In thinking about this election and its demographics, I suppose I fit the profile of a Romney voter. I was raised by white, working class Catholics. I grew up in a town where some of the unions, it seemed, were hell-bent on giving the very notion of unionization a terrible name. I was read the Bible in our home, sent to religious education, and served as an altar boy. To this day, I still believe my 6 years of Catholic schooling to be the cornerstone of whatever intellect I claim. There is little to indicate I should be anything less than a social conservative.
The dual focus of my M.B.A. was finance and international business. I believe in the value of free trade. Bootstraps belonging to my family and myself were tugged on in my slow rise to the middle. I never claimed unemployment, never went on Medicaid, and was never quite poor enough to qualify for education subsidies. To top it all off, I have spent a 20 year career working as a professional manager in a capitalist system that I believe is the best economic system we have. There is little to indicate I should be anything less than a fiscal conservative.
I grew up reading everything I could grasp about military history. I collected no baseball cards, and knew far more about Vinegar Joe Stillwell and Howlin Mad Holland Smith than I did about any athlete. My Dad’s press passes to the annual season-opening air show at Nellis Air Force Base were the highlights of my spring. I own and enjoy shooting firearms, and would not think of giving up my right to a juicy steak. There is little to indicate I would be anything less than a conservative hawk on the military and gun rights.
But I support President Obama.
Thirty years ago, I might have been a moderate Republican. Thirty years ago, Mitt Romney might have been permitted to be a moderate Republican. The world, sadly, has changed. Like a nation of teenagers, we have become unable to view the world from a perspective bigger than ourselves. We seem ready and able to condemn any facts that are inconvenient, and the entire conservative movement is committed to the derivative notion that any numbers that fail to support their worldview are necessarily wrong.
It is a very different notion to be a federalist, and to place importance on the maintenance of state’s rights while solving national issues, than it is to thoroughly disregard any role for our democracy in the solving of national problems. But that is the mantra that modern conservatives have adopted as their creed. From the federal government on down, the gameplan for modern conservatism is to deny the role at one level, then deny it at the next, before finally and completely destroying the ability of citizens to affect the destiny of their marketplace through democratically-elected government.
They have no positive argument for the reestablishment of conservative governance, they have only negative assertions about the current President. And their negative arguments are typically weak and circular. The following typifies their case:
Conservatives-President Obama presides over an economy with 7.9% unemployment, his policies have failed.
Liberals-Net job losses began in 2007, reached their peak at the end of 2008, and ended during the same month that President Obama’s first budget took effect.
Conservatives-Why do you blame President Bush?
Americans can point to a series of budget resolutions, executive orders, and enforcement decisions, made by the Bush Administration, that led directly to massive job losses. Those job losses were still in process when President Obama took office. So the entire case for Republican change is based on the idea that President Obama was not able to instantaneously reverse 8 years of executive decision-making. This isn’t excuse-making, it is exactly the kind of rigorous accountability assignment and analyses that any successful business owner must undertake. To be certain, if Mitt Romney had practiced the same level of data analyses in his hedge fund that he does on the campaign trail, he would be broke.
In thinking about the demographics of this election, my white, working class Catholic parents taught me to work hard for myself, and think first of others. They taught me that my religion was something to be embraced, not something to be enforced on others. By example, they taught me that the bad behavior of an individual did not a bad organization make. It seems that there is little to indicate I should be anything less than a social liberal.
I have never worked in a business, small or large, that was prepared to build all of its roads, educate all of its workers, and protect all of its consumers. In all of the economic history of the world, there has never been an occasion where simple human nature could not, or did not, rise up to distort and destroy free markets. All markets need regulation, as all markets are as fallible as the humans that they serve. It seems that there is little to indicate I should be anything less than a fiscal liberal.
As a proud and confident American, I am positive that the leaders of our military can continue to be the dominant force in the world without spending more money than the next ten biggest military spenders combined. As a gun owner who has never, ever, seen the world-ending, gun-repossessing legislation that the NRA constantly lies about, I am comfortable with the idea that common-sense gun regulations aren’t going to come between anyone and the 2nd Amendment. Hawks, as seen in nature, are careful and discerning birds, not given to extremism.
We will hopefully get to a time in our nation where the party of conservatives is comfortable enough in their ideology that they can embrace both it and reasoned discussion at the same time. But they don’t have that ability now. Four years ago, Republicans announced their intention to abandon all legislative goals that did not directly lead to the defeat of Barack Obama this year. Every position, without regard to the President’s process, or even the conservative origin of the solution, was attacked with labels that were unambiguously ugly and hateful.
In the mode of parents who, regrettably, don’t believe in corporal punishment, I think conservative politicians need a time-out. On Tuesday, I will vote, at every level of the ticket, to give them that time-out.
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Some people don’t have the privilege…vote!