Sarah, your article was very illuminating. You may, however, want to continue the process of questioning your beliefs by conducting historical research and basing your opinions on facts. It’s impossible to believe that the USA is “the greatest nation on Earth” and likewise analysis of actual Republican policies over the period 1968 — present versus claimed Republican orthodoxy will indicate that the principles you believe in (small government, etc.) are at variance with actual Republican legislation.
In short, in the real world things aren’t simple, there are no “good guys” and any political allegiance is simply a result of our hardwired primate need to feel part of a group. All politicians are cynical opportunists skilled at one thing only: presenting a suitable image by means of which to garner votes from the uninformed and easily gulled. Seeing things in terms of left-versus-right is as meaningful as seeing things in terms of God-versus-Satan: an illusion that, no matter how comforting, is guaranteed to preclude adequate comprehension of reality.