How My Family Learned We Are Republicans… By Accident

When my family left Brazil and moved to the United States – legally, of course – we didn’t know much about American politics. We knew about the Democrats and the Republicans, but we didn’t understand what each party stood for. In fact, that was probably among the last things we were thinking about. We came to the U.S. because we wanted out of the socioeconomic system we were subjected to.

Brazil is a very paternalistic country which fails to reward its hard workers. My father, for example, studied civil engineering in one of the top schools in Brazil and later pursued an MBA from the best business school in the country. In 2003, he owned a construction company and was responsible for the construction of a few twelve-story, upper-class apartment buildings. Do you know how much he was paid for each building he was responsible for? About $300 in U.S dollars per month. Keep in mind, the government gives the same amount of welfare to the family of inmates because they can’t provide for themselves – no I am not kidding, they really do that. That’s what we were running away from. To stay there and to try to earn an honest living would be equivalent to us banging our heads against a brick wall.

Soon after we moved to the U.S., I remember the first time when I asked someone the difference between Democrats and Republicans. Her response was, “Republicans are people from small towns who are really close-minded. Democrats are more forward-thinking individuals.” To this day I believe that it was the most biased answer I’ve ever received in my life, and, in fact, I don’t think Bernie Sanders would be able to give me such an answer with a straight face. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, I am definitely a Democrat.” That’s what my family thought as well. Needless to say, we were wrong. I dare to say that a lot of Americans make the same mistake we did when we first came here, and that is simply because they don’t know what being a Republican means.

Our assimilation into the United States was expedited by the fact that we identified with American values, particularly when it came to hard work. My father has always said: “In the United States, if you are good at something, you will be recognized. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you are good at spitting distance and you work hard, they will find a place for you.” That is, perhaps, when we first started to realize that we are Republicans. Republicans are hard workers by default. I’ve never heard of a Republican asking for welfare. They always ask for jobs. They have a no-nonsense attitude. It’s about pulling your own weight.

However, what made it really obvious to us that we were Republicans was their approach on fiscal matters. Our first presidential election as American residents was the 2008 election. When Obama promised to raise taxes, we knew it right then that this whole Democrat thing wasn’t going to work out. Remember, we are coming from a country which literally rewards prison inmates by providing them with a salary. We don’t like big government. We don’t like to give away our money just to see it wasted by bureaucrats. We believe that the best way to spend money is when you spend it yourself because it’s the only occasion where you care about quality and cost. When the government takes your money to spend, they are spending someone’s money on someone else; therefore, the government lacks accountability and doesn’t care about quality or cost.

So, what is being a Republican all about? It’s about loving your country. It’s about working hard and being rewarded for that hard work. It’s about family. It’s about less intervention, less government control. It’s about freedom. If you think about it, the American values are Republican values, and vice-versa. It’s the way our founding fathers envisioned our country to be run. Most Americans hold these values, however many identify themselves as Democrats because, like my family, no one gave them a fair explanation of what being a Republican is. This is perhaps the Democrats strongest suit. I have yet to see any political party in a democratic county capable of demonizing a group of people so effectively, and then being able to capitalize on that narrative like the Democratic Party in the United States.

So, when people ask my family why we are Republicans, we simply respond by saying: “Because we believe it’s the American way.”