“I think that the undecided could go one way or the other” – George H.W. Bush
I’ve been taking an increasing amount of flack over the past couple of weeks because I’m still—less than a week before Election Day—undecided. Friends on the right have chidingly taken up the call of “RINO! RINO!” simply because I’m not planning to teaparty my way down a straight ticket, while friends on the left basically want to know why I don’t “WAKE THE F##K UP, ALREADY!”
(And, yes, these are my friends. If you’re curious to know what strangers are shouting at me, feel free to head over to my Facebook page.)
I know I don’t have to explain myself, but I want to When you’re an incredibly minor public figure like I am, credibility is just about all you’ve got, and if I want people to think I’m principled, then I best lay out those principles.
My conundrum comes from the belief that we are not currently choosing from between two major parties, but from among three.* As I see it, we have the Democratic Party, a generally left-of-center (but not that far left) group that has had some successes and some failures, but whose basic arguments for re-election have been based largely on counter-factuals, those what-if’s that make for, at best, an interesting dinner conversation but which are not proper premises for making important decisions.
Then we have the Republican Party in its longed-for traditional form, the party of Lincoln which, unfortunately, seems to be sitting placidly in the balcony at Ford's Theater waiting for the curtain to rise on Act III of Our American Cousin. It’s lost the Snowe’s and the Lugar’s and there are few on the horizon poised to take their places.
And finally we have the Tea Party, or Teapublicans, or (name your own, but not too nasty, please) Party, that group of Koch-funded theocratic Rovians that look to people like Bachman and Palin for leadership, people who have locked up reason and logic and compromise—everything but their dogmas—into a box even Pandora couldn’t open. They resemble their eighteenth-century namesakes much less than they do the mid-sixties Ratfinks, that group of ultra-right-wingers that nearly succeeded in hijacking the Young Republicans.
My problem is that I’m a Republican, and I still believe in Republican principles. I don’t terribly mind the principles of the Democratic Party, but I don’t prefer them. I absolutely abhor, however, the principles of the Tea Party.
So I start with this basic principle: If there’s a Republican to vote for, that person gets the benefit of the doubt; i.e., I start looking at their background and record with the assumption that I’ll likely vote for them. (It’s sort of a tie-goes-to-the-runner thing, only with elephants.) However, if the race is between a Democrat and a Tea Partier, then the Democrat wins every time.**
How does that work out? Using my own state of New Hampshire as my exemplar, here’s what I’m faced with:
- The most popular governor in the state’s history, Democrat John Lynch, is retiring. Competing for the keys to his desk are Democrat Maggie Hassan, carved from a similar mold, and Ovide Lamontagne, a Tea Party favorite generally considered incredibly conservative. He first ran for governor back in ’96; now-Senator Jeanne Shaheen mopped the floor with him. In 2010 he ran for the senate, but lost the primary to Kelly Ayotte, whose to the right, but not as far right as Ovide.
- In my congressional district I face a similar split. Carol Shea-Porter, a very liberal Democrat, is looking to reclaim the seat she lost in the 2010 GOP sweep, when former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta took it away from her. Guinta—who had a reasonably moderate history—drank the 64-ounce size of Tea Party kool-aid, and is now considered one of the faithful.
So those two are easy: there’s no Republican running, and I won’t vote Tea Party. (And not voting isn’t an option as far as I’m concerned…) It’s Hassan and Shea-Porter, with only minor qualms.
Right about now you’re probably saying “Okay… I get it… You have your way of thinking, Michael. I may not agree with you about their being any vestige of that old GOP, but at least you’re trying to apply some sort of consistent principle.” And I thank you for that.
But I know you’re also thinking that these same principles should make the big decision easy, too. But it’s not, and here’s why: I still believe that Romney is a lot more Republican than Tea Party and that, in a sad, scary, Faustian-pact sort of way he just did what he had to do in order to get the nomination and save the GOP from the Goldwater-sized debacle that would have ensued had we nominated, say, Santorum, thereby leaving the party to roam 40 more years in the desert….
Romney’s record is very much Republican. He’s been a moderate on social issues, he’s pro-business, tough on unions, etc. etc. etc., all things I generally agree with. A big part of me suspects that he would govern just that way, basically ignoring the base that got him there (same thing Obama’s done, by the way) and governing from the right of center, a place in which I’m inordinately comfortable. But I’m not quite there yet….plus, I’m still questioning his abilities as a leader…
I know it’ll all be over in another few days (or so—could be some recounts coming), but I don’t want it just to be over. I want to make what I truly believe is the best decision for the country and for myself and my family and my children. If Romney is a Republican, then I want to vote for him. If he’s not, then I don’t.
So just what the hell am I going to do? Research, I guess. Keep trying to ignore those stupid SuperPAC ads and those ten-times-a-day calls from the RNC. Forget that ridiculous “x lies in y minutes” meme. Take a closer look at the people he’s surrounded himself with.*** Review what he’s been saying in the debates.
And ignore the people who tell me to wake the f##k up.
*Before all you Johnson, Stein and/or Anderson supporters get on my case, let’s be real. They haven’t a prayer. And while I believe, in general, that more parties would be a good thing, I live in a swing state and my vote’s probably going to mean something this year.
**I know what you’re thinking, but veep doesn’t count.
***See previous note.