I have a many friends and business associates that voted for Romney. For the most part their profile is similar; well-educated businessmen, upper income to very wealthy, many somehow attached to Wall Street. And when I say businessMEN – I emphasize the MEN part. Though I am sure they exist, I don’t know any professional women that supported him.
Some of them know Romney personally and have done business with him, and almost without exception, while they felt him to be a very competent businessman, and trusted in his ability to adequately run the country, they were underwhelmed by his qualifications as President. They simply saw him as a better option than Obama. For the most part they are really one issue voters. They don’t really care or support conservative social agendas, including most of the Republican platform. For them it is all about the money. They want low taxes, and a governmental structure that allows them to easily navigate the financial sector without regulation. They are largely unconcerned with social issues, because they live fairly insulated lives that require little interaction with the poor or the disadvantaged. Though many of them might have originally come from immigrant backgrounds, the only immigrants they know now are mowing their lawns or vacuuming the den. If their fifteen year old daughter becomes pregnant (even from legitimate rape), they have the resources to get her a safe abortion, even if it means flying her out of the country. They will make sure their sons never have to fight in a war. Their kids can go to any college they want, and graduate without student loans. They are not counting on Social Security or Medicare to help them in old age. Their life experience now exists within safe walls; gated homes, first class or private flights, fine restaurants, good doctors, and bank accounts that provide peace of mind. In essence, like me they live the American dream.
And this is not to say that they are bad human beings. Being successful certainly does not make you evil. It just makes it easy to forget your past. In fact, even though we often disagree politically, I count many of them among my most valued friends, and I know that they have good hearts. If personally confronted with a situation that required compassion, I am confident they would do the right thing. Most of them are generous and kind. To be successful in business you also need to embrace compromise, and they understand that to move the country forward both sides need to give a little.
And with a few glaring exceptions, I probably agree with them on many major issues. While I believe it is the government’s responsibility to take care of its population, I also do not want to live in a country that goes overboard and provides so much assistance to the populace that it robs us of incentive. I believe that we ultimately have to work towards a balanced budget. I like the idea of a government just big enough to properly serve the people, with enough regulation to keep us safe, but not too much to hamper the private sector from moving the economy forward.
And that all leads me to the big issue I don’t understand. Why have my friends, and the millions of conservative, intelligent, and compassionate Americans allowed the Republicans to devolve from the party of Abraham Lincoln and William F. Buckley into the party of Ted Nugent and the Koch brothers? Why have they allowed a wacky fringe group to hijack the party that eliminated slavery, promoted bipartisan cooperation, and championed the Environmental Protection Agency, and remake it into a group of embarassing Jethro Bodine wanna-bees and gun-toting Karl Rove power freaks; sexist, anti-education, science denying hillbillies that care more about the afterlife than present day.
In private, reasonable Republican politicians claim that they need to appease the far right for fear of being voted out. But I personally believe that if they had the courage to stand up for their convictions their party would flourish. Perhaps the best indication of this was Romney’s brief last minute show of wide support, when after trying out every possible political position, he adopted a moderate stance in the final debates and his rating increased.
Perhaps the final nail in his coffin came courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, when suddenly his far right positions denying climate change, and his idea to eliminate federal agencies that come to the public aid in disasters seemed startingly ignorant.
The truth is that most Americans are sensible, sane, and compassionate. They don’t want our sick thrown out on the streets. They believe in religious freedom, including freedom from religion. They don’t want the government controlling their bodies. They don’t believe that everyone should own an automatic weapon. They worry about the environment, and want leadership to assure clean air and water. They understand that in order to have the best society in the world we need to pay some taxes, they just want to make sure we are efficient and don’t pay too much. In essence, they are moderates.
And to have a moderate society, you need two parties that keep the ball rolling down the middle. Over the last few elections I have voted the Democratic ticket, even though I consider myself an independent. And I have done this because I fear and reject the lunatic right that has stolen the Republican Party. But the truth is, I want to be able to vote on individual issues and for the best qualfied candidate as opposed to endorsing a singular political and social agenda.
I want the moderate Republicans back in control of their party to keep the country in the middle. While I might not have always agreed with Bob Dole and the pre-2008 John McCain, I thought they were great politicians that put country ahead of idealogy. Sensible Republicans need to stand up and take back their party so the entire country can move forward.