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Stuff Obama Voters Say And Why Republicans Should Listen

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Well, here we are, one week after the re-election of President Barack Obama. From almost the beginning of the 2012 Presidential race, Republicans, Tea Partiers, and conservatives of all stripes were confidently told by the likes of Karl Rove and Dick Morris that we had the weakest President since Jimmy Carter, and almost any Republican could defeat him. The dismal economic news of the last four years, with rising food and fuel costs and month after month of see-sawing unemployment numbers, certainly painted the picture of an unusually vulnerable incumbent President.

And yet, when you get down to it, this election wasn’t really that close. Polls showing a tight race right up to the very end proved overly optimistic for Romney. The President won, 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. The popular vote was closer, but over 3.3 million votes separated Obama from Romney, and most damnably, Romney garnered over one million fewer votes than John McCain in 2008.

The accusations and excuses are flying around now. Some blame Romney’s loss on Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, despite the fact that Johnson (the only third party candidate to have ballot access in nearly every state) garnered only a little over a million votes, barely a third of the number Romney would have needed to unseat the President. Karl Rove has declared that Obama was “suppressing the vote” by airing such negative ads about Romney that Republicans were convinced to stay home and not vote. Putting aside the unlikelihood of Republicans suddenly finding themselves unable to resist Barack Obama’s powers of suggestion, it seems disingenuous for the man behind the American Crossroads Super PAC to suddenly redefine negative campaign advertising as “voter suppression.”

One of the most common themes I have seen over the last week has been extremely angry assertions that America as a society has now fallen into irretrievable moral depravity, deliberately choosing to cast off the heritage of political liberty bequeathed to us by the Founders in favor of an entitlement society in which the majority of voters wish to knowingly live off the labor of the productive. As a grassroots activist, I have over 1,500 Facebook contacts, many of whom I know personally, and many of whom I do not. I check my feed many times a day to keep a finger on the pulse of the conservative movement, and what I’ve seen isn’t pretty.

One “friend” posted, “Democrats are at war with the America of greatness. They are ashamed of our history. Ashamed of our economic system. Ashamed of our power.” Another posted, “Dumb libertarian Benedict Johnson voters–passion statement or math lesson–here is the pudding we were telling you about! Now Obama and harry reid and nancy pelosi are aligned with you–The friend of my enemy is my enemy!” A third simply posted a link to an article in The American Thinker entitled, “America Votes to End Modern Civilization.”

While I haven’t spent the last week breathing into a paper bag or digging a bomb shelter under my house, make no mistake, I didn’t support President Obama, either. His renewal of the USA PATRIOT Act, his signing of the 2012 NDAA legalizing indefinite detention of Americans without trial, his assertion of Presidential power to kill Americans overseas via drone strikes, his illegal, undeclared war on Libya and secret, CIA-run drone war in Pakistan (among many, many other things) ruled him out as an option for me long ago. Yet the people I saw venting the most spleen in public didn’t cite these policies as their reasons for opposing him, and I found myself wondering…just why DID the people who voted to re-elect the President do so, especially in light of his terrible record on civil liberties and foreign policy?

Around this same time, another friend of mine posted a series of questions aimed at the group that the angriest conservatives didn’t seem to be consulting. Inspired, I reposted those questions, albeit with a bit softer tone.  Even though I’ve been working within the Republican Party for the past four years, I do still know a few people whom I know voted to re-elect the President, and I hoped some of them would answer the following:

You claim to be advocates of civil liberties, and yet your President renewed the Patriot act. He signed the NDAA into law. The TSA continues to grow under his watch, along with the surveillance state.

You claim to be against the wars, and yet your President expanded our theaters of war, further destabilized the Middle East, and significantly increased the use of unmanned drone bombings– with high civilian and child collateral.

You claim to be against corporate greed, but your President had his hands behind the wheel of bailout after bailout [no GM pun intended]. You claim to advocate for the right to do with our bodies as you please– and yet you support a President who has consistently used federal power to raid medicinal marijuana dispensaries.

You claim to fight for the poor, but you ignore, whether by choice or ignorance, the issue of monetary debasement entirely.

So, you know…what gives?

I wasn’t sure what response I would get, or if I would get one at all. The friends I was hoping would answer were people I’d once known pretty well, but haven’t spoken with on a daily basis for years. Asking them to, in essence, explain themselves in a public forum might be taken as arrogant, or just plain rude. Yet I was convinced that if Republicans are going to even be able to start making sense of this last election, there has to be some attempt to stop pronouncing what “Democrats” think and actually ASK them, and do so with the assumption that they’re real people with real lives and real, honestly-held concerns about their country, just like us.

To my delight, I got several answers. Some of what was said was, to be honest, unsurprising. Some WAS surprising. And some of what was not said was most surprising as well.

Of the in-depth responses from liberal friends I got, none said, “I voted for Obama because I believe in sharing the wealth.” None said, “I voted for Obama because Republicans don’t care about global warming.” None said, “I voted for Obama because the rich should pay more taxes.” None said, “I think we’re better off than we were 4 years ago.” Not a single one. Digest that for a minute.

Here’s what they did say.

Sharon, a Charlotte native and married mother of a preschooler who now lives in Asheville said, “I support a non-interventionist foreign policy, and I hate the use of drone strikes. I *wish* we had heard more about those policies during the presidential race (as well as how our drug policies are increasing narco-violence in Mexico, making life horrible for innocent civilians there and undoubtedly having an effect on illegal immigration to the US.) You are absolutely right about the Patriot Act and the ridiculous security theater. Our elected leaders have failed us on these issues…However, I have no reason to believe that a Republican president would have handled these issues any differently, and at this point, supporting a third-party candidate for president does not seem realistic. I voted for Obama despite his stance on these issues, not because of them, just as I’m sure many people voted for Romney or Johnson despite some of their policies.

Someone above mentioned “abortion, vaginas, gay stuff, birth control.” It’s easy for some folks to be flippant about that, but those issues affect me, as a heterosexual woman with gay loved ones, in a very real way. I can’t write them off as unimportant. I have gay friends whose lives and whose children’s lives are impacted by their inability to marry or adopt their partner’s children. (One of the most heartening things about the Amendment One fight in NC was seeing people from across the political spectrum come together to support marriage equality.)  I consider myself to be fairly moderate about abortion (can’t imagine having one myself, I’m okay with restrictions on abortion after the first trimester, etc.), but the Republican Party’s support of personhood for fertilized eggs seems *insane* to me. In the same vein, the backlash against women who advocated for increased health care coverage of contraception was so very, very ugly that it alienated not only me, but many other women (and men). If you are not directly affected by those issues, it’s easy to dismiss them, but people do so at the risk of turning off a big swath of voters who might otherwise be receptive to your message.”

Ansley, another Charlotte native and mother now living in Gastonia said, “I voted according to my principles and if I hadn’t it wouldn’t have changed the outcome; however, I do feel very concerned about the fiscal cliff and almost want to jump off one just not to hear about it anymore. I do not believe in huge government. I believe in a government that is more efficient and how to do that, I don’t know. There is a lot of red tape and regulation that I think needs serious overhauling, namely the IRS. Where I differ from conservatives is that I don’t think the government should try to cram social legislation down our throats, such as prohibiting gay marriage and taking away rights from women that should be left to the woman herself.  While the misuse of social programs is a practice I find abominable, they are needed at this time with so many people unable to find work or people being underemployed. I do feel more restrictions should be placed on those programs; namely, if you are receiving Medicaid, food stamps, etc, etc, you must be at least trying to find a job. People who continue to have children they cannot support should be told by the government that if they continue to bring life into the world, they cannot receive government assistance forever.”

Finally, one of my best friends from high school, who has asked that I keep her identity private, who considers herself married to a person the state government refuses to recognize as her wife, had this to say.

“You make excellent points about increased militarism (and even civil liberties) that many liberals are either uninformed about or sweep under the rug, but should, no excuses, care about and learn about (including me). In general, I think we can also all agree about broad need for a non-dichotomous, non-two party political system. But there’s an easy answer to your question about why I voted the way I did: it’s my family.

For me, the marriage issue not a ‘social issue,’ it’s every single day. Opening a bank account. Insuring our house. Filing taxes. Immigrating to work at a University in a country with no same-sex spousal visas. Terrified if a call comes from the Emergency Room that I won’t be able to take care of my wife. Basic assurance that our one-day child won’t be able to be taken from the only parent s/he’s ever known if I die. Medical or Family leave if my partner is sick. The right to bury her if, God forbid, she dies. The right to not be fired from my job if I am competent and productive…but gay.

The level of disbelief and consternation you felt when you posted your questions is exactly what I feel when a limited-government conservative tells me the (federal) government should decide the 1,049+ ways to live my life– and take care of my family. I’m optimistic that the conservative case for marriage equality will grow among young people who, like Tony Blair, don’t support gay marriage ‘despite being a Conservative’ but because they’re Conservative.

These are only three people, whom I know from my personal life. They are not parasites. They are not leeches. They do not live off the system, or wish to live off the productive efforts of others. They are real, live, loving human beings who, by their own words, voted to re-elect Barack Obama, not because they trust him or support him, but because they felt the Republican Party offered them an even worse choice. They have come to believe, because they have been TOLD so time and time again, that the Republican Party’s priorities are stopping gays from marrying and passing a Constitutional amendment outlawing abortion at the federal level. When they hear those issues brought up time and again, anything we have to say about freedom, liberty, or down-sizing government sounds like rank hypocrisy, and quite honestly, I can’t say I blame them.

There is only one antidote for this. The Republican Party MUST re-embrace the Constitutional Order as set forth by the Founders. Right now, politicians use abortion and gay marriage as wedge issues to stir up the Republican base, to either elect themselves or, if in leadership, elect other Republicans who will owe party leaders their jobs. They have no intention of actually DOING anything about either of these issues because they’re too useful to manipulate Republicans who feel a religious duty to vote based on them. This strategy has paid dividends to Thom Tillis, Paul Stam, and Phil Berger, and was the reason for the Amendment One fight.  If you have any illusion that that was about anything else, I’m sorry, but you’re being played for a sap.

Yet these political dividends will not continue to pay forever. Even Speaker Tillis himself casually admitted back in March that Amendment One will probably be overturned within 20 years. He wasn’t concerned, because it’s already served its purpose: giving NC Republicans an emotional issue with which to whip up the Republican base, divide black churches from the Democrat base, pull in massive donations, and secure a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney loses the Presidency, Republicans lose U.S. Senate seats, and the traditional Republican base dies off bit by bit, while alienating vast numbers of voters under the age of 40.

Campaigning on religion and government control of social behaviors which do not violate the rights of others in election after election is a losing strategy. The Democrats who were kind enough to talk to me about the reasons for their votes confirm it. They freely admit that they would support candidates who would scale back our overseas commitments, engage in real entitlement reform, demand that Washington stop spying on Americans, stop sexually assaulting us at the airport, and champion a Federal government that actually stayed within the confines of the Constitution.

We can get our Republic back, but we have to get it back for all of us. We can’t do that if we don’t talk to one another. If you haven’t done so yet, give it a try. Even now, after all we’ve been through, people just might surprise you.

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