My journey from Tea Party Republican to Democrat

By Ilya Galak

There are many important issues to debate. I believe that without manufacturing our middle class is doomed. Restoring manufacturing became my passion. That is why I changed my party affiliation and became a democrat.

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“Not only the wealth, but the independence and security of a country, appear to be materially connected with the prosperity of manufacturers. Every nation, with a view to those great objects, ought to endeavor to possess within itself all the essentials of national supply. These comprise the means of subsistence, habitation, clothing, and defense” – Alexander Hamilton

An immigrant to this country from the former Soviet Union, I am an electrical engineer by profession and, with my wife, the owner a small business that manufactures women’s fashions.

Before 2009 I wasn’t political. But in 2009, during the brunt of the financial meltdown, and with the election of President Obama and the Democrats in congress, one heard the words “labor movement” and “forward” often. In the USSR, those words didn’t have the same connation they have in America; they were not empowering but were associated with the aims of the hated Soviet dictatorship. That drove me to political activism, and not always in a constructive way.

Living a place filled with conservatives, including many other immigrants from the former USSR who are attracted to the Republican Party because of its strong stand against the Soviets in the 1980s, my American political journey began as a Tea Party Republican. I was particularly moved by the arguments against government spending and the national debt.

Eventually, after observing, reading, listening to people of all political persuasions, my views changed. I realized our biggest problem is the relentless war on the middle class and the outsourcing of good-paying manufacturing jobs.

There are many important issues to debate. But I became convinced that without manufacturing and the good-paying jobs they provide, our middle class, already endangered, is doomed to extinction. Restoring manufacturing became my passion.

Yet, as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find any support for this position within Republican Party. Republicans were obsessed with “taking the country back”. (Taking it back from whom I’ve never been able to determine)

I found the people who were willing to fight with me for American jobs only in Democratic Party, two of whom (John Kubinski and Robert Holst) had started the Middle Class Action Project (MCAP) which is focused on the economic issues facing everyday Americans and finding ways to save a broad and prosperous middle class.

For years, the accepted truth has been that American-made products cannot compete with products made in China or other low-wage countries. The “accepted truth’ is a myth. The true cost of any product or material is more than just the cost of manufacture—it also includes the cost of transportation as well as added costs of middlemen, multiple levels of government agencies along the way.  Most importantly, also comes with the added cost of the hollowing out the American middle class, whose good-paying jobs have been sent abroad. Those Americans no longer have the purchasing power to power the economy ahead and are often forced to live off debt in order to maintain the middle class lifestyle their parents took for granted.

Democrats were and are the people who accompanied me as we went from politician to politician, from club to club, and from forum to forum, with a plan to cut the real waste (read – save taxpayer’s money) and create good-paying jobs here at home, specifically in NYS.

I am still with disagreement with Democratic Party on many issues, and I realize full that they also had a hand in what’s happened over the last 35 years.  But the Democrats seem to have learned from their mistakes while the Republicans have not. I can no longer be a member of a “trickle-down” Republican Party which has done so much damage to the American middle class and has evidently learned nothing along the way.

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