Believe it or not, I've never voted for a Democrat in a presidential election. There are many reasons for this, prominent among them the fact that I was 18 in 2004 and had yet to have an independent political thought in my entire life, and by 2008 it was still too emotionally difficult for me to rebel by pulling the Democratic lever. I grew up in a region of the country and a social circle in which evangelical faith and Republican ideology were a hot sticky mess all mixed together, and there was no telling where one ended and the other began. So when you're only 22 years old and some of the most important people in your life are telling you no true Christian would vote for Barack Obama, well, it's difficult to go with your instincts.
So let me at the outset extend a courtesy that was not extended to me: I won't be voting Republican this year, but it has nothing to do with my faith. A lot of people who are far more mature than me, far more compassionate and loving, will be voting Republican this year. A lot of people who are more serious than me about following Jesus will be voting Republican this year. I know this is true because I know some of these people. But I will not be voting Republican. And sure, my faith informs that decision, but it does not predetermine it.
Still, I take comfort in the fact that before there was any inkling of change in my politics, three other things happened. 1) I moved to Chicago and saw injustice, 2) I met Alicia, this strange girl who seemed to care so much about the downtrodden, 3) I began reading my Bible anew, and saw all the teaching about poverty and injustice as if for the first time. Only then, after a period of years, did my politics begin to change. I'm thankful that it happened in that order.
So why won't I be voting Republican? Here are some short answers that I suspect will be fleshed out in the months ahead:
-Republicans don't take racism seriously and do not acknowledge the problem of current racial injustice.
-Republicans will repeal universal health care, making life far worse for some of our most vulnerable citizens, and have stated they do not plan to replace it with something to help those people.
-Republicans nearly destroyed the economy last summer with their debt ceiling brinkmanship and now say they plan to do it again. I've not heard -- anywhere, from anyone -- an explanation of the Republicans' behavior last summer. It's not clear that any political faction has been that reckless and unpatriotic since southern fire eaters in the fall of 1860.
-Republicans think voting is a privilege, not a right, and are working to restrict that "privilege" all across the country. As they pursue this effort they are lying constantly, making gullible Republican voters think voter fraud is a problem. And by trying to restrict the ability of democratic constituencies to vote, the Republicans show they don't care about racial discrimination if it brings political gain.
There are, of course, many other things I might add to the list. But these are especially salient in my mind right now. The debt ceiling debacle, in particular, was absolutely disqualifying. Between that and the efforts to roll back voting rights and health care, we're faced with a party that is not conservative by any reasonable standard. It's radical, reactionary, unprincipled, dishonest. I do not mean dishonest in the normal political sense in which all parties stretch the truth and wallow in bogus talking points. I mean dishonest in the sense that they would risk crashing down the entire global economy, all the while lying to their constituents, telling them that's not what they were doing. Don't vote for the GOP because you've drunk the kool-aid. Vote for them because though you know these rather disturbing things I've noted are true, you've found other positive factors that counterbalance them.
Anyway, I'm obviously not pulling punches here, but like I said, some people who are much better than me will be voting for Mitt Romney this year.