My mother was a life-long Republican. She's a devout Christian who reads her Bible and spends time in devotion and prayer daily. She voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and was pretty disgusted with my reaction when I warned her that we would be lucky to get through his presidency alive. But something happened: by the 2004 election, although she couldn't bring herself to vote for John Kerry, she did not vote for Bush – the first time she hadn't voted in a presidential election since her first vote in 1948. By the 2008 election, she'd had it with two wars, torture, and the cock-up during Katrina. She became a regular listener to MSNBC and cried when she cast her vote for Obama, saying she never dreamed she would live long enough to vote for an African-American for president.
This year, at the age of 88, she formally changed her registration to Democrat because she didn't want anyone to think she ascribed to the Republican ideology.
She became totally fed up with the Fundamentalist obsession with abortion (she says people are going to have them no matter what and they should be medically safe) and homosexuality (she has come to support gay marriage, putting her at odds with her church). We watched the returns on election night and spent a pretty delightful evening cheering every Democrat declared a winner.
I realize how blessed I am that my mom and I are on the same page politically. You can't imagine how fun it is to see a woman in her late 80s watch the Daily Show and know who Nate Silver is, tell me how good Rachel Maddow's latest show was, and see her sitting at the computer to read Brian McClaren's blog. My mom is still a conservative, but she should serve as a warning to the Republicans (losing a white, Christian Senior Citizen? Really?)… I know she serves as an inspiration to me.
I want to share a quick story about last Thanksgiving, hoping that counts for the thread. My grandpa is extremely Republican. He overwhelms our families' inboxes with forwarded emails about Obama's Islamism, gets his history from Glenn Beck, and generally believes that this country is in severe decline. Needless to say, I don't share many of his views, but what I learned last Thanksgiving was how similar we really are in our beliefs.
After dinner we got to talking about his past employment history. We hail from rural Kansas and he worked for over 40 years for the local farming coop. He told me about the time one of the railroad giants canceled the route past his coop's grain elevator, a move that would have greatly endangered the survival of most of our region's already dwindling small farm population. Grandpa, and a liberal attorney from Kansas City, went to bat for the coop, fighting a court battle that took a number of years and in the end won. My grandpa, Fox News Republican, went to war with big business and won. I can't tell you how proud that made me.
This year, a recently released convict whom my grandpa had met doing his prison ministry will be joining our family for Thanksgiving. He is living with my grandparents for a few months while he gets back on his feet. My grandpa is helping him look for a job and teaching him carpentry. He takes Jesus' commands seriously.
What this has all taught me is that our political disagreements, while major, are not nearly as important as what we actually do. It takes nothing for me to believe that gay marriage should be legalized. It takes a lot to invite an ex-con into your house and to your table.
I was riding around with my uncle, hunting for Redskins swag, when he and I got to talking politics. My uncle is the bluest of blue-collar workers, born and raised in Bristol, VA, then moved to North Carolina where he still lives. He's worked HVAC, landscaping, and myriad other manual labor jobs over the years. It also wasn't more than a decade ago I'd hear cringe-worthy racist and homophobic comments from him and other members of my family from North Carolina on a regular basis. They still slip occasionally, but nowhere near as often as they used to.
But this week he said something along the lines of, "I could NOT bring myself to vote for Mitt Romney. Rich bastards making money off the backs of regular people." We also talked about his girlfriend's daughter being diagnosed with MS and I mentioned that Ann Romney had MS. He said he knew, and then went off on how Mrs. Romney said during the campaign if she were First Lady she was going to focus on MS (and breast cancer I think), but wasn't doing it already. I then mentioned how it must be nice to have all the money in the world for treatment, but the first thing Mitt was going to do was repeal Obamacare, and my uncle was in total agreement.
He also said he didn't want to say he'd never vote for Republican for President, but at the moment it wasn't going to happen. I said I liked Jon Huntsman, but by and large I couldn't either, that the anti-gay marriage stand of the GOP was a deal-breaker for me for one thing, and he was also in total agreement on that point. Know hope.