There are some very compelling stories of people on the Left who “saw the light” and became Conservatives. Tammy’s story immediately comes to mind (See “The New Thought Police,” “The Death of Right and Wrong,” and “The New American Revolution.”) David Horowitz, David Mamet, the late and sorely missed Andrew Breitbart — great stories, all.
Mine? Not so much.
As a matter of fact, I hesitate to tell you anything about this. Maybe you think I had some amazing epiphany, some phenomenal life-changing experience that propelled me to become a Conservative. Why shatter your illusions?
Well, because the election is in less than fifty days, and I want to make a point.
Although I was born in NYC and I now live here, I grew up in Washington DC. My parents did not work for the government, but they were very interested in politics. It seemed as though they were always reading newspapers (Washington Post, of course, but others too, both English and Yiddish ones) and discussing some article they had read. I read the WaPo too, but only the comics pages, and the sports page, to see where my beloved and beleaguered Washington Senators stood. And the obituary pages. (What can I say? I was a strange child.)
And then there was their fascination with a show that struck fear in the hearts of us kids: Meet the Press. It meant No TV during that dreaded hour. Protest was futile: “Go read a book,” was their response. It was even worse in the car, when they listened on the radio. “But ‘Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar’ is on!” I would plead. (Those were the days of great radio shows: Gunsmoke, The Lone Ranger, FBI in Peace and War, to name a few.)
My parents were Classical Liberals. (Those were the days when you could be a liberal and still believe in American exceptionalism.) They were Democrats. Everyone I knew was a Democrat. But I did not understand their interest in politics. To me, it was all one big baseball game. Sometimes the Democrats were at bat, and the Republicans had to stand in the field. Then after four, sometimes eight years, it was the Republicans’ turn at bat.
I will now fast-forward to 1976. I voted for Jimmy Carter. Because I was a Democrat.
In 1980, a few months before the election, I was shopping at a local supermarket. The father of one of my friends, Rabbi Cohen, saw me, and he walked over. I said hello. Just to be polite. But Rabbi Cohen had something on his mind.
“So, who are you voting for?” he asked. What an odd question, I thought. Did it really matter?
“Oh, I’m voting for the Democrat.”
Rabbi Cohen was quiet for a minute. “I see,” he said. Then he added, “Why?”
“Why?” I repeated. “Yes,” he pressed, “why are you voting for the Democrat?”
“Because,” I explained, “I’m a Democrat.”
I did not like where this was going. I did not want to talk politics. Our youngest child was now in school, and I had decided to switch careers, from teacher to psychologist. Competition for Ph.D. clinical psychology programs in the NYC area was fierce, and between studying for the GRE’s, applying to graduate schools, making sure the kids did their homework, etc., I had no interest in anything else.
But Rabbi Cohen was persistent. “Ah, I see. You are voting for the Democrat because you are a Democrat.” I hoped he didn’t think I was as stupid as I sounded.
He continued. “I have a suggestion for you. How about trying something new? How about voting for Ronald Reagan?”
“The REPUBLICAN?” I was astonished. “Why would I do that?”
“So, you enjoyed the long gas lines?” he asked. No, of course not. But was he blaming President Carter for the gas shortage?
“And you like the 21% interest rates?” No, I didn’t like that either. Our car was falling apart, but it was difficult to get a car loan, and the high interest rates made payments difficult, too. But that was also the President’s fault?
He continued. “I see I haven’t convinced you yet. So here’s something else: Ronald Reagan will be better for Israel.”
I didn’t want to argue with him, but this really sounded preposterous. A Republican would be better for Israel!?
“So, you’ll vote for Reagan?”
“Yeah,” I said. I wanted this conversation to end.
“Not good enough,” said Rabbi Cohen. “Look me in the eye and promise me you’ll vote for Ronald Reagan.”
There was no way out of this. I looked him in the eye and promised to vote for Ronald Reagan.
On Election Day, I got into the voting booth, and put my hand on the Democrat lever.
Then I put my hand down. I remembered I had promised Rabbi Cohen that I would vote for Reagan.
But I did not like being told what to do. And it wasn’t a “real” promise, anyway. I had been coerced. I put my hand back on the Democrat lever.
I put my hand down again. Then I quickly grabbed the Republican lever, and voted.
There were no more gas lines. Interest rates dropped. We got a new car. The economy was booming. I was now a Republican.
In 1992, I did not vote for Clinton. Because I was a Republican. But I remember Election Night. Bill and Hillary, walking together, through a crowd of well-wishers. They looked so happy. The band played “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” Fleetwood Mac. Very cool. My generation was taking over.
I was shocked at the first rumors of Bill Clinton’s behavior in the Oval Office. I tuned in when Hillary went on the Today Show, to defend her husband. She spoke about the “vast right wing conspiracy” that was “conspiring against him” from the day he announced his candidacy.
That would be me.
It made sense. It was all dirty politics, trying to destroy the President of the United States.
But I remember mulling over the “vast right wing conspiracy” thing. Who were these people? Where did they live? Did they all gather in some secret place? Did they have a secret handshake?
It was after hearing the all-too credible testimony of Kathleen Willey and Juanita Broaddrick that I realized: We had a sociopath in the White House.
Around that time, my husband came home from work one day, and handed me a magazine.
“I saw this at a midtown-Manhattan newsstand. Looks interesting. Thought you might like it.” It was called The Weekly Standard.
I read the first article. I don’t remember the topic. But I do remember that it resonated very powerfully. I read the entire magazine.
“Who publishes this?” I asked.
“A Conservative group,” said husband.
“A Conservative group? O.M.G !” I gasped.
What?’ said husband, somewhat alarmed.
“You know that ‘vast right wing conspiracy’? It’s…US!”
I was thinking about these things, a few weeks ago, after getting a call from my sister. She sounded happy. “I got another one!” she said. I immediately knew what she meant. She has been talking to everyone at work who voted for Obama. One by one, she is convincing them to vote Republican. This last one, a woman who seemed mesmerized by O, was a tough sell. I had told my sister to conserve her energy, maybe let this one go. But when this woman shared with her co-workers that her mother had Alzheimer’s, my sister zeroed in. Gave her some articles about the real nature of senior healthcare under Obamacare. The woman was stunned. “I thought it meant free healthcare for everyone,” she said. “I cannot vote for him again,” she told my sister.
My parents have both passed away, but I wonder what they would make of all of this, their children so focused on the political scene. The stack of newspapers (WSJ, IBD, and downloaded articles from the TamWire, NewsWire, and conservative news sites) in my home. And Meet the Press? The show is programmed into our DVR. And when I’m in the car, I catch it on Bloomberg Radio.
Here’s the point I want to make: I don’t pay attention to the polls. Because everywhere I go, people are paying attention. People are outraged. I see it everywhere. I see it on twitter. From @Jewpublican to @GayConservativs. Countless Evangelical Christians. From @Blackrepublican to @VicVow, who tweets me, “Thanks for following a nice Catholic boy like me.” I get tweets and Direct Messages: “Hey @NYJooo, thanks for being part of the fight to take our country back.”
This is what I think: Nov. 6 is going to be like a volcano erupting. I can feel the tremors.
But as Tammy says, we can’t leave anything to chance. So this is what we need to do: speak to people you know. Make phone calls for the Romney campaign. Tell them what the WSJ says about another four years of Obama:
Let’s dispense with the obvious: An Obama second term will be foremost about higher taxes and greater spending. The president has been clear about the former and will consider victory in November a mandate to raise taxes on higher-income Americans and small businesses—at the least.
Meanwhile, no matter how the coming budget sequester sorts out, nobody should forget why it came into being: It was the result of Mr. Obama’s refusal to consider any real changes to Social Security or Medicare. There will be no reason to budge in a second term. Absent reform to these drivers of debt, and given Mr. Obama’s ambitions to further “invest” in education, energy and infrastructure, a second term means proposals for even broader and bigger tax hikes—and not just for his favorite targets. Continued and growing deficits are likely as well…It is likely the Supreme Court will offer up another vacancy, and Mr. Obama might finally have his chance to shift the balance of the court. A slew of appellate-court positions are also in limbo as the campaign proceeds; they would be filled by a second-term Obama.
Just as important are the things Mr. Obama will not do. His record gives no indication he will revive America’s leadership in free trade. Nor is he likely to restore America’s influence in the international arena. And so we will inch closer to a nuclear-armed Iran and the threats that the regime will pose to international peace and order.
There are still those who are undecided, still some people who are not aware of the consequences of this election. People like… well, like me, back in 1980.
Rabbi Cohen passed away, years ago. But I am sure he would approve.