I have never voted for a Republican, haven’t once considered it. I’m just not that kind of girl. It isn’t simple partisanship, wanting my team to win and the other to lose. If a Republican candidate shared my wish that the Affordable Care Act actually was socialized medicine, or even demonstrated an understanding of what socialism is, I’d take a look. If he or she also shared my dream of free abortion on demand, thought the office of faith-based initiatives was unconstitutional, believed in science and wanted to try Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld for crimes against humanity, I’d gleefully vote for him or her. It hasn’t happened yet.
So you can imagine my confusion upon discovering the thought of voting for Rick Santorum had taken occupancy of my brain. I hadn’t experienced the kind of sudden conversion often associated with unfortunate neurological events. I wasn’t possessed by Ayn Rand or harboring delusions that a Santorum presidency would be anything but terrifying. It had nothing to do with wanting him to win the White House but everything to do with the absurdity of that prospect. His candidacy is preposterous. He couldn’t win, I was thinking. Should he become his party’s nominee, Obama could pretty much skip the whole campaign thing, waltz right into his second term and donate all that money he’s raised to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU.
Romney’s the electable one, right?
Back in 2004, I wasn’t a big fan of Rush Limbaugh’s attempt, dubbed Operation Chaos, to convince Republicans to vote for Hilary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. He didn’t think Hilary would be a less objectionable candidate than Obama, or more easily defeated. He just wanted to keep the already endless nominating process going as long as possible, leaving a battered and broken candidate John McCain would easily defeat. I was too busy arguing with Hilary’s supporters to pay much attention, though. I thought the premise was flawed and the whole thing kind of silly. And of course, it didn’t work out as Rush had hoped.
And yet I shared the general progressive opinion of Rush’s rantings being an unethical attempt to subvert the vote. So how could I rationalize similar behavior on my part? I really couldn’t. In the end, I decided I just didn’t care. Believing, as I do, a Romney presidency would be disastrous for the poor, minorities and women, and only marginally better for the middle class, its prevention takes precedence over other concerns. While voting for a candidate I do not support in the slightest might not generate the best of all possible karma, it’s nothing compared to what would come of not doing everything in my power to keep Mittens from winning. Obama is not the president of my dreams, but given the alternatives, he’ll do.
The larger problem was, I’ve never been convinced of Romney’s electability. He’s run for office three times — not counting the current presidential race — and won once. True, he did win statewide office in a largely Democratic state. But he didn’t do it by persuading the electorate to support a conservative agenda, didn’t win votes with personal charisma or charm. He did it by being basically a Democrat himself. He’s a completely different candidate now, a run-of-the-mill conservative. He’s been running for president for at least five years, and still hasn’t quite convinced members of his own party he’s the one they want. He’s whiny, pompous and annoying, and gives voters nothing with which to engage, intellectually or emotionally. The trouble with candidates selected for their supposed electability is, they almost never win. John Kerry and Bob Dole come racing to mind.
Santorum’s been making quite a case for his own electability since winning Iowa. He has somehow won over Democratic voters, clinging tightly to his own conservatism. He’s able to connect with the socially conservative working class voters Romney seems unable to touch, and although he’s Catholic, his religiosity resonates with the evangelical voters who make up so much of the Republican base. He elicits the passionate necessary to raise money from small donors and inspire volunteers — the kind of support Mittens and his millions can only dream of.
I don’t expect much from Republican candidates at this point. Homophobia, misogyny, disconnection from fact-based reality and devotion to the needs of the 1 percent and their multinational corporations are pretty much par for the course. Even so, Santorum takes the crazy to another level. He opposes contraception, college attendance (despite his own degrees) and schools. Unlike 68 percent of Americans, he wants to reinstate Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He equates homosexuality with bestiality, sexual abuse with a consenting relationship between adult men. Most frightening of all, he believes every word he says. There’s no pandering happening here.
I’d like to think Santorum’s unelectable. I keep trying to. But the American electorate so rarely surprises with well considered votes, so I can’t be entirely sure. And I certainly can’t contribute to it. So I’ll be staying home next week, after all.