Friday, September 5, 2008

The Right Kind of Republican Woman

Given that John McCain formally accepted the Republican nomination for President last night, I’d like to say a few words, if I may . . . about my mom.

For the past week, my mom has been an Official Voting Delegate for the State of New Mexico – meaning she was down there on the floor of the convention all week in St. Paul, and when each state formally cast its ballot to nominate McCain, my mom got to determine how New Mexico voted. But more than just the formalities of the nomination, my mom’s had a great view of the proceedings. If you’ve seen the floor plans of the seating chart for the convention, you’ll see that New Mexico – since it’s considered a swing state – has some primo seating right near the front.

My mom has been a Republican for as long as I can remember. Even before I was aware of politics, I remember sitting with my parents in our house in Albuquerque, watching the returns come in on the 1976 election and hoping against hope that Gerald Ford wasn’t going to lose to the upstart Jimmy Carter. Why? I didn’t know – I just knew it was important to my mom, and so it was important to me.

But here’s what’s really interesting about my mom: she’s the kind of Republican the current guardians of party hate: she’s pro-choice, doesn’t believe in creationism, supports gay marriage, thinks a bit of responsible gun control is reasonable, and doesn’t think a lack of religion automatically makes someone immoral or valueless. My mom believes in better government (which doesn’t always necessarily mean a smaller one), responsible budgeting, and keeping government regulation out of your private life. That’s the Republican message I heard from my mom my whole life—and thus, when it came time for me to register to vote at age 18, I had no problem registering Republican, either.

Anyway, those views no longer hold up so well in a party that’s become increasingly evangelical, and my mom – despite impressively winning a seat as a delegate – has felt like something of a pariah at the convention. As a self-proclaimed moderate, she’s a bit of an oddity—which also means she’s also been actively sought out by the BBC and CBS, for example, who are genuinely interested in hearing what she thinks. She’s relatively high on McCain (though she always sounds sorta like someone talking up a blind date), but when I talked with her two days after the Palin announcement to see what she thought, her response was typically diplomatic: "I’m still listening." This was before Palin’s acceptance speech, so I’ll have to see what my mom thinks now.

To her credit, she’s always been perfectly understanding when both my brother and I announced that we just couldn’t do it, and would be voting for other candidates. In 2004, for example, I threw away my shot and voted Libertarian. This election, I’ve already made it clear that I’ll be voting Democrat. That disappointed most of my Republican friends, I know -- but not my mom.

I’ve gotta hand it to her – and this is yet another of those reasons why I love and admire my mom: unlike, say, me – a registered Republican who’s gotten crabby and cynical about the Republican party and has all but given up – my mom is still hanging in there, trying to make things better. She was in St. Paul, working hard to make it clear to reporters, analysts, and even other Republicans that you can still be a Republican even if you believe in funding for the arts, or don't go to church every Sunday.

Mom, I hope you can do it. This is, after all, the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Republicans can, and should, live by their example -- and yours.