(Originally posted on March 13, 2010 at 12:18)
I considered myself a moderate, or centrist Republican for many years. Now it is clear that there is no such thing.
I had voted for every Republican presidential candidate since I gained the right to vote at age 21 during the Viet Nam War, several years before the voting age was reduced to 18. I even voted for Richard Nixon! My parents, my relatives, and most of our church friends always voted Republican.
So I’ve been around awhile. Yet something happened. I didn’t exactly “wake up as a Democrat”, nor am I registered as one. Yet through the years I have been conflicted with the Grand Old Party.
During the Nixon administration, I watched as my president painted as treasonous any young person who objected to the Viet Nam War. I objected to the Viet Nam War. As a committed Christian, a ministerial student in fact, I was terrified that I might be forced to take a weapon and destroy a people I really knew nothing about. Denied a conscientious objector status, I was classified 1-A and actually called up for a physical exam, which fortunately I failed. I was that close!
Then there was Watergate. The week that my wife was in the hospital with our first newborn, I did the housekeeping, moving a small TV from room to room, as John Dean forcefully testified to the illegalities of the Nixon Presidential Campaign, including the burglarizing of the Democratic headquarters, and the subsequent White House cover-up. (And did I mention the Vice President, Spiros Agnew who had carried out his own campaign against the war protesters, only to resign in disgrace over allegations of corruption?)
Still one of the Republican faithful, I later carried my young son to a presidential appearance in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina to see Ronald Reagan whom I admired greatly. Yet I was slightly put off when he tried to invoke the residual negative feelings over forced busing (an aggressive court action to achieve racial integration in Charlotte which almost set back the many recent gains made in inter-racial relations). To me such a reference was opportunistic and insensitive. But he was my president!
I was equally offended when I challenged a Republican-sponsored “survey” taker whose questionnaire made no provision for someone who did not see the overturn of Roe vs. Wade as the solution to the excessive use of abortion as a birth control method, and who did not want to see desperate young women sent to prison.
I voted for the first President Bush once. I have always been impressed with elder Bush, but felt he had lost control of his re-election campaign when he attempted to attack his opponent Bill Clinton over non-participation in the Viet Nam War. That Mr. Bush would try to gain some political advantage by reviving the memory of a war that had destroyed a generation, my generation, was personally disappointing. I voted for Ross Perot. A “throw-away” vote to be sure, but Mr. Bush did not get my vote that year.
I voted for the second Bush twice, mainly because of his awareness of the positive role that faith-based organizations are having in our communities.
Needless to say, I took a dim view of how much that the GOP was trying to capitalize on Rev. Wright, without acknowledging that Mr. Obama was a Christian man who, with his wife, just wanted a healthy spiritual environment for his children. And for whom, unfortunately, his church had been a disappointment.
(I believe that John McCain was at his best the day that he gently removed the microphone from the “real Republican” lady at a town meeting who declared that Obama was a Muslim illegal immigrant, and said quietly “No ma’am. He is a Christian family man with whom I disagree politically”. )
John McCain seemed to be a man of great character, and no one could challenge the sacrifices that he made for his country, or his willingness to stand up for his principles. I also admired him for his willingness to join President George W. Bush in seeking humanitarian immigration reform. I recognized that my “moderate” views, while consistent with Mr. McCain, were not playing well with the more conservative GOP base.
Mr. McCain’s choice of vice presidential running mate was obviously a nod to the less moderate wing of the party, but at what price? Governor Palin, now the darling of the Tea Party, was clearly not qualified, in my opinion, to sit one heartbeat from the presidency.
It was also clear that the Republican party would continue to present in the worst possible light undocumented immigrants with children who are American citizens. After Senator Elizabeth Dole attacked challenger Kay Hagan for opposing the revocation of Driver Licenses from the parents of these families, she lost my vote. The old race-based campaign machine of Jesse Helms had been revived.
So at this point I did the unthinkable. I cast my vote on behalf of the young Latino USAmericans that I try to encourage every week. And for the high-risk black youths that my second son, an educator as well as church youth worker in the inner-city , tried to rescue and empower daily when he lived in Nashville. I cast my vote for hope and change. For a new beginning. At age 60, I voted for the first African-American presidential candidate, who happened to be a Democrat.
For by this time it was clear that the GOP was not the party of possibility. Not even the party of John McCain. It was the party of Sarah Palin and of verbal attacks on the black church, the party of fearful reprisals against Latino-American families, the party of hysteria over “death panels” that never existed. And of course, the party of the “birthers”.
Then when John McCain’s political future was in jeopardy, he tried to sound more like the party who, in fact, is quickly abandoning him for “real Republicans”– those who would refuse to cooperate in any significant way with our Democratic president, those who distinguished themselves in negative town meetings, continuing to accuse the president of being some kind of Muslim infiltrator of questionable origins, those who have done nothing ever in the area of health care or health insurance reform.
I am no longer registered as a “real Republican” voter. In North Carolina I have the right to register as “unaffiliated”. In short, I am saying “No” to the “Party of No!”