Noting the Obama stickers on my car for both 2008 and 2012, a man in the Walmart parking lot this morning asked if I still liked the president. I answered yes. His response: “Well, you’re free to vote for any idiot you want to.”
Four years ago, I stood in the same parking lot with voter registration forms, signing up shoppers until the store asked me to leave since I didn’t have the necessary permission. In the 2008 election, the army of Democratic volunteers helped Obama win in Davidson County, but the state still went for the Republican ticket. Considering the comment I received today, it’s even less likely that Tennessee will vote Democrat in the 2012 election, especially since Santorum won this primary. Davidson County once again went against the grain; Republicans here gave the majority to Romney. Yes, I voted for Obama and will again in November.
It’s become embarrassing to admit that I used to be a Republican. In my view, the GOP party that got my vote some years back bears no resemblance whatsoever to that party today. Up North, unless things have changed since I moved, people embraced diversity. It may be an unfair generalization for me to view the Mid-South as unwelcoming to “differences” in cultures and beliefs. Voting for Santorum is definitely one confirmation. I may not follow the blow by blow of politics, but I do hear enough about his radical (and scary to me) views to cringe at the thought of someone like him in charge.
But here I am in the Bible Belt, where the Republican-controlled government has been considering whether to ban any discussion of gays in schools, where creationism has its hardcore followers, where it’s lawful to carry guns even in a bar, and where a suburban community has protested against the building of a Muslim center in the neighborhood. Downtown a few weeks ago, I walked a roughly four-block area occupied by honkytonks ablaze with neon lights, country music blasting from the doorways and stores selling tourist souvenirs and goods. A few blocks away, in another roughly four-block area, there were churches in every direction. Later, passing one of the Catholic schools on the west side, I caught sight of a sign that equated abortion with baby killing. It was planted next to a roadside display of what looked like hundreds of small white crosses.
I have to ask: what happened to the separation of church and state with candidates like Santorum wanting to dictate individual morality? What happened to diplomacy versus the war mongering I hear from Republican candidates on the subject of Iran? What kind of party does not protest with outrage and disgust when one of its leading voices calls a young woman a slut because she testifies on the need for healthcare coverage of women’s birth control?
From this Democrat’s view, radicalism has become the norm on other side of the aisle. Surrounded by fundamentalists (who could be carrying guns), I do have to speak cautiously in these parts. I did tell a woman in a workout class that I was a Democrat and she replied that I was the only other one she had ever met. I’m looking forward to seeing Bill Maher when he appears in town next week. I expect that most of those attending will also be Democrats. Unless of course, some Republicans come hoping to hear Maher target Romney. I wonder if the show will be sold out.