q&a Hail to the Chief

What made you write Hail to the Chief!?

These are things I think about and discuss with other people all the time. It always helps me to clarify my own thinking when I write a piece, so I decided to write ten pieces on ten questions that matter to me. Then, why not share it in case it’s helpful for others?

How would you describe yourself politically?

That depends on when you ask me. Growing up, my father was a quiet Republican and my mother a staunch Democrat who became heavily involved in the League of Women Voters during the Equal Rights Amendment era.

At Berkeley, I was made to understand that Republicans were evil, so of course I registered as a Democrat. I was also made to understand that Ronald Reagan was the anti-Christ. In the 1984 election, I knew absolutely no one who voted for him. The night of the election, when I saw the map of the country, and every state was red except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota, it occurred to me for the first time that maybe Berkeley glasses weren’t the only way to see the world.

Even though I now regard Ronald Reagan with much admiration, early Birkenstock-shaping of my feelings toward him have etched a permanent groove. I still feel a little revulsion when I hear his name, and I didn’t want anyone to know that I read Peggy Noonan’s biography of him, “When Character Was King.”

In my mid-thirties, as I came to have grittier, more real-world experience and, not coincidentally I’m sure, left Berkeley for San Diego, I felt more comfortable as an Independent. I think I registered as an Independent for half a second.

Strangely enough, it was listening to Dr. Laura that first opened my eyes to a more conservative viewpoint. I met a Mormon, became a Mormon, and began to see the world in a much more traditional way.

I would like to call myself an Independent because it sounds so much better to me than Republican. Once the Birkenstock-like mold of Republicans as evil was implanted in my brain, I was unable to completely expunge it. The reality is, I agree with the major planks of the GOP: limited government; strict construction of the Constitution; traditional marriage as the backbone of society; a safety net, not lifelong dependency on taxpayers unless absolutely necessary; a strong military and aggressive foreign policy; and American exceptionalism.

Having such congruence with Republican values, it would be disingenuous for me to call myself anything but Republican; so, no offense to any died-in-the-wool Republicans out there, I held my nose a bit and registered as a Republican.

What the heck. Now that I’ve come out as a former pagan, atheist, and hot mess; current Mormon on purpose; and sometime terrible mom (see One of Everything for crazy details), I might as well admit I’m a Republican.

Who or what would you say has had the most influence on your political views?

The first aha! I remember politically was reading “Sexual Politics” by Kate Millet. I had never encountered the idea that men and women were adversaries, each vying for the same zero-sum power in the same way. It made me feel grown up and sophisticated to be “in the know.” Thirty years of living, the raw truth of motherhood, and Christina Hoff Sommers disabused me of that adversarial point of view along with its victim mentality.

Obviously Berkeley was tremendously powerful in shaping my views of America as racist, sexist, homophobic, bigoted, imperialist, arrogant, and—here’s that word again—evil. I had a subscription to Mother Jones magazine, which I read avidly cover to cover every month, and which I remember being of very high quality and extremely well-written. Christians made me retch with their clinging to their guns or religion, and the idea of a white, patriarchal Jesus was revolting. Ergo, the ten years of paganism.

Working in downtown Oakland as a nursing home assistant administrator, in a building that was as diverse as you can get, I began to see the world through a completely different lens. The young black nursing assistants were wiser than me or any of my college-educated friends, and I discovered that their groundedness and wisdom derived from having been raised in Bible-believing churches. I grudgingly began to reconsider Christianity.

The sweetest impact black young people and black culture had on my life was the way they taught me to see my parents, especially my mother. I had, since leaving home, carried the snotty, white middle class notion that parents were stupid. Black culture, at least the one I was privy to, with its ethos of “I brought you into this world; I’ll take you out,” and its near sacred regard for mothers, opened my heart to honoring my parents. This seed would later bloom into my very strong opinions about family.

Real life, taxes, religious practice, motherhood, and an MBA have shaped just about everything else. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The facts of life are conservative.”

Example:

My oldest son is filing an income tax return for the first time this year. As I helped him complete his return and figure his tax, he was horrified: “That’s *my* money! I worked for it.”

My answer: “You just became a Conservative.”

How did you come to such strong opinions?

Believe it or not, I did not always hold such strong opinions. When I came back to San Diego from Berkeley in 1997, I felt like I had no firm opinions because I could see both sides to everything. I shifted back and forth depending on which argument I was considering.

Strange but true, it was listening to Dr. Laura that helped me form my first strong, as in stable in the form of counter-argument, opinion. Looking back, it makes perfect sense that the first settled opinion I claimed was that children were best off living with married biological parents, both of whom were in the home.

That was the foundation upon which I built the rest of my political views, which have only become clearer and stronger with more life experience.

Since you no longer agree with liberal and progressive politics, how do you feel about Liberals and Progressives?

I’ve moved on in my political thinking because it was the natural evolution of my thinking. My stops at other points along the political spectrum were right for me at the time. I’m convinced that we are defined by our experiences; we cannot step outside of them. Our political views derive from that experience, and who am I to say that a friend on exorbitantly expensive MS meds shouldn’t support Obamacare? I think she’s wrong and that there are better ways to reform healthcare, but I understand why she supports it, and I respect her right to do so.

I appreciate that I have held so many political views—so many vantages—along the way because it gives me a deeper understanding of why people believe as they do. I might be less of a hot mess now, but I am no better a person as a Conservative than I was as a Radical Progressive. Good people can disagree without becoming disagreeable. I don’t respect people based on their political beliefs; I respect them based on their character and behavior. And I like anybody who can make me laugh, preferably with biting sarcasm.

As a Conservative, would you ever cross over and vote for a Liberal or Progressive?

I would vote based on what I thought was right, irrespective of party affiliation or ideology. If John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, were running today, I would vote for him. He had views that in his day were called liberal but today would be labeled conservative, i.e., a rising tide lifts all boats, ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country, etc.

Given today’s definition of liberal, I can’t imagine finding agreement with someone to the far left of myself. But never say never. That’s why they call it a horse race.

Do you have any desire to serve in political office?

No, no, and no.

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