14 November 2012

An Empathetic Voter

There was a point in time when I was sure my Mom had a thing for Hubert Humphrey.  It wasn’t anything she said or did.  It was something in the way my father responded when she spoke of him.  As it turns out, Dad was an unapologetic Nixon republican, and what I was hearing was my first political debate.

I registered to vote in my high school’s cafeteria along with the rest of the senior class, and I’ve voted in every single presidential election since.  There was a time, prior to the 2000 elections, when I cast a vote in favor of a candidate.  Since then, however, I seem to find myself choosing what I believe to be the lesser of two evils and, while I don’t purport to remember loads about my high school civics class, I’m nearly certain they didn’t teach that.

I voted for Obama in 2008, but he wasn’t my first choice.  You see, I’d been a long-time fan of John McCain whom I’d always considered a straight shooter; a person who didn’t play party politics.

But that was before Karl Rove sunk his horns into him. 

I WANTED to like Hillary, but I couldn’t get there.  I’ve been the wife of a cheating man.  I did the only thing I could imagine doing, I left.  Throw at me all the extenuating circumstances you’ve got.  I left.  She didn’t.  End of story.  By the time I cast my vote, I was on line to board the “Hope and Change” bandwagon.  Since then, I've never been more disappointed in a politician in my life.


I started casting about for a replacement two years ago.  Excitement at the prospect of a Christie candidacy lasted all of two days…until he held a press conference urging all of us groupies to stand down.  From there, the list dwindled considerably.  Newt was a no go. I’m from Georgia, remember? 

I do. 

Santorum was scary…way scary…Zombie Apocalypse scary.

Enter Mitt Romney.  I read his bio.  I read news clips.  I read legislation.  I comforted myself with the knowledge that the healthcare plan he’d sponsored in Massachusetts served as a template for the one now dubbed “Obamacare”.

But that was before Karl Rove sunk his horns into him.

Mitt Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan as running mate sealed the deal.  I was officially out of options. 
Once again, I voted for Barack Obama.

I watched returns on election night from the viewpoint of a pacifist.  If Obama won, great!  If Romney won, oh well.  Certain pundits predicted he’d morph back into his old, pre-Rove self.  One could hope….

Let’s face it.  There is no such thing as unbiased news coverage in the United States.  As in all things Capitalism, it’s all about the money, honey.  I went with CNN.  At least they pretend...and they feature my boyfriend, James Carville.  I love James Carville.

Seeing the numbers did nothing to calm me.  Hours passed, and still I worried that the party responsible for Sarah Palin, Richard Murdock and Todd Akin would win the majority.  When Wolf Blitzer (and what is his real name, really?) announced Obama the winner just a little after 11:00 pm, I was as surprised as anybody.

Well, maybe not anybody.

I guess I wasn’t as surprised as the woman who, next day, hoped everyone who voted Democratic would enjoy their food stamps, free cell phone, and government issued six-pack of beer.  It’s probably safe to say I cannot relate to the feelings that motivated another person to post an article detailing Obama’s involvement with one Valarie Jarrett whose only crime, as far as I can tell, is having been born in…wait for it…IRAN!!!  You’d think, by this time, everyone would know about Snopes.  And, let's face it, Karl Rove's response to Fox anchor Megyn Kelly when she asked him "Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better or is this real?" was just sad.  His distressed confusion was so palpable you had to feel for the guy.

Georgia went red in 1996 in response to what we’ll call President Clinton’s indiscretions.  Accordingly, nearly everyone I know supported Mitt Romney…loudly…in a manner suggesting that those who did otherwise were not just wrong; they were downright unpatriotic and obviously did not love Jesus.  On Wednesday morning, it was this knowledge and my determination to honor that age-old southern tradition of grace in victory that set my posture as I headed out into the post-election world with my head somewhat bowed, my eyes definitely averted, and my intention set on avoiding any and all political discourse. 
You know what they say about intentions?  My hell came in the form of a very small woman with an enormous chip on her shoulder.  The conversation started innocently enough.  It wasn’t until I thought we were done that she took a step toward me and said, “Well, my family had to peel themselves off the floor last night!”

Here it comes, I thought.  

“I can imagine, I said.”, hoping my sympathy sounded more like empathy.

The tirade that followed was more than unexpected, it was unpredictable.  Nothing could have prepared me for the explosion of desperate anger that filled the ever-shrinking space between us.  Hands flew.  Eyes narrowed.  Her voice cracked and all I could think was “Don’t cry…please don’t cry.”

“Oh my daughter can get an abortion…”, she growled.  “but not a job!  Our children won’t be able to get jobs!”

My mind became a pinball machine, pinging about for a rational response to her irrational outburst, until she said the one thing that resonated with me.

“I’m so scared!”

It came back to me in a rush…the feeling of desperation…and more…frustrated desperation…and anger…outraged anger.  And the feelings brought me words.

“I understand.”

Though breathing hard, she quieted.

“I get it, I really do.  Had the tables been turned, I’d feel exactly the same way, I’m sure.  In fact, I HAVE felt that way.  When George Bush was reelected, I cried.  I turned off my television.  I turned off my radio.  I couldn’t stand to hear his name spoken.  I just knew terrible, awful things were going to happen to our country.   And, you know what?  They did.  And here we are.”

With crazy still dancing in her eyes, she turned on one heel and walked out of the room.

© Copyright 2007-2012 Stacye Carroll All Rights Reserved

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