Given that John McCain formally accepted the Republican nomination for President last night, I’d like to say a few words, if I may . . . about my mom.
For the past week, my mom has been an Official Voting Delegate for the State of New Mexico – meaning she was down there on the floor of the convention all week in St. Paul, and when each state formally cast its ballot to nominate McCain, my mom got to determine how New Mexico voted. But more than just the formalities of the nomination, my mom’s had a great view of the proceedings. If you’ve seen the floor plans of the seating chart for the convention, you’ll see that New Mexico – since it’s considered a swing state – has some primo seating right near the front.
My mom has been a Republican for as long as I can remember. Even before I was aware of politics, I remember sitting with my parents in our house in Albuquerque, watching the returns come in on the 1976 election and hoping against hope that Gerald Ford wasn’t going to lose to the upstart Jimmy Carter. Why? I didn’t know – I just knew it was important to my mom, and so it was important to me.
But here’s what’s really interesting about my mom: she’s the kind of Republican the current guardians of party hate: she’s pro-choice, doesn’t believe in creationism, supports gay marriage, thinks a bit of responsible gun control is reasonable, and doesn’t think a lack of religion automatically makes someone immoral or valueless. My mom believes in better government (which doesn’t always necessarily mean a smaller one), responsible budgeting, and keeping government regulation out of your private life. That’s the Republican message I heard from my mom my whole life—and thus, when it came time for me to register to vote at age 18, I had no problem registering Republican, either.
Anyway, those views no longer hold up so well in a party that’s become increasingly evangelical, and my mom – despite impressively winning a seat as a delegate – has felt like something of a pariah at the convention. As a self-proclaimed moderate, she’s a bit of an oddity—which also means she’s also been actively sought out by the BBC and CBS, for example, who are genuinely interested in hearing what she thinks. She’s relatively high on McCain (though she always sounds sorta like someone talking up a blind date), but when I talked with her two days after the Palin announcement to see what she thought, her response was typically diplomatic: “I’m still listening.” This was before Palin’s acceptance speech, so I’ll have to see what my mom thinks now.
To her credit, she’s always been perfectly understanding when both my brother and I announced that we just couldn’t do it, and would be voting for other candidates. In 2004, for example, I threw away my shot and voted Libertarian. This election, I’ve already made it clear that I’ll be voting Democrat. That disappointed most of my Republican friends, I know — but not my mom.
I’ve gotta hand it to her – and this is yet another of those reasons why I love and admire my mom: unlike, say, me – a registered Republican who’s gotten crabby and cynical about the Republican party and has all but given up – my mom is still hanging in there, trying to make things better. She was in St. Paul, working hard to make it clear to reporters, analysts, and even other Republicans that you can still be a Republican even if you believe in funding for the arts, or don’t go to church every Sunday.
Mom, I hope you can do it. This is, after all, the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Republicans can, and should, live by their example — and yours.
Let me add to Brian’s illustration of the role political affiliation played in our family.
The scene: On the elementary school playground, circa 1981, in a conversation with my third-grade classmate PH.
PH: What religion is your family?
Me: I’m not sure… I think we’re Republican.
I think your mom ought to form a new political party, one that fills a glaring gap in American politics; one that is fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
Your story is similar to mine, Brian, except that I became an Independent. Too many of my friends have followed Bush blindly because he’s a Republican, even though he’s an idiot, and they know it; if you’re rabidly loyal to your party, your party can do no wrong, even if its highest office holder belongs in jail.
I’d have gone Libertarian long ago except: no gun registrations? How would police track weapons used in crimes? No income tax? How would we pay for those $800 toilet seats?
That was the fascinating thing about working for Jeffords — he was, for the most part, fiscally conservative and socially liberal. But it made him a virtual outcast in the party.
Domenici was more of the old school Republican, who banked right on some issues, but could (and still can) be counted on to surprise you on the social issues he cares for most, bucking his party (for example) on welfare reform, mental healthy parity, and some tax cuts.
As I said, I’m in a relatively crabby mood about all of it this year — and I’ve already had some good, thoughtful conversations with some of my close Republican friends about it. And knowing there are still good people like them out there encourages me there may still be some hope for the party. I’m just not there at the moment.
Brian–Any interest in doing periodic analyses of campaign rhetoric on your blog leading up to November? I’m interested in your take on some of the “issues” developing…like the “putting lipstick on a pig” comment McCain is attacking Obama for these days.
Then again, I’m already getting a headache just thinking about it.
stephen–do you think it’s possible to be fiscally conservative and still be able to find funding for socially liberal programs? If so, sign me up for that party!
People love to be “offended” by remarks because it gives you the moral high ground. After hearing the McCain camps objections, I noticed someone in the Obama camp said, “Oh yeah? Well, when you say ‘community organizer,’ you’re talking about ‘black people,’ so we;re insulted you think we do nothing!” A bit of a stretch there, as well, but it works.
If I were writing the response, I’d say something like, “You’re offended at that? Why aren’t you offended by a stagnant economy, declining standards of living, rising fuel prices, and the loss of American lives in the Middle East? THERE’S something to be offended about!”
Something like that.