I lived in Cincinnati when the first election in which I exercised my right to vote occurred. (For whatever reason, I had apparently not been politically-minded enough to show up for the first Presidential election I could have participated in 2 years earlier. My shoes and purse probably didn't match, or something.) It was 1990, and Ohio was, among other things, electing a governor (Voinovich won), deciding if it wanted a casino (Ohio didn't), choosing whether or not to amend the state constitution to allow the government to provide housing assistance through private lenders (yes, but not by a wide margin). Having not been provided quality education in government class, and having not been inclined to study on my own, I was severely un-informed about how the whole system worked. I knew that my family spouted Republican mantras, (though I was completely unaware if anyone in my family actually voted), and that Republicans were supposedly "pro-life". I was "pro-life". Hmmmmmm...
(Maybe I should mention here that up to this point in life, the only political experience to which I could personally attest was introducing Geraldine Ferraro, portrayed by a fellow student for whom I wasn't fond, at our school's mock election in 1984. Hmmmmmmm...)
That first Tuesday in November of 1990 dawned, and feeling a bit excited, I reported for duty at the over-sized church down the street from my apartment. After checking in with the little old ladies manning the frontlines, I received instructions and cast my first official ballot.
I must admit, I did waver when I got to the choice of Secretary of State, but let me explain why. Earlier that spring, near the beginning of April, I had the opportunity to walk in the Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day Parade, which was a fun, albeit unseasonably chilly, experience in itself. I was actually allowed this privilege because my then-current employer was herself an employee of Sherrod Brown, who was running for Secretary of State - on the Democratic ticket. This presented a minor dilemma since I actually KNEW the man - sort of - after all, I had smiled, waved, and probably passed out candy and tablets of writing paper in support of Mr. Brown, while he sat like a king on the back of a convertible, riding through the streets of downtown Cincinnati. (Would this qualify as another personally-attested-to political experience?) But in the end, once I stood behind the curtain at the voting booth, common sense and tradition won out. My family and I were "pro-life". My family, and therefore I, were Republican. So, straight down the ticket, wherever it said "Republican", I said "Count on me". Besides, I no longer worked for that lady, so I figured my loyalty couldn't be called into question. Exiting from the church with my "I Voted Today" sticker on my shoulder, (I always envied my elementary teacher, Miss Beal, when she arrived at school wearing hers), I sensed patriotism exuding from my very being. (I've been waiting for an opportunity to use the word exude for decades!)
Two years later, when the next Presidential election rolled around, I was prepared. By that time, I was married, had one baby, and another one on the way. I really CARED this time! I cared so much, I even dragged my baby, in the pouring rain, to the Toledo Airport, so I could SEE and HEAR incumbent Republican President Bush stand on the steps of Air Force One and pledge everything but the kitchen sink to us. I was an American. I was a Republican. President Bush was "pro-life"! My heart sank, and I was sure America would fall apart when Bill Clinton won the election. But then four years later, he won again! Although America hadn't yet fallen apart, surely it would during this four years of Democratic nonsense. By this time, I had realized that not only were Republicans "pro-life", they were also "pro-gun", which the Democrats hated. My dad and brother were hunters when I was growing up, so I certainly couldn't be anti-guns! Charleton Heston was Moses! Moses was in the Bible! The Bible is PRO-LIFE!!
Year 2000 - I had 4 children now. I had slightly more knowledge about how to vote, but that knowledge was, for the most part, related to local school levies, and state representatives' stand on issues (were they "pro-life", mostly, but also school choice positions and homeschool friendliness - I was testing the waters). I had some reservations about the Republican party, but the Republicans were a whole lot better than Al Gore! Who knew what road HE might lead America down! He was a Global Warming freak anyway! My defense for the lack of more thoughtful voting was that I had so many other fires to fight with having a special needs child that I couldn't be expected to know EVERYthing. It wasn't a false statement. I do have a special needs child who requires a lot of non-typical care. My ballot reflected the usual choices and I breathed a giant sigh of relief when the last hanging, dimpled, illegal CHAD was counted and the result was a Republican Presidency.
2004 and I am having major issues with some of the Republicans issues. I have no interest in the Democratic Botox King, but even as I cast my standard vote, I am questioning why I'm doing this. I am doubting my choices, yet figuring they can't be as bad as the others.
As I stood in the voting booth in November of 2006, it took me much longer to put the final decision on paper. I, for the first time, deliberately did NOT vote on some lines, because there was no good choice. Does the end justify the means? Is it OK to hunt down Saddam? I thought 9/11 was to be blamed on the Taliban.?? Oh come on! Everyone knows he had WMD somewhere! I waffled between being happy he's gone (he was a bad guy, you know!) and a sadness at the loss of a life God created. Why is my library record any one's business but my own? Why does Washington need to know what I'm researching on the Internet? When did my right and responsibility to make Godly decisions regarding my children's health become the government's business? How long before my local government decides they need my back yard for some greater good? Who sent the Census Bureau worker to my front door to ask how many toilets our home has and what time we go to work? Why did he persist, to the point of having to be forcibly escorted off our porch by my husband, when we refused to tell him anything more than how many people we have in our home? Should I hand him the dictionary with "enumerator" highlighted? Are my pockets supposed to be open to the public for funding expensive new facilities for a failing school system? Why is my family required to participate in paying for education practices that directly contradict our own beliefs? Will I be able to legally exercise Biblical principles in disciplining and training my children and grandchildren in the years to come? Am I SURE that "pro-life" really means "pro-life"? EVERYwhere? Why is the American public content to accept what it is told, as truth, when that "truth" is completely made-up hogwash? Are there still any true conservatives?
I can complain about circumstances until I'm out of breath. I can point at corrupt politicians until my fingers fall off. I can mutter about apathy until I'm old enough to wear a red hat. I can sing till the cows come home. What that will get me is cracked ribs from CPR, a visit to a prosthetic specialist, snickered at by my sisters, and a neighborhood BBQ in my backyard. While the BBQ might be a good idea, I don't much relish anything else on that list. (The red hat thing should also get me a trip to a psychiatrist, but that's another post.)
What I want is answers to my questions. Now it's much more important to me that I understand WHAT I'm voting for, rather than only WHO. One of the things I enjoy the most about homeschooling my kids is that as I'm teaching them, I'm learning or re-learning right along with them. In researching Presidential candidates over the last several months, I've realized that too many people and organizations have the flawed idea, as I did, that you vote for someone that you think can win, or think can beat Hillary. I've been trying to teach my kids for years to do the right thing no matter what everybody else does, but was I living that principle?
I still am pro-life. I still think having guns is a pretty good thing. I still detest having to pay for the new public school being built two blocks from my home. I still like Moses, and I still say I'll never (?) wear a red hat.
And yes, Virginia, there are still CONSERVATIVES. Here's one!