It seems that the world has been put on hold as the election approaches (at least from the perspective of the US media). All conversations revolve around the election. So that’s what your getting here – totally random thoughts about the election.
I tried to explain to Emma earlier why tomorrow was a special day after she in her totally three year old logic stated – “I can get a haircut on Tuesday because Tuesday isn’t a special day.” After I attempted to explain the concepts of President, the United States, and voting she got really upset and said she didn’t want anyone to be faster than her (Emma in 2040!). I had to play the mommy as linguistic anthropologist to understand that she thought “running for president” meant a footrace and that she didn’t want anyone besides herself to win. So I clarified to be told by her that she wants “Mr. Cain” to win because he has a better name. Then she informed me that velociraptors are her favorite dinosaur because they have the most fur. Some days I just don’t ask.
But her comment about names struck me because there are so many out there who are voting for one candidate or the other because of similar inane reasons (including name). My last post was a rant on such uncritical voting habits, so I thought this post should be a confession of my record and the sometimes flimsy reasons behind my voting habits.
I mentioned here before that the first election I remember was 1984 when in the first grade mock ballot I attempted to vote for just the VP candidate Geraldine Ferraro because I thought a woman should have a turn at President. The first election I voted in however was in 1996 – Clinton vs. Dole. At the time I felt like there was no choice but to vote for Dole no matter who he was or what he stood for. He was a Republican, Clinton wasn’t. I was a Christian so I had to vote Republican. I was in my freshman year at Wheaton College and was surrounded by similar attitudes. Dole won by a landslide in the mock campus election and the handful of people who came out for Clinton were called some seriously evil names.
Not much had changed four years later for Bush vs. Gore, at least on campus. I was in grad school at Wheaton at the time. I recall the student newspaper reporting on some political science students who had worked at a Gore rally. The backlash of that was intense – students and alumni writing in to express their astonishment at the sin the college was letting its students participate in. Even though the students had expressed that they themselves weren’t democrats (they just went for the experience), they were guilty by association.
I was torn in that election. I knew that there were a number of issues that I agreed more with Gore on than with Bush, but I still couldn’t get over my evangelical upbringing enough to vote Democrat. Sad, I know.The issues that stick in my head that were deciding factors at the time were the facts that Gore had recently sided with pharmaceutical companies to keep cheap generic drugs for AIDS out of Africa and (I can’t believe I’m saying this) that I liked what Bush had done for education in Texas. So I voted for Bush. I remember being in Bruce Benson’s Christianity and Postmodernism philosophy class that evening as the returns came in. I think the only three Democrats on campus were in that class as well. We took an extended break to watch election coverage in the lecture hall and they formed a small but vocal cheering section for Gore. I recall being somewhat indifferent about who won (a good thing given that it took forever to find out). I voted for Bush out of obligation, but the part of my that cared about the issues wanted Gore to win.
Then came 9/11 and the Iraq war, and by 2004 I was part of the anyone but Bush camp. I liked Nader, but didn’t want to throw away my vote, so I voted for Kerry as a lesser of two evils choice. I was pregnant with Emma at the time and had been put on strict bedrest just a week before the election. Getting out to vote was one of the two times I broke that strict bedrest rule. The election occurred right before everything hit the fan with our jobs at a Baptist church (we were scary emergents, you know the rest), so the women prayer warriors still cared enough to call to see how I was doing stuck on the couch all day. I mentioned to one of them that I had gotten out to vote (not mentioning who I voted for) and she praised me for being willing to risk my health for the sake of electing God’s candidate. I let her assume whatever she wanted to assume…
So here we are on the eve of one of the most exciting elections I can recall. It has also seen some of the saddest elements in our society emerge as the sexism and racism still present in our society surfaced. I am fascinated to see Christians (some at least) break away from the party allegiance and vote independently. I have a feeling that this change is permanent and that we are entering a new era of American politics. Early in this race my wish was that it come down to Obama vs. McCain. At the time that outcome seemed impossible, but I thought then that I could live with either candidate. McCain has disappointed me since then, and Palin seriously frightens me. So contrary to my toddler’s name affinity, I’m voting for Obama. I don’t see him as a savior, or our only hope, or all those other far-fetched accusations I’ve heard. I think he will be good for our country and the world. I’m not going to rehash the issues here, but just say that for the first time I am casting a positive vote for someone whose vision I support.
So after this long journey across the political spectrum, I’m voting Obama tomorrow. What’s been your journey?