After I was recently accused of being a “Democrat down to my toes,” my daughter bought me the socks in the picture above. And while it’s true that I call myself a “pro-life Democrat” in my Twitter bio, the reality is somewhat more complicated.
My earliest political memory is going door-to-door with my mother handing out George McGovern flyers in 1972 when I was five years old. I knew that he was a Democrat and we were too.
Next up was Watergate, and the graffiti on the wall of the unfinished part of the shopping mall in our neighborhood demanding “IMPEACH NIXON!” What more proof did I need that voting Democrat was the way to go?
Since all my family were Democrats it was a rude surprise to me to be the only nine-year-old who raised a hand in support of Jimmy Carter in our classroom election in 1976. That was my first introduction to the fact that most people in East Tennessee were not on the same page as me politically.
All this seems to be pointing to someone who has voted the Democratic ticket her whole life, right? But if that’s what you were thinking, you’d be wrong.
I turned 18 in 1985, so I had to wait a long time to cast my first vote. Longer than you’d expect, because I was in college in 1988, and didn’t send off for my absentee ballot in time. I would have voted for Dukakis without a second thought, in fact without any thought at all, because I was a Democrat and if you are a Democrat you vote for the party’s nominee, right?
A lot changed in four years. I cast my first Presidential vote for a REPUBLICAN. I remember how clear things seemed to me in 1992. Abortion was the gravest possible evil and George H.W. Bush was pro-life. What other issue could compare? By 1996 I was having second thoughts about single issue voting. I couldn’t see that my pro-life vote had made any difference–Roe v. Wade still stood. Clinton and Gore held to a pro-choice position, I never thought they were that enthusiastic about it. And I agreed with them on just about every other issue.
So I was 29 years old before I ever voted for a Democrat for President! I voted for Gore in 2000, and that was the last time.
I’ve written elsewhere the whole ugly story of 2004. I may well have voted for Kerry, not especially enthusiastically, because of the Iraq war, but I was nine months’ pregnant and bed-bound.
By 2008 my conscience was pricking me. I didn’t think it was WRONG to vote for a pro-choice candidate, but it felt wrong for ME. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, but neither could I bring myself to vote Republican (mind you, I wasn’t actively TERRIFIED of the Republican nominee–I just didn’t like his positions!). So I went to the polls, voted in the local races, and didn’t vote for President at all. I wanted Obama to win, I wanted our country to have its first black President, but I just couldn’t bring myself to vote for him.
In 2012 I felt even more strongly that I couldn’t vote for Obama, whose enthusiastic pro-choice views, cavalier disregard for religious freedom issues, and fondness for drone strikes turned me off even as I continued to like him personally. Yet neither could I bring myself to pull the lever for Romney, whose pro-life commitment seemed lukewarm and whose positions left me cold. That time I chose to vote None of the Above as a way of registering my dissatisfaction with the choices presented to me.
And this year . . . well, that will be the subject of another post. 🙂
So what does any of this mean? Am I a Democrat? A Republican? An Independent? Does it matter?
I have been known to refer to myself as a pro-life Democrat but that’s really just kind of a shortcut. Most people know more or less what the two halves of that label stand for, so they can get a good idea of my beliefs in most areas if I call myself that. And there really is an organization called Democrats for Life, but I haven’t signed up just yet. Tennessee has open primaries, and I like voting in the Republican one because that’s where my vote can have more impact. I have attended Republican political events and felt acutely uncomfortable at the cheerleading for positions I find reprehensible; I have a feeling I’d have a similar reaction to some topics that would come up at a Democratic rally. I certainly don’t see myself donating money to the DNC or being a card-carrying party member.
Anyway, I hope you can see why it infuriates me to be told that I am a Democrat down to my toes, looking for any excuse to vote for a Democrat, when I attempt to explain why it’s not a mortal sin for a Catholic to vote for a pro-choice candidate.