My stepmother describes herself as a Rush Limbaugh conservative. She was as far right as I am far left when I moved up to Seattle. The few times we discussed politics, we'd end up joyfully insulting each other, safe in the knowledge that neither would ever come to share the other's views. So we just had fun teasing each other about them.
So I was a bit surprised when, this year, she announced she'd be voting for Obama. A bit? Try shocked. Heart-attack shocked. But then, once the astonishment wore off, I realized that while she's deeply conservative, she's not a stupid woman. She looked at the choices, and she listened to sanity. Obama is the sane person's choice. She's a dyed-in-the-wool Obamacan.
Nothing too surprising, when you get right down to it, I thought. A lot of Republicans are swinging Obama's way. The difference between a 'Can and a 'Con is that the 'Cans realize when they're being conned and aren't afraid to vote the other ticket when that ticket's got the better candidate.
But it turns out that this was just the beginning. When I got home, I discovered that my stepmother, my Rush Limbaugh conservative stepmother, has become a flaming liberal.
Well, not quite. But you sure as shit can't tell the difference between us these days.
We spent the weekend bashing Sarah Palin, denigrating John McCain, blasting the Republicons over their innumerable failed policies, making fun of George Bush, and enthusing over Obama and Biden. Even when her conservative roots came to the surface, she merely sounded a moderate tone. She's been pushed as far left as I have, which in her case, sticks her just slightly right of center, with brief forays over the line into left-wing territory.
My dad is wondering where his wife went.
I never thought I'd see the day when I was bookmarking progressive blogs for my stepmother's reading pleasure. I never thought we'd be sitting out on the porch discussing policy and agreeing with each other. This is how far in the shitter the Republicon brand is: no thinking person can comfortably vote Republicon, can sign on to those world views, can accept the endless parade of outrageous stupidity that the Republicons put on and call "politics."
Needless to say, I'm delighted by this development. It was an incredible experience, being able to talk politics with a woman I've always loved and respected, and to share her views. There are still points where we disagree - I see a much larger role for the government than she does when it comes to social programs, for instance - but the disagreements are more like quibbles. Inconsequential. The broad points of agreement are far more profound.
If it could happen to her, it can happen to just about anyone. And so here's what I'm hoping: I hope she's a sign of what's to come. I know there are thoughtful, intelligent, reasoning people still in the Republican party. I'd love to see them rise up en-masse after this election (in which they'll have voted for Obama, natch) and take back the party from the gang of losers, liars, thieves, religious freaks, and dumbfucks who hijacked it awhile back. I'd love to watch these angry conservatives clean house. I'd like to see a slew of moderate Republican candidates suddenly have a shot at being elected, even if their politics don't pander to the rabid religious right base. I'd be happy if, in 2012, a renewed Republican party is fielding a presidential candidate who gives us Dems an acutal run for our money.
America needs this. We need a Republican party we can respect. There's a creative tension that arises between folks who almost but don't quite agree. A strong, healthy and wise Republican party can provide an effective balance to a strong, healthy Democratic party, and keep both thriving. As much as I love the Dems, I know that if we end up the only party of sane people, it won't be a good thing. One party rule never is.
My stepmother gives me that hope. If enough people like her emerge and take over the Republican ranks, we'll have a functioning democracy again. We'll have a chance at actual bipartisanship. The poisonous, toxic, neoconservative elements can be driven out so that the adults can get some work done and help this country recover from a devastating eight years.
I don't want political enemies. I want political opponents, men and women I can respect as I work to defeat them in elections. I want the ideas from both sides to be great again. I want the politics of personality to give way to the politics of policy. Once McCain is defeated, once the detritus of these last eight years is cleared away, I think I just might get it, too.
Funny to think that I'll have George Bush to thank for doing the impossible should it come to pass. After all, it's his tremendous failures that have caused many Rush Limbaugh conservatives to transform into Obamacans.
He's given me that one consolation prize: I can now talk politics seriously with my stepmother. She is, completely and without a single exception, the smartest, most insightful woman I know, including her political acumen and her taste in SNL skits.
Not only this, but my dear old dad all but admitted to me that he's pulling the lever for a Democrat this year, for the first time.
Awesome. Thanks, Georgie!