Last week I wrote about my excitement over the Wisconsin primary this past Tuesday. What I didn't confess was how much I agonized about which candidate I would vote for.
I was raised Republican by devout Catholic parents, who were originally Democrats in the late 60's through 1979, when I was born. My father, a Reagan Conservative, instilled his political values in me at the ripe age of five years old. I could barely read or write, but I knew the difference between a Democrat and a Republican. One of my earliest memories is when my father quoted Ronald Reagan, saying, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me."
My father admitted he disliked Ronald Reagan when he ran for President in 1976 against incumbent, Gerald Ford. His dismay over Ford's alleged involvement in the Watergate scandal, and his disgust with the pardoning of Richard Nixon by Ford, led my father to vote for Jimmy Carter.
But it was during Carter's administration that the economy suffered double-digit inflation, oil shortages, high unemployment and slow economic growth; which prompted my father to give Ronald Reagan a second chance in 1980. Out went the party of JFK, in came the Reagan Revolution.
Through the years since 1980, my parents discussed important conservative values with me and my siblings. One of those values was upholding the sanctity of human life. As Catholics, we believe that life begins at conception. While my father discussed the economy and the Cold War at the dinner table, it was my mother who taught us the importance of waiting until marriage before bringing children into this world. I think it was the fear of God, and what my mother (and father) would do to me (and a boyfriend) if I became pregnant out of wedlock, that kept me virtuous.
Knowing my upbringing I'm certain you can understand my loyalty to my party. I've been a Republican all my life. It's what I know.
It's fair to say that my parents sheltered me from things they felt I couldn't handle. I was in junior high when the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal broke out and my mother turned the channel each time "the stained dress" was discussed on the news. Later in high school, my father demanded to know what I was learning in civics and history classes. If the lessons seemed biased, he sent me back to class with a list of counter arguments and questions for my teachers to explain and answer. He wanted to be certain I was hearing both sides of the story.
If I didn't understand a political issue, my father would pass the newspaper and tell me to read every article on the subject. We watched the news every evening. I read every Rush Limbaugh book my father recommended. We subscribed to conservative magazines and newspapers. I read the biographies of past presidents starting with the current office holder and working my way backwards, because of my father's influence. (I got to Franklin Roosevelt and then I needed a break.)
But the most valuable lesson my father taught me was to think for myself. "Gather the facts," he'd say. "Do your research. Then, make your decision, and stand by your choice." And more importantly, "You better be able to back it up."
What does this have to do with voting, you ask? Everything.
In order for me to choose which candidate I thought was best, I had to reflect on who I was. I had to make a list of which issues were important to me. I had to think of my future, my husband's future, my son's future.
Three weeks ago I wrote the following here at BlogHer:
"The first election I was legally able to vote in was 2000. I voted for George W. Bush because I let my disgust for Bill Clinton taint my image of Al Gore. In 2004, I re-elected Bush because I had given birth to my son two months prior and couldn't elect John Kerry. He didn't seem concerned with ending abortion. But in the past four years, the Republican party has failed me, and I feel pulled toward the Democratic party instead."
Little did I know then, that I would vote for Barack Obama on February 19th, but I did. And I've got plenty of reasons to back it up.
I've matured a lot in eight years. I became employed full-time. I married the love of my life. I purchased a house and wept the first time I paid property taxes. I had a child. I have lost a job. When I look back on the choices I've made, I discovered that politics played a part in every step I've taken to get where I am today. In the last eight years, I've become angry at the Republican party and I'm not going to take what they give me any longer.
I'm tired of the same politicians, both Democrat and Republican, making the same promises they can't keep.
I'm sick of reading about another member of our military dying in Iraq. These men and women have given their lives, but for whom? For me? Or for the people of Iraq? It isn't about fighting terrorism anymore. It's about feeding the ego of the Big Guy in the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.
I tired of turning on the evening news to see college students crying and grieving, because another maniac with a gun has opened fired in a lecture hall. I'm angry at this government and the lobbyists and all the broken promises to pass stricter laws on gun control, while still allowing for the right to bear arms, which doesn't even seem plausible -- only to read that a crazy person in Missouri tried to assassinate his town's mayor and members of the local government. When will these tragedies end? When I have to wear a bullet-proof vest to leave the house each day? When I have to accompany my child to college because I'm afraid someone will steal his life?
I'm tired of paying overpriced health care premiums, only to find out the insurance doesn't cover this or that, or the deductible is astronomical, or that prescription is too expensive so I'll just have to go without it, because the same Big Guy in the White House won't allow me to mail order from Canada.
I'm infuriated at how this country treats women and mothers. Women are paid less than men even if they perform the same jobs. New mothers have very little support after childbirth. Government paid maternity leave and support for postpartum depression rank lowest on our government's list of priorities. This government claims to care about our children, but they do nothing to prevent toxic toys from popping up on store shelves across the nation.
Then there's Education. American students rank lower than several other countries on standardized testing. Teachers are underpaid, and the good ones leave the profession because they can't make ends meet.
Our environment is dying a slow and painful death with every icecap that melts or animal species that becomes extinct. And this government expects us to smile politely, bat our eyelashes and say, "Why, yes sir, you can certainly drill for oil in Alaska! We don't mind at all. We, the fat and lazy Americans suffering an obesity epidemic, would rather destroy the elk and moose populations than give up our beloved gas guzzling SUV's! Bicycle? What is this bicycle you speak of?"
It all drives me mad. I'm fed up. I want Change.
The Republican that I was in the years 2000 and 2004 would never support a candidate that supports abortion. I wanted so badly to vote for a pro-life candidate, but I dislike John McCain and I knew that Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul stood no chance against him.
The leadership of the national, state and local Republican Party has said that true conservatives will "hold their noses" and support John McCain for president. But McCain is not a true conservative. He's given the Republicans a record of limited speech and open borders. He voted against the Bush tax cuts twice. Only when he decided to run for President did he stress the importance of secure borders and lower taxes for middle class Americans. I've learned that a foul smell often leads to rotten, decaying matter.
The feminist within me wanted to vote for Hillary Clinton, but only because she is a woman. Aside from disliking her health care policy and the "Bill Baggage" she would bring to the White House, I didn't believe she deserved my vote.
With each loss to Barack Obama, Hillary's true colors appeared. When listening to her speak, her tone and demeanor gave me the feeling that she felt she deserved to win just because she had more experience. The negative campaign ads she ran in Wisconsin attacking Obama made me feel like she would participate in the same dirty politics of the first Clinton Administration and I wanted nothing to do with that.
The night before I voted, I stayed up for hours reading and re-reading everything on Senator Obama's website. I brought out every newspaper and magazine article and made a list of pros and cons. His plans for health care and education appealed to me. But it was his ability to inspire Americans, both Democrat and Republican, that sealed the deal.
When Obama won the Wisconsin primary, I listened to his victory speech and I knew I made the right decision for me. At first I thought I would feel guilty, but instead I felt relieved.
Even though I voted for a candidate that supports abortion rights, I will not give up the fight to end needless abortions. I had to make the most difficult political decision of my life, but I made my choice based on more than one issue. I'm proud of that, and I believe that Barack Obama can bridge the gap between the Left and Right.
While some of my Republican counterparts are shaking their heads and uttering words like "betrayal", or labeling me as "just another angry mommyblogger", I take pride in knowing that I followed my head and my heart.
Thankfully, I'm not the only (traitorous?) Republican to cross the party lines. I encourage everyone to read the full posts of the links below. It is definitely worth your time.
From the blog, A Time and Place:
I’ve worked in politics professionally for over a decade, much of that in the House of Representatives in D.C. where I saw the animosity between parties build up day after day after day. Between that and becoming less and less enamored of the policies of Bush (who I voted for twice), I started looking for someone else — and I didn’t see that the GOP was offering anyone who could get the job done. A year ago, I would have wholeheartedly supported Giuliani or Thompson, but they handled their campaigns so badly that even they fell off. I go to visit friends on the Hill now, and I can feel “it” hanging in the air — I don’t know what it is, but it’s just there, and I think working in it for so long insulated me from the feeling until after I had left.
And then came Obama. The older of my two sisters told my father that she was shocked to hear me say that I was considering supporting a Democrat for president — to which he (also a lifelong Democrat) responded, “Well, I voted for a Democrat once - Jack Kennedy. You have to consider that perhaps your brother feels that this is his generation’s Jack Kennedy.”
From Ground Report:
It’s kinda hard to put my finger on what made me switch from Hillary to Obama. Color was not it and that’s evident of my initial support of Hillary. I didn’t change because it’s Black History Month or the fact that Obama and I have names that start with an O. Peer and family pressure didn’t move me, and it diffidently was not my good friend and debate buddy who is a Professor at Morehouse College. I didn’t have a fallout with Hillary’s policies or get (too) offended with Bill’s borderline racial comments. I changed for change. I changed my support to Obama because I can’t vote twice and still want real change. I want to start replacing our weak Democrat leadership from the top down. I want Obama’s candidacy to inspire newcomers and let them know that if the represent real change, we will support them. I want my party back and I think Barack Obama can get it back for me. That’s the reason I changed my support to Obama.
Chris Reich writes:
Today, [my friend] Sam sent me an email urging me to support Barrack Obama for President. I responded politely with the same words many conservative Republicans are using these days. I like the man but he's too liberal for me. Of course, McCain is too liberal for me as well. Romney? Like most of the Republican establishment, I just don't like him. To be honest, Mitt Romney gives me the creeps. I don't trust him. And that brings me to the point. After composing a long list of policy objections I have with Obama, I concluded by telling Sam that my choice will be based on the integrity of the candidate because, as a true conservative, I cannot find policy agreement with any of the contenders. And when it comes to integrity, John McCain has it. And so does Barrack Obama. So it really comes down to integrity and trust. McCain is a liberal running as a conservative. Obama is a liberal running as such. He's not changing stripes to attract votes. His message hasn't changed since he started his campaign. Integrity? Well, that's the characteristic real Reagan Republicans admire above all others. That's what the press never understood about why we Reaganites loved Ronnie. We didn't always agree with him but we trusted him. So as I finished my note to Sam I decided that I like the man more than I like some of his policies. But I trust him more than I disagree with him.
From BrooWaha (I encourage you to read his entire post. It's right on the money):
My secret shame as a Navy Republican…
It is with a heavy heart and great and crushing sorrow that I admit to you, dear reader, that I am, in fact, going to vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States. And before you go on shouting at me that the race hasn’t even yet been decided because the primaries and caucuses are still going… let’s be real for a moment.
...as if being a registered Republican since I was eighteen isn’t enough grounds for betrayal, I’m also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, which makes me a Benedict Arnold two times over. The idea that we would have had two Presidents from our little “boat school” in Maryland, fills me with pride for my alma mater. But I can’t. I can’t vote for John McCain… not for President. He can run for anything else and I’ll vote for him; early and often. But not this, not now. There is too much to fix, too much change needed, too many things to overlook.
I’m mostly just tired; tired of trying to defend a war that we’ve been bungling for years, tired of failed global policy, tired of the shamelessness of an administration. I’m the kind of Republican that would reanimate Ronald Reagan and put him in office tomorrow if we had the technology – there will never be another president as great as him (I bet that will stir up some comments, woo hoo!).
Naturally, my father is upset that I voted for Barack Obama, but I think he's secretly proud that he raised me to think for myself. As I blog this, I can hear him grumbling, "It took a Carter to get us Reagan, and a Clinton to get us back the House. Ford and Nixon brought shame and liberalism, and a Bush gave us another useless war."
Yes, but an Obama gives us hope, and that's just what this country needs.
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