Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Republican woman


This video makes me think about my mother who has been dead for 13 years. Watch it. This election would have cross-pressured Mother terribly.

She was a Republican and not just a casual sympathizer. All her adult life, she was a loyal member of the Frontier Club for Republican Women. When I was very young, she became the local Republican committeewoman; she was responsible for getting out the vote in our neighborhood. In a gray metal box, she kept a card on every registered voter, listing address and party affiliation. After every election, she carefully scanned the election records to check who had voted and who hadn't. Woe to the Republican who skipped an occasion to cast a ballot! As soon as I could read, I learned about mobilizing turnout by helping her keep the cards up to date.

She was a Republican because she thought of the party's WASP male leaders as honest, hard-working people, serious people, like her. To her, the Democrats were corrupt city bosses (our Dems were), often from strange foreign lands (perhaps Polish or Italian), and probably Catholic (she had a Protestant disdain for the Pope.)

But along with her bigotry, she had redeeming tendencies. She thought African Americans ("the colored") were often good people who had hard lives (in those days Blacks presented no competition to her class). She hated anti-Jewish prejudice; she had learned the lesson of Hitler well. And she was a feminist. When Operation Rescue came to town to shut down abortion clinics, though well into her 70s, she signed a public protest and contributed heavily to Planned Parenthood. She was a Republican for Choice.

In the 1964 presidential election, she got out the Republican vote. She dragged me to the kick-off for right wing Senator Barry Goldwater's running mate, a forgettable Congressman from nearby named William Miller. But she couldn't bring herself to cast a ballot for Goldwater, or so she whispered to me.

She was a complicated person, striving to advance the common good within the limits of her time, status and place.

I like to think that today's Republicans are too simplistic, too resistant to scientific knowledge, and too bent on keeping women down to have held her allegiance. I like to think she would have been able to see through Mitt Romney, to perceive the ethical void that allows him to run a campaign of lies and deception. But Romney would have looked like a president to her.

Supporting Obama would have been a stretch for her. He's different, you know. Some notion of Republican rectitude that never was (to my way of thinking) had a firm grip on her. Some sense that the country she knew was slipping away from her also held her. In this election, those sentiments would have been at war. I like to think that, like the women in the video, she would have been able to break through that powerful inner line that kept her a Republican. The values she believed in no longer live over there, if they ever did.

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