It’s Personal

I am prone to political crushes. I don’t think that’s a secret to you all. How many posts were there before the election that ran something like “OMG JOhN KeRRy so HAWT!” Well, there weren’t enough of them, that’s for sure.

I was on a trip last month with an old friend of mine, a girl I got to know in high school but haven’t talked to much since. She and I are both on the same message board where we steadfastly refuse to talk politics because we know it’s doomed to failure. She voted for Bush in the last election, and I think you all know which tall heroic drink of water I tried my damndest to get into office.

One hot night, fortified by rum and Diet Coke and having said everything there was to say about the half-naked pictures of David Beckham in the celebrity mags lying around, we started to have the conversation, and it actually worked for a good long while. I wasn’t trying to change her mind. What would the point be? The election’s over. Nor was she trying to convince me of anything. We both simply looked at one another and said, “Neither of us is stupid. Why did we come to completely opposite conclusions? Tell me your thought process, not so that I can ridicule it or oppose it, but so that I can understand.”

I won’t go into all the gory details, but suffice it to say there’s a great many people in this country for whom the perceived personality of their leader is paramount. I thought of this while reading some of the increasingly defensive comments Ann Althouse makes in response to the response to this post. She says she supports abortion rights. She says she supports gay marriage. She says she supports all these “centrist” positions, and isn’t “partisan,” and voted for both the president who signed the PATRIOT act and the only senator to vote against that act.

And that’s where I come back to the discussion I was having over the rum. We were talking about personal connection to a candidate, especially for president, and I said I tend to take a bunch of issues, see where I stand on them, see where the candidate stands, and make my decision. That’s how I came to be a Democrat. My mother (hi, mom!) thinks that liberal college corrupted me, and that at nearly 30 I’m still rebelling against her, but honestly, I looked at what was important to me (fairness, equality, a decent economy for everybody, a general attitude of not having the time to care what you’re snorting or who you’re fucking so long as everybody in the room’s an adult) and found the party that best matched those positions. All things being equal, I’m gonna vote for a Dem, and it’ll take a lot for me to move off that position. A lot of love for another candidate, or hate for my party’s own.

But once I’ve run down the issues and assessed the power situation (will my one seat, my own county, my one state sway the balance in Congress, in the state legislature, and is it worth voting for somebody to either ensure or prevent that even if the Dem candidate is a tool?) my level of enthusiasm for a candidate does depend, to a certan extent, on that candidate’s personal qualities. Is he a fighter? Does she stand up for what she believes in or does she sneak it into the platform while nobody’s looking? Does he rag on his fellow Democrats or blame others for things that aren’t his fault?

I don’t know if there’s ever been somebody that could have made me vote against my conscience, sheerly by force of him being such a great fucking guy. I voted for John McCain in the Republican presidential primary in 2000 because I really, really, really liked McCain and wanted to see that campaign a whole lot. But in the general? I don’t know if I would have been able to vote for a party that despises my friends and wants to invalidate their families, no matter how much ass I thought McCain personally kicked.

And that’s what I think is really difficult about all these people talking about “leadership qualities” and their personal admiration for Bush even as they break from him on nearly every important issue. If you feel you have to go out and delineate where you differ from him, the minute you get done casting your ballot, why are you voting for him in the first place? If you favor abortion rights and gay marriage, if you are anything less than completely blood-intoxicated about this war and the way we’re winning it, I’m sorry, I don’t care where you stand on taxation. You’re a Democrat. And it’s about time we start making that clear, so that people who do have those views don’t feel there’s nowhere for them to go but in the direction of the loudest voice going “Whooo!”

A.