Three memories have shaped my approach to this year’s general election.
Here’s the first. In the late 1970s, during a two-year break from teaching to raise our second son, an adopted child, I found myself at a Los Angeles dinner party filled with DINKs, the “double income, no kids” crowd who were just emerging as a self-aware and upwardly mobile social group. I fell to talkingor more accurately, listeningto a chatty young female attorney who said she was putting in eighty hours a week as a junior associate on a variety of important cases.
After twenty minutes or so, she finally noticed my silence and asked me what I did with my own time. So I told her. I told her about the young couple that had asked my husband and me to adopt their baby if we covered their hospital expenses. I told her about waiting outside the delivery room for our son to be born. I told her about the bureaucratic maze that came with finalizing the adoption of a newborn. I told her about borrowing money from friends so we’d look more solvent than we actually were to Social Service inspectors who checked our accounts.
“That’s wonderful dear,” she said. “You’re so lucky not to have a real job.”
Here’s the second memory. I remember my fourth child, our son Dan, being born one winter evening, purple and struggling for breath. I remember my husband pouring water over his head as we baptized him in my arms. I remember the young Filipina doctor rushing Dan to intensive care. I remember the ten days of his fighting for life. And I remember Dan’s diagnosis, when it finally came in: Down syndrome.
Here’s the third memory. I remember my father, a successful young Chicago attorney, telling me why the Democratic party was the party of “our people,” and why so many Catholics were Democrats, and why the party stood for the little guy, the poor and the defenseless. I remember listening as a young girl in our kitchen as Saul Alinsky organized my parents’ Catholic friends on racial and economic issues in our Chicago living room. And I remember the night in 1992 when Pennsylvania’s governor, Robert Casey, was denied a chance to talk against abortion at the Democratic national convention.
As I draw on those memories now, I reach certain conclusions. As a woman, mother, wife, and lifetime professional educator, I will vote, enthusiastically, for Sarah Palin as vice president this November. Even if the media pressure forces her from the ticket, I will vote against the Democratic partypartly because I respect John McCain and believe him to be the better candidate, but equally because I’m tired of the intransigence and condescension of the Democratic leadership on the abortion issue.
I will vote for Sarah Palin because I don’t need the Democratic platform’s belated affirmation of motherhood. Thanks, but I already know that motherhood is good, several times over. Moreover, the party’s rediscovery of motherhood seems rather cynical in the current news cycle, while Democratic-friendly bloggers and media types bash Palin about her daughter’s pregnancy and her own busy schedule while bringing up children. How can a real sympathy for motherhood come from the same people who wrote a platform that hardens the party’s addiction to a phony right to kill the unborn?
I will vote for Sarah Palin because she has guts. We’ve never met, but I suspect I know something about her life, and so do a great many other women. I know what it means to have a son with Down syndrome. I know what it means to talk a good line about religious faith and then be asked to prove it. I know what it means to have a daughter pregnant and unmarried.
In fact, while we’re on the subject, I also know what it means to have two grandchildren born out of wedlock, a son struggling with alcohol, two grandchildren with serious disabilities, putting myself through graduate school while simultaneously caring for a husband and children and teaching full timeand a whole lot more. This is the stuff of real human love; this is the raw material of family life. And those who think that Palin’s beliefs and family struggles are funny or worth jeering at, simply reveal the venality of their own hearts.
I will vote for Sarah Palin because she is intelligent, tenacious and talented. Nobody made her rise easy, and no one is making it easy now. Andis it only moms who notice this?unlike Senator Biden, she does seem to act consistently on her beliefs about the sanctity of life, at considerable personal cost.
I will vote for Sarah Palin because she doesn’t come from Washington or New York or Chicago or anywhere else the political and media aristoi like to hang out. In fact, I especially like the idea that the state she governs actually produces somethinglike some of the oil that powers the hair dryers and klieg lights at MSNBC.
I will vote for Sarah Palin because Roe v. Wade is bad law, and it needs to fall. I don’t doubt the intelligence and character of men like Doug Kmiec, the younger Bob Casey, and others who sympathize with the Obama campaign. But I do doubt their judgment. At the end of the day, the Democratic party in 2008 has conceded nothing to pro-life Democrats. The fact that Sen. Obama listens respectfully to pro-lifers without calling them reactionary dunces does not constitute progress. Results and behavior are what matter. On both those counts, the party has again failed to show any real sensitivity to pro-life concerns. In that light, high profile Catholics who support Obama are simply rationalizing their surrender on Roe.
Finally, I will vote for Sarah Palin, not because I’ve left the Democratic party of my youth and young adulthood, but because that party has left me. In fact, it no longer exists. And no amount of elegant speaking, exciting choreography, and moral alibis will bring it back.
That’s the real tragedy of this election.
Suann Therese Maier, the mother of four and former director of non-profit support organizations for pregnant women and children with disabilities, is a teacher in Colorado.