Political Identity Crisis: 2012 Vote

Political Identity Crisis: 2012 Vote

I walked up to the school and nodded to some friends. They were selling baked goods at the PTA bake sale. I didn’t donate anything this year. I worked that gig three years in a row before I was PTA president. I avoided the political flyer people by walking along the inside wall of the courtyard, hearing my husband in my head, as he coached his soccer team, “Not in the middle! Down the line!”

The lines were not long to vote. I got in mine, the A-M line, and waited.  I spent time talking to a neighbor and then admired an elegantly dressed Middle Eastern couple, she in her peacock-toned gown and elaborate golden jewelry and he in a beautiful black suit and sporting a very cool mustache. They were speaking in their native language, but the energy wafting off them said to me that this was a big moment for them. I couldn’t help but marvel at their sense of wonder and excitement, they were going to vote for a president, probably their first time, in America.

The poor bastards.

A brand-new-to-voting American teenager got in line with his mother. He was wearing a skater t-shirt and skinny jeans and she was wearing a sweatshirt with the American flag on it. And pants, she was wearing pants for sure. They murmured about the issues and kept to themselves, his mother beaming with pride over her son, stroking his back. Some other people streamed in, workerbees from here and there and a grandmother with her grandson who was about five. He was holding her driver’s license, excited to hand it over to the volunteers on the other side of the table a couple dozen people down the N-Z line.

I was wearing my uniform: yoga pants, running shoes, an impossibly difficult to get into tank top, a running jacket and pony-tailed hair under a baseball cap. I had a headache: I had been at the pool the night before for water / swim testing novice rowers on my son’s rowing high school team. I don’t do well with the chlorine vapors and still, more than 12 hours later, everything smelled like faint bleach. But I was excited to be there. Voting is always like Christmas to me: you make your list, you send it up and you really don’t know what you’ll get in the end. Will the gift you wished for be as magical as you thought it would or will you get another book from your hopeful parents brimming and overflowing with enthusiasm over a first-edition of A Tale of Two Cities?

This polling place is my children’s school gymnasium. The weather was cold, but clear on Election day. The walk up along the path is very pleasant. On the national news election night, they had a broadcast from a school in our town and my kids went bananas. “That’s our gym! That’s our school!” and I had to remind them that no, it wasn’t. The mascot was all wrong.

We were all there, waiting to make our mark after more than a year of hearing about this day. I was sure of whom I was going to vote for only because it was more so a vote against someone else, as it had been in 2008. Come to think of it, I haven’t actually voted in favor of anyone in a very long time.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to go is it?

People streamed in and the line grew longer. My doubts about everything started to bubble up in my mind. I am a Libra so I’ve been accused of being wishy-washy and non-committal a lot. I can’t stand that assumption, frankly, because I’m pretty firm on a lot of things in life. I was about three people away from reciting my name and address and then getting my red voter card that I would hand to another person who would gesture me to my booth.

A few moments later, another couple came in: she was a police officer in her blues and he was wearing a Dominion Power uniform. Superstorm Sandy was still wreaking havoc on power lines in Northern Virginia, so I appreciated that this guy took some time out of his day to vote. The little boy was scraping his pants with his granny’s ID. Then, all of a sudden, I didn’t know anymore. I realized, I didn’t know who I am anymore as a political American. Like a zombie I recited my bona fides to the bespectacled man behind the table. Daunted, confused and whatever, I took my red card, handed it to the other lady and went in to vote.

The screen pulsated and glowed beneath me: red, blue, green. And those blasted Commonwealth of Virginia code changes and bond referenda. Geez Louise, they could use a class in Power Point. How about some bullet points and breaking out the paragraphs. Skip the president part… go back later.

I resented the whole concept that I didn’t believe in either one of these guys. I was ready for the day, for sure! But I wasn’t ready for either one of these guys to resume management or take the reins of my country. I dig America. I tell my kids whenever they complain about anything, “Uh, you woke up in America today. People are dying to live here. Still! You have nothing to complain about. There are people without schools, police, libraries, hospitals, parks… get a grip.” They agree with me for the most part, except the schools, some of which are among the best in the nation.

I went back to the president part. Nope. Skip over to the state and local decisions. That was easy. Back to the president…hmm. Screw it. I pushed the buttons and I voted. I pushed “Confirm vote” and immediately I was overcome with buyer’s remorse.

I thought, “What have I done?”

It’s hard to believe only three days have passed (two, really). I posted on my Facebook status the other day after the election that although I am a fiscal conservative, I am a social liberal although I aligned myself with the republican party for this year’s election SOLELY on the financial aspect of the country. I think I freaked out some people who thought they knew me. Yeah, you can do yoga and still want a financially sound country. That’s how I roll. When I voted, I didn’t sweat the smaller, personal issues: women’s health, gun control, gay marriage and other hot topics like that because to ME, those are state-level issues and I voted accordingly at the state level.

Before things get too serious here, let’s digress but stay somewhat on topic:

“agh c’mon i’m not a robot, ok? i wish. that i could go higher and you could rotate my arm and send me whooshing into space.”

I am an Alex P. Keaton republican, a traditionalist in the “Family Ties” mold of the 1980s. Alex loved Reagan and I did too. When the Iran hostage situation was going on, I was a kid, in 8th grade and I watched with fascination how that whole thing went down. Reagan appealed to me; he had a nice way about him on TV at least and I was hooked. I believe in capitalism. I believe in working hard and bootstrapping and building a great life for yourself. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal for goodness sake. AND… The New Yorker magazine.

The fiscal cliff really bothers me. We haven’t had our own money in a long time. We are printing it. There is nothing there. In the famous words of Gertrude Stein when discussing her hometown of Oakland, California after a long absence, “There is no there, there.” When I was a kid, I heard panics that we were broke all the time despite a Volvo in the driveway, a Steinway in the house and a sailboat moored at a yacht club, private school, day camps and a house in Canada. I’m not emotionally good when it comes to money issues, so this fiscal stuff is a trigger for me.

I’m not a pundit and frankly, I’m not sure I want to be. I know what I know: that it takes $78 to fill my tank. That milk costs $3.99 a gallon. That dinner out with my kids to a very unexciting place costs $50 now. 117,000 jobs in one month in a country with 22 million unemployed is NOT a big deal. The economy is more stalled than a rusted out dump truck in Moe’s Hauler Yard. I don’t need to tell you this. Our national debt has gone up $6 trillion under Obama since he promised to halve it. Our (me, you, that guy, his sister, her friend, that dude at Taco Bell…) personal share is more than $50,000 each. Our kids? Probably in the range of $100,000 each. This is not a legacy I’m excited about. This is not what I want in a likable president. When I heard the media report that Obama’s likability rating was higher than Romney’s and was actually considered relevant in this race, I thought, “yeah, I wanna play beer pong with the Commander in Chief, that’s how I know he’s gonna be a good leader, ’cause he can get you free smokes at the bar and he’s smooth with the ladies…” But hey, I don’t mind hanging with the guy as long as he’s you’re buying the tab.

Where am I Socially? Where I’ve always been: everyone should live and let live; life is hard enough on its own, why must we go around telling other people how to live more than we already do: don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t buy drugs, don’t sleep with your friend’s spouse, don’t skip out on taxes, don’t speed, don’t lie, don’t park here, don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent, don’t make fun of your sister in that dress. You know: be good, tell the truth, pay your freakin’ taxes.

I believe lots of things that apparently don’t matter to the republican party because they’re too busy telling people how to live. I know I’m not alone. Some of my most extremely liberal friends have told me the same, they simply didn’t feel like they fit in. Except for one… she was ready to vote Obama in for a second term right after he was sworn in for the first. I love her anyway though. Which I still can’t believe when I consider the debt. I just can’t. I mean: would you stay with a friend or a lover who ran up your credit card bills to a point where you’d have to declare bankruptcy? That’s where we are, folks. I can’t wait to see the next inaugural celebration. I wonder who will perform then. I’m sure it will be gratis. Because he’s so … likable. Eww.

Romney might’ve blown it with the 47% gaffe and by picking a white, male running mate. I thought for sure that Romney would make an excellent Ward Cleaver turned president. After four years of Ryan Seacrest, I was ready for someone to send my friends home, tell me to brush my teeth and go to bed because I had school in the morning.

Still, back to the finances: I believe in a hand-up not a hand-out. I feel Obamacare is putting our doctors’ practices and ability to properly care for people in jeopardy. Many will have to leave managed care and go into super-private VIP practice just to keep their lives sane. I don’t think marijuana should be legalized. Isn’t smoking doobies mostly a high school and college thing? If there are people my age still getting high off dope, then … well … really?! I happen to agree with another person who commented privately the other day that if this is how America is shaping up to be, then perhaps Romney shouldn’t be so disappointed that he lost because the American voting populace is sort of … well, embarrassing. This other person said lately, “We are France.”

hey…. was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

And trying to explain the electoral college to my son after he countered with “When we vote for pizza in school, and pizza voters are the majority, we get pizza. This doesn’t make any sense” was clearly pointless.  I have long believed that the electoral college is a frigging stupid, bizarre, screwed up, absolutely completely inane concept; I’d like the electoral college to lose its accreditation. If I didn’t want my vote to count, I wouldn’a bothered to vote.

So whaddya do when you’re me? When you believe that socially, people should be left to live their lives but fiscally you believe that it’s time to go to bed for school in the morning?

I have no clue, but I’ll always be a Libra.

So… I’ll see you in 2016.

UPDATE: a fantastic post written by someone who did not have an undiagnosed and raging sinus infection at the time he wrote it (unlike me) http://www.ericgarland.co/2012/11/09/letter-to-a-future-republican-strategist-regarding-white-people/

Thank you.

ps – are you in for the Gratitude 100? get your thanks to me by 11/19! I’ll have it ready by Thanksgiving!


16 responses »

  1. Living in a border state, I get the mentality behind the legalization of marijuana. The Mexican drug cartels have, traditionally, been financed by the smuggling of marijuana across the border, and these same cartels have become incredibly violent and represent a real threat both to the security of our border and to Americans travelling in Mexico. So, when they work to make growing and consuming the product legal, they hope to wrest away control of the substance from the cartels, and make their financial basis no longer a viable product.

    Just like ending prohibition put an end to organized crime in America. Wait.

    Yeah, see. There’s where the thinking goes awry. The Mexican cartels have already expanded their influence into sex trafficking and into other drugs (mostly methamphetamine). So when politicians SAY they want to legalize marijuana to erode the financial foundation of the cartels, I quietly chuckle and think, “and you want those pictures of you smoking a doobie in college to be less scandalous, right?”

  2. I could leave you a marathon of a comment, but you know and I know I don’t have to. I love that you wrote this, I love that you have clearly thought out reasons for why you do what you do, I love it all.

    • I know it’s complicated and multilayered and likely so very and deeply personal. Clearly it goes without saying that I don’t know what is what anymore. I am hopeful that Boehner and Obama will get their acts together (more likely Boehner) and create true compromise. I have no problems whatsoever with asking the super rich to pay their fair share. We shall see how things go. I am sure your marathon comments would be very compelling and likely helpful for me. I appreciate your consideration of it… I hope by the next time around, once I get my head around my old fears, past ghosts and issues, I will be more clear about all this. The data for Obama, or the democratic party, is compelling. xo

  3. I have no idea what you’re talking about when you call yourself a fiscal conservative. You’ll have to define that one of these days. Nothing personal, it just confuses me because the people who understand the economy and the conservatives are in incongruous packs. Maybe another entry for your blog?

    When your words became so abundant, you made of point of so much volume, I was afraid your writing would get watered down. Instead, I see you getting better and better at reaching people. You’re amazing, Molly, I love reading you, even if I wonder whether we agree?

    • Kirstin! Thank you so much for commenting! What I mean by FC is that of the trickle down type. In my EXTREMELY elementary and rudimentary understanding: when businesses do well, they hire more people; when those professionals do well, they hire people (gardeners, babysitters, *cleaning ladies*). When the gardeners get paid, they can do things… I know that when people have money, they spend it on discretionary stuff: dinners out, which requires a wait staff; going to a movie, which requires ticket takers… this is how I understand it. I believe in “hand up” not a hand-out — that sounds too watered down; but I believe that self-empowerment builds empowerment. I hate like hell that college grads are strapped with hideous loans… I almost feel like university should be almost free. I read somewhere that when the loans go up the tuition goes up… I don’t understand how that works.

      I would agree that many conservatives run in incongruous packs, hence my own feelings of “lostness” in this post and in this election. I agree that many conservatives, can’t really agree on what needs to happen. I think the super rich need to be taxed higher and the off-shore rules need to change completely… the way I see it: if you’re an American, no matter where your money is, it’s American too, and thus is treated as such. I don’t understand the tax structures (and I don’t know them) for the various echelons of earners and I thought for sure that a straight tax for everyone was a good idea until I realized that it hurts lower earners. I truly sorta panicked in the booth …

      I posted the other day that I believe that when Obama won, it was a vote for “love” and for compassion and I was good with that; that said, I might have a different view of compassion than some. To me (after many years of couch time and learning how to break my own codependencies with my parents and people like them) I learned that compassion also means empowering ourselves and others to bootstrap and lift themselves up. George Allen, a previous Va. governor (who just ran and lost to reclaim his US senate seat) did something incredible about 10 years ago: he abolished the welfare system (by phasing it out) in the Commonwealth per some sort of conditional entitlement — meaning that those who were able-bodied and of sound mind had to get off the dole. The rage here was ugh… but it worked. The numbers went down and people got work. I believe it was reinstated after he left — governors are only allowed one 6-year term here in Va. They can re-run, but not in succession. (I love that term limit.)

      I believe that health care should be available to all who need it, certainly and the aged and children are primaries. That said, I don’t understand the Affordable Health Care Act’s system other than by what friends of mine who are doctors say, that it will create socialized medicine and that adequate care will be harder to come by because doctors will be overwhelmed and over papered and under compensated.

      I am so flattered that you feel my writing is getting better; I love to do it, but I have been worrying the opposite, as you initially suspected. I have determined that I won’t post if I don’t like it and I have so much in my sinus-infected head that there is a lot I haven’t posted.

      I think we agree a lot of the time, Kirstin. It’s really odd, but tonight as you posted your comment, I was stretching my legs (I overdid it on a workout yesterday, I was so flummoxed by the election and what I thought I understood) and I actually thought of you and wondered with gratitude that even though we might not quite agree we are both creators of thought, creators of ideas and concepts and so by that we are agreeing. We share ourselves; I do to better learn about myself and hopefully inspire others and you do that for me too. And then I got your comment… >poof!< and i thought, holy crap … i thought of her and here she is… on the one post I thought I'd lose (alienate) you on for sure. I was afraid to post what I wrote in this piece. I don't mean to offend anyone; this is such a confusing time, it's so complex and I think that if people are willing to show who they are, what they don't know and what they're afraid of, that maybe, just maybe, we can repair.

      It's a nice idea. 🙂

      thanks, dearie. I am so glad to know you. you're one of the nicest people I've never met too. if you're ever game to do a painter blog post with me, i'd love it.

      • I don’t want to pick apart your points, Molly, I think we ultimately want to agree and live in a world that works out ok. From my point of view, your examples flow from one column to the other, one political strategy to the other without regard for the high price of ideology. If only those other guys would follow your lead.
        I am not afraid of being offended. I am offended pretty often, but it’s not by you. I am not afraid of reading other peoples ideas and wishes, whether or not I agree with them. I am comforted by reading you, by finding out that despite your alignment with some scary labels, you really are a decent human being.
        I don’t consider myself a member of any political party, I’m open to what works, but this last year has been the worst for raising daughters in the US. I have to shun the bad guys. I have to warn them. So, yeah, I must seem really normal for from the north.

      • I don’t have daughters. I suspect that I am missing a lot of energy in that regard. My life is not over, by no means, but my regard of women’s stuff is largely isolated, limited and resultingly … dormant. That is wrong. I vote pro-women at the state level, as I don’t see any real threat (call me unrealistic) at the national level. I am very pro-equality when it comes to those matters. That’s why I never vote a straight ticket. I believe in balance.

        This election was more national to me, not even global really and that’s directly related to my personal ghosts with money. We are all very distinct wrappings of chemicals and energies with triggers and twitches, so the economy was mine. I simply found anything other than that a distraction. I don’t defend it, I can only explain it. I should probably put back a line / sentiment I deleted in the original post: while I am bummed Romney lost, like I would be bummed that my favorite pizza wasn’t voted for in a class party, I am relieved that Obama won, and I will participate in the process, make calls to my elected guys and insist that they compromise, figure this stuff out.

        At the bottom of the filter, I am pretty sure that I’m a democrat. It is hard to be a mother and not be. I just have major issues with big government, over-regulation, tons of entitlements and waste. I really don’t fit in anywhere. I can’t say you won’t see me at a peace rally, but you won’t find me at a gun show.

        No one running for president is a saint and to me, these two guys shared more in common than they didn’t. That’s why, to me, the country / votes are so divided. No one overwhelmingly lost or won, when you look at the popular vote. We were all gonna eat pizza… The basic ingredients are the same. So I’m relieved he is there, he is a known quantity.

        I can tell you right now, that if Hilary runs, I will vote for her absolutely.

  4. Nicely written entry about your predicament. I think with some fact finding you may be more comfortable as a democrat. Republicans only believe in live and let live if you agree with them! On the deficit and debt, most of it was run up by W. he started with a record surplus and turned it into record deficit with tax cuts during two wars. Obama tells his kids to go to bed too 🙂

    Am I your liberal friend of which you speak?

    • Thanks, so much, Susie for reading this. I was so afraid to offend anyone. I suspect you’re right about me being an uneducated democrat. The republican party is a woeful mess and I can’t find myself agreeing with anything they say. And yes…. you are my liberal friend.

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