With my early November birthday, I think of myself as an election baby: Every few years, I share my birthday with election day. How fitting, then, that I grew up to be a political junkie.
My political memories start at around age 13. Jimmy Carter’s victory in the 1976 presidential race was the first political outcome that registered with me, probably because that election did not turn out how my three-Rs (religious right Republican) family wanted.
Shortly after that election, the religious right began its political awakening in earnest. I was steeped in it: I sat in pews in a fundamentalist Christian churches three times a week and at desks at fundamentalist Christian schools five days a week experiencing that Moral Majority-driven and Focus on the Family-fueled movement.
Despite being force-fed religious-tinged political dogma from nearly every adult in my life, I managed to retain my ability to think critically and question authority. Those skills enabled me to become an opinion writer who supports right-wing positions on some of their pet topics like merit pay for teachers, eminent domain reform and private property rights while also supporting progressive positions on that group’s perennial favorites like marriage equality, reproductive rights and the environment.
So, it’s with a great deal of distress that I watch the religious right embrace John McCain and Sarah Palin, uncritically accepting the shameful tactics that the McCain-Palin campaign has been using in its quest to retain the White House for the Republican Party.
I’m not pretending to be neutral in this race: Regular readers of my column know that I’ve been writing about my support for Barack Obama since July of last year, when I praised his speech in support of merit pay for public school teachers in front of a hostile audience, a meeting of 9,000 National Education Association members.
But that’s only the published part of the story. I’ve been an Obama fan since his keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
So, because I disagree with John McCain on a whole host of issues, there’s – to quote Hillary Clinton – ”no way, no how” that I could vote for John McCain.
Still, I expected better of the man who touts his maverick nature and integrity than to run the campaign of lies, half-truths and distortions that McCain is currently heading. This partial list is long and distressing:
• The contents of an education bill that Obama supported as an Illinois state senator
• Obama’s record as a US senator
• Palin’s record on earmarks
• Palin’s position on the bridge to nowhere
• The target of Obama’s lipstick-on-a-pig comment
• Linking 9/11 and Iraq
• Palin’s position on climate change
• Obama’s position on tax cuts
• FactCheck.org’s position on an Obama campaign assertion
• Details of Palin’s sale of a state-owned plane
• Claiming that living near a foreign country equals foreign policy experience
But, yes, I’m an Obama supporter, so maybe you’ll dismiss me. Perhaps you’ll listen to Republican Karl Rove, described by conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan as “the man who has orchestrated some of the most disgusting and dishonest campaigns in American history,” instead. Here’s what Rove told Fox News on Sunday about the McCain campaign: “McCain has gone in his ads one step too far, … attributing to Obama things that are … beyond the 100-percent-truth test.”
When Karl Rove says that your campaign has gone “too far,” you’ve set a shameful new low. It ought to be a wake-up call for the McCain campaign and especially for voters.
Despite this, I see many members of the religious right defending the McCain campaign. They need to find some modicum of intellectual honesty, remember biblical guidance against lying, rediscover their disgust for hypocrisy, think critically and apply their principles to McCain and Palin.
We only need to look at the mess in Iraq – the unnecessary war that George Bush and Dick Cheney deceived this nation into waging – to know how important it is to elect an honest president and vice president.
There’s more: This kind of despicable campaigning is bad for our country. At best, it confuses voters. At worst, it repels them from the democratic process.
As a nation, we deserve better. We desperately need better. That’s why, during the first week of this November, this election baby is voting for Barack Obama. It’s my way, to quote John McCain, of putting “country first.”