A sad Democrat votes (2000): Why I cast my first vote for a GOP president

By Terry Mattingly

(Copyright) WORLD Magazine

WORLD Magazine, November 2000

The Gen-X blond standing behind the Democratic Party placards gave me a
tired smile election morning as I headed into my polling place a few miles
from the D.C. Beltway.

Vote for the Democratic Party, said the signs.

Not this time, sister.

I smiled back, sort of. It was a sad smile. I’m a Democrat and have been
all my life. That used to be a normal thing for people who grew up in
middle-class Bible Belt homes. But I cast my first vote today for a
Republican candidate for president.

Why? Because Gov. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania is dead and I can’t write
in his name anymore, that’s why. He’s the old-guard Catholic Democrat who
was banned from the 1992 Democratic National Convention floor, the man who
told his party’s platform hearings: “The national Democratic Party has
embraced abortion on demand. I believe this position is wrong in principle
and out of the mainstream of our party’s historic commitment to protecting
the powerless…. Abortion is the ultimate violence. Abortion on demand
has, in my judgment, contributed significantly to an environment in our
country in which life has become very cheap.”

Powerful words, coming just a few years before Columbine High School and
so, so much more.

Writing in the name “Robert Casey” every four years got me through the
1990s. But his battles with a broken heart finally ended.

Right, I am one of them, that tiny circle of culturally conservative,
pro-life Democrats. We hold our meetings in telephone booths. We get
sweaty palms listening to the country-club Republicans and the Religious
Right leaders, even though we agree with the latter on many, but not all,
of the moral issues that keep causing earthquakes in American politics.
Back in the 1980s, we even dared to think that the rise of the new
Southern Democrats held out the promise of our party taking a centrist
position on moral and cultural issues. You remember the new Southern
Democrats, the ones with pro-life or moderately pro-life voting
records—people like Al Gore of Tennessee.

But that’s an old story. Let me be candid. I didn’t vote for George W.
Bush because I am convinced that he is genuinely pro-life. I have no idea
whether he will, in fact, spend any of his precious political poker chips,
when push comes to shove, to try to stop abortions or to help the women
who are ensnared in crisis pregnancies in a society that mainly wishes
they would go away.

I also think Mr. Bush and Dick Cheney are going to march to a basically
libertarian drum when it comes to other cultural issues. I think they will
be in the middle of the road, watching the polling data, when it comes to
sexuality. They aren’t going to stomp on gays and lesbians, even though
there will be howls from the Lifestyle Left if any efforts are made to
withhold the government’s blessings from active support of their causes in
the arts, education, and law. I think the Religious Right can prepare to
be disappointed, along with the Lifestyle Left.

And I think Mr. Bush’s court appointees will be much like his picks in
Texas—country-club conservatives who come out of the mainstream of
American law schools. They’ll probably split 50-50 on the divisive moral
issues, just like the folks selected by Ronald Reagan and George H.W.
Bush.

So why did I break down and vote for George W. Bush?

Here’s why: I am convinced that the biggest issue of the next generation
of American life will be free speech, free speech for people who even want
to have the right to stand up in public and take conservative stands on
issues linked to culture, education, morality, and faith. Free speech for
people who want to protest what they cannot embrace.

I think Mr. Bush will have some political incentive — at the level of
courts and legislation — to at least allow moral and cultural
conservatives the option of making their case in the public square. I
think he will stop the government, for example, from harassing the
homeschool movement. I think there is some chance that he may allow
culturally conservative parents other educational options, such as school
vouchers for the poor. He may even lead some private-sector efforts to
promote educational alternatives. Why? It’s in his political interest to
do so.

I think there is some chance that his approach to government cooperation
with faith-based social agencies may allow these groups to retain their
free-speech rights when it comes to doctrine and evangelism. I think he
may allow Baptists and Catholics and Jews and Muslims to receive tax
breaks and to cooperate with some government programs without having to
become Unitarian-Universalists, when it comes to matters of sin and
salvation.

I’m not sure about this, but I think he will have some political incentive
to allow the painful culture wars to continue in modern America. This only
seems appropriate since—outside of the ranks of the media and academic
elites—this country seems to be divided about 51-49 percent on virtually
any moral or cultural issue that matters.

Free speech is painful, but it beats all the alternatives. Let open
debates and free speech continue.

Perhaps even in the Democratic Party.

Original posted at WORLD Magazine: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/4449.

 

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