An ex-girlfriend of mine from a swing state called me last night. We caught up a little bit and then talked about what our friends were up to. Slowly but surely, the conversation drifted towards the election.
Trying to define in simple terms her political ideology is not possible. She was raised in a broken home and is surrounded by all of the fallout of it. Her mother is on her fourth–I think–husband (not counting my ex’s biological father). Her sister is a drug addict who is giving up her latest child for adoption. It’s all around her. This has turned her into a social conservative in many respects. She has a child of her own, and, after being pregnant, she says you can’t convince her that’s not a life in there, even early on.
But she is not homophobic. In fact, early in college most had pegged her as a lesbian because of her pink triangle displays, which were really just a show of support for her then-best friend. So far as I know, she’s not into institutionalized religion, but she said she was turned off by Kerry’s remarks about his catholic faith not dominating his policies.
On “bread and butter” issues, she is more likely to be brought into the fold. She scoffed at the token tax rebate from Bush’s summer of love as barely paying one bill. She worries about the wages her family makes and the disappearance of jobs and about the education of her baby in the future.
Her husband was in the military, and at least at one point they were worried that he would be called back into active duty, even though he was on “fleet reserve.” I’m not sure if that point has passed yet.
She does not like Bush. She doesn’t appear to be stoked about the war in Iraq, probably mostly because of the lies about it. But she says she doesn’t think she can vote for Kerry. I asked her what the main reason was, what was about him that turned her off so much.
Then she scared me, because her response was pure Rove. She thought he was hypocritical, and “at least I know where Bush stands” and couldn’t understand how he claimed to be Catholic (even if she has started going to church, she’s not Catholic) and be pro-choice.
I went to work. I said the Democrats are the center party, and they have been since Clinton, and Carter was too, even if the Congress then was liberal. I said that all of these “cultural” issues aren’t really what’s at stake here–what is is record deficits, tax cuts for the rich (she expressly rejects supply-side economics–how can we be losing people that reject supply side economics?! she also is pro-New Deal and pro-FDR!!!) and the “bread and butter” issues for your family. If you want the budget balanced, and you don’t want to be taxed to death in the future, put Kerry in there.
I told her that I thought it would be preferable if there were no abortions (I didn’t have the stat that abortions have risen during Bush’s tenure) and somehow it could be prevented (she’s very, very pro-birth control, too) and if not, that it should have been decided by the legislature, not the court. I explained that the reason it was arose out of a libertarian fear of Nazi controls on procreation (the Skinner case) but that it was kinda out on limb. I told her that I didn’t think that issue was going to change one way or the other.
I told her that I was catholic too, but I’ve been alienated by their attitude towards gays and early-term abortion. I told her, except Ireland, most of the predominatnly Catholic countries have legalized abortion, and they have catholic presidents and prime minsters for the most part. She’s not Catholic, so explaining this further would have been complicated.
We left the conversation with her sounding concerned about the economic issues, but unconvinced on the cultural ones.
You see, the cultural issues served as a “gateway” to fill her with spin about Kerry being a flip-flopper and so forth. The more I talk to people like her, the less I think Democrats need to learn how to talk about religion (Thomas Frank) or talk about values (John Edwards) but simply to make sure that people understand the connection between Democratic values and their positions on the economy.
Need more proof? Look at this article discussing abortion rates and economics.