Why I voted for Obama, ctd., and further thoughts on democracy and being rational

From emails I sent to my mom on election day, in response to her difficulty in understanding how any of our relatives who are concerned with women’s rights could vote for Romney:

The forward thinking in-laws very well may vote on different issues than you do. I’m sure Grandma is in favor of women’s rights – I’m sure Grandpa is too, and so is dad. They would probably even agree with you that Obama is best on that issue. But they’re not voting on that issue – that’s not what is most important to them. To them, it’s probably the economy – at least I know it is for Grandpa, because he told me he’s voting Romney because Grandpa’s been a businessman all his life, it’s how he provided for his family, and Romney is a businessman too, and that is what he thinks we need to get the economy going again. That is what is most important to him. As I said in my last email, it is a question of priorities.

As I also said, I hope you cannot have any doubt that dad’s heart is in the right place. Here is part of what I just wrote to Grandpa:

I did also consider the businessman argument – that Romney’s credentials as a businessman make him the best choice to run the country – and I did think it had merit, but I just couldn’t quite get there. I wasn’t sure, which could be as much a result of my own lack of experience as anything else. Of course what is important though is that we all have our hearts in the right place, you and me and my dad, and lots of other people, which I think is something that often gets lost in the uproar of reactionary partisan bickering on TV – in fact, it’s the first thing to go. Except for a craven few, everyone wants what is best, and are trying to realize it the way they know how. It’s a sad reality that some people think in order to disagree with the other side, you must demagogue and demonize them, when we all want basically the same thing: life, liberty, and opportunity.

The fact that you guys disagree does not mean anyone is wrong, or has lost their way – and let me say that I agree the best solution is to not talk about it. But in your own mind, know that you both want exactly the same thing, the same thing that everyone wants. No one in this equation – you, dad, the media, the politicians, the pundits, the candidates – no one, except for a few on the very fringes, is evil here. No one is corrupted or impure of heart. Everyone wants the same thing – life, liberty, the opportunity for happiness. We just have different ideas for how to get there. History will tell us who was right or wrong, but this should not reflect on a person’s character.

I also do not think dad has become a zealot. I think if in the next four years Obama turns the economy around in to a spectacular recovery, dad will give him credit for it. And until he does, why shouldn’t he criticize Obama?

And later:

This conversation provided an outlet for me to say things I would love to express to many of the people I follow on TV, and really the country at large. That being, in order to disagree with someone even on issues as important as those present in this election, you don’t need to demonize them, or even look badly on them. It’s not an us versus them situation, because whoever wins is going to take on the responsibility (ostensibly) for all of us, not just those who agree with them. It is not a black and white – or red and blue – situation. We are all in this together, whether reluctantly or not. I would like there to be more balance present in our politics, but there is nothing wrong with debate. The key is to understand that disagreeing with someone does not make you different than them. Everyone wants our country and its people to do better, and that’s what everyone is working towards. Some people have ridiculously skewed ideas of how that should be done, but most people fall somewhere in the middle, in some shade of grey. Or, as the case may be, purple (whenever I see the map of the U.S. showing each state color-coded according to who it is voting for – red for republican, blue for democrat – I always think of a map of the U.S. one of my professors showed us once, which showed color coding by individual county instead of state, which made the country, if viewed as a whole, look purple). No one wants us to fail. And I take solace in that.

I just read an article by a young female CNN contributor who has decided to vote for Romney, which is particularly germane to our conversation. The argument she lays out – which is one of the best and most pragmatic I’ve read – is precisely what I was trying to describe about those in our family who are voting for Romney, despite the seemingly conflicting facts of his position on women’s rights and what we know to be our family’s position on women’s rights: though she doesn’t agree with him on those particular positions, she thinks he is the right man to fix the economy, and right now that is more important. She even goes a step farther and offers evidence that Romney will not actually do anything against women’s rights, as in this excerpt:

An ad in which Romney says, “I would overturn Roe v. Wade” does not include what follows, the governor stating, “But that’s not where we are. That’s not where America is today.” If Romney is elected, abortion is not going to become illegal. We will not have a government official holding our hands during our annual doctor’s visit.

I have a hard time arguing with this position. Where I disagree with this article – and where I disagree with those in our family who are voting for Romney – is that I think Obama is still the right choice to lead us into better days and brighter, more prosperous futures. I think what he has managed to accomplish during his time in office – which can be summed up as keeping things from getting worse than they are – is considerable and commendable, and in addition I think their are numerous fallacies and inconsistencies in Romeny’s supposed “plan.” But that doesn’t mean that I’m objectively right and they are objectively wrong. As I said in my last email, only history will tell us that – we likely won’t know for sure for decades. But the important thing to remember is that this woman is not evil, or even misguided, for seemingly voting against her own interests. She is not voting against women’s rights. She is voting for a stronger, better economy, in the way she thinks will work best. As are dad, Grandpa, and Grandma.

You should really read this article. It gives very practical reasoning for this position, and though it won’t change anyone’s mind, it is a look into the head of those among us who think the Other Way. You can reach it here. [Very worth reading.]

My [idealogical] balance comes from a sincere fear of and personal aversion to zealotry of any kind, on any side. Zealotry is by definition close-mindedness, and though it is good to believe in something, any strong beliefs can be dangerous (need I give examples?). Balance is crucial to avoiding that, and to be balanced one must acknowledge, accept, and ultimately believe that you just might be wrong. About anything. This gets into our fundamentally different worldviews though, and relates back to the rather intense conversation we had the last time I was home, so my mindset is not for everyone. But I think that is where it comes from.

Anyway, it all comes down to tonight. At least, I hope so.


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