IOWA — Big crowds and plenty of debate could make for a long evening as Iowans sort out who to support at the caucuses. For two Iowans, picking the political party was harder than picking candidates.
Two Iowans, Lisa Fleishman and Frank Moran switched sides
Meet Lisa Fleishman and Frank Moran. Fleishman was raised Republican. Moran was raised a Democrat. As they grew up, they outgrew the family political preference.
“I didn’t leave the Republican Party, but they sure left me,” said Fleishman. “This is not the party of Bob Ray. Definitely not the party of Lincoln. I don’t know what’s happened to them, but they’re unrecognizable to me.”
For Moran, he had the same to say, but about the Democratic party.
“I don’t recognize that party. I can’t feel angry at them because I don’t recognize them. It’s so far left. I’ve never seen anything like that and I never thought you would,” said Moran.
In a time of a strong partisan divide, these two swapped sides.
“When I changed my party affiliation, it was about doing the right thing, it was about my values, it was about who I am as a person,” said Fleishman.
For Fleishman, the switch came during President Barack Obama’s first term.
“The very ‘us versus them’ type of mentality and I thought … people who think differently than you aren’t your enemy,” said Fleishman.
That was a hard sell to her Republican friends and family.
“They thought I was making a huge mistake and that I had gone over to the ‘other side,’” said Fleishman.
The ‘other side’ didn’t match Moran’s values.
“You’re hearing free health care for all. Nothing is free. Somebody is going to pay for it,” said Moran.
He saw Democrats as the party of handouts, rather than hard work.
“My dad died when I was young and my mom went out and worked for us. You just go out and do it. You just do it. Nobody hands you anything,” said Moran.
Like Fleishman, Moran also coped with the backlash from his newfound support of the Republican Party.
“I’ve had my cars vandalized, I’ve had my life threatened, all because I’m a Donald Trump supporter,” said Moran.
Despite the resistance, both say their values are what convinced them to change parties.
“Our values are not the kinds of things that shift back and forth and back and forth, but who we vote for might,” said Arthur Sanders, a Drake University political science professor. Sanders says that makes Moran and Fleishman unique.
“You get practically no ticket splitters these days. If you vote Democrat, you vote Democrat all the way down the line. If you vote Republican, you vote Republican all the way down the line,” said Sanders.
In 2008, active voters were split pretty evenly into thirds. About 30 percent were Republicans, 35 percent Democrats and 35 percent independents. There were only slight differences by 2016.
As of this month, both parties have lost active voters, with a growing number of Iowans registering as independents.
“Independents are sometimes willing to go back and forth, but they are a pretty small group. Still in a very tight election, that can make a difference,” said Sanders.
Fleishman and Moran hope to be that difference. Fleishman is working to help Pete Buttigieg win the Democratic nomination, and Moran will be voting for Trump this November. Though they are on opposite sides, both have the same goal.
“We have got to come together. How that’s going to be, I don’t know,” said Moran.
“There is an opportunity for us to come together as a country. We’re all on the same team. We’re all Iowans. We’re all Americans. We better start acting like it,” said Fleishman.