Four years ago, I voted for John McCain. I didn't apologize for it, but November 2008 was also the first time I ever had to take Xanax to help me sleep. I thought of myself as a die hard conservative back then, in spite of holding almost all of the same views I hold now.
Four years ago:
- I was married.
- Our annual income was over six figures.
- Our credit ratings were both over 800.
- We owned our home.
- We had premium health insurance paid for by my ex's employer.
- We had retirement savings.
- We had an emergency fund, a college fund and enough money every month to more than pay all of our bills.
We also had NO FUCKING CLUE.
This year I voted for Barack Obama.
It was the first time I've ever voted for a Democrat and I say that as a woman who hasn't missed an election (Federal, State or Local) since 1994 (the year I turned 18). I was planning to come up with this amazing Excel spreadsheet to help me determine exactly how to vote this year, but at some point I realized I simply couldn't vote for Mitt Romney no matter how hard I tried.
Of course, four years later, I'm pretty much a textbook Democrat:
- I'm a single mom.
- I rent (not own) a home I can barely afford.
- My annual income is well below the poverty level for a family of three.
- I have NO IDEA what my credit score is because I'm terrified to look at it. (Or answer my phone unless I recognize the number).
- I'm uninsured and my medications cost me over $100/month out of pocket.
- My kids have state-funded health insurance.
- I am two months behind on every utility bill I have, in spite of the fact that Dave helped stop my electricity from getting shut off last month. (Thank you, Babydaddy!)
- My house isn't heated because I can't afford the oil.
- I'm back on food stamps. This time in Oregon, which provides $100 less per month than Washington did.
- (I have never been happier with my choices, either, lest you think this is a cry for financial aid...)
But my presidential choice wasn't as straight-forward as you'd think. I'm still a Libertarian on the inside! The last straw didn't really come until I was filling out my ballot and realized that I had sex with a woman last week. (At least by Bill Clinton's definition.) How could I possibly justify voting for an anti-gay, anti-abortion creationist??
So, sure, Obama is the obvious knee-jerk reaction to my extremely liberal lifestyle of self-chosen poverty, but it's so much more than my sexual identity or (lack of) religious affiliation that's forced me to switch parties. It's that when Republicans talk about going back to the Good Old Days, their voices are full of anger and venom and righteous indignation. I'm not going to argue that the Democrats are that much better, especially when it comes to mighty self-righteousness, but if I've learned ANYTHING over the past four years, it's the word I just had tattooed on my wrist: LISTEN.
Because if you listen carefully - without prejudice (or at least with equal prejudice for both parties) - you might actually hear a sliver of unrehearsed compassion fall from the lips of a politician. I know! Impossible! But as someone who all too often gets by on the compassion of others, it's something I'm acutely aware of and something I've learned to listen for. And more often than not, that unscripted moment of true empathy seems to come from a Democrat, not a Republican.
So I'm voting for Barack Obama because he has a level of compassion I don't believe Mitt Romney could ever understand. It's a level of compassion I never understood myself until I was on the receiving end of it.
Oh! How the mighty fall! And how they regret - DEEPLY - their previously uncharitable ways.
(You have no idea how much I regret the years I had money and never thought to use it to help anyone other than myself.) (NO. IDEA.)
Four years ago, I wrote about the election and even though I've switched paths and parties (and hair colors) along the way, I still agree wholeheartedly with the old me:
"If we really want to improve this country, we ALL have to be open-minded and respectful and when we reach across the aisle, it shouldn't just be to slap someone on the other side. My biggest hope for Tuesday is that we can all remember that, no matter who wins."
So go on and vote with your bad self! We all arrive at our political opinions from different places and I would never judge my fellow American because of the cut of their jib or the cast of their ballot. Ideas have value, even (or maybe especially) when I don't agree with them. Diversity of thought and experience is what makes this country great. We couldn't have our Obama's without our Romney's and McCain's.