party of Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, and, of course, Ronaldus Magnus. Even when Bush Sr. raised taxes, some GOP congressman floated bizarre conspiracy theories about Clinton, and Tom DeLay’s House spent us into oblivion, I still identified with the party’s higher ideals. Limited government. Peace through strength. Personal freedom.