I learned a long time ago to separate my politics from my relationships. I think I am of an independent mind but for as long as I can remember I have always considered myself a Democrat. However, whatever your party affiliation, your military status or lack thereof, race, sex, religion, economic status, education, there is a fundamental emotional connection that people who vote share. We all care.
Over the years, I have found myself to be in the center of a few heated family debates because the majority of my family is either in the military or retired from the military. Many of my closest friends likewise are retired or active-duty military, some Democrat, some Republican. Military men and women in my family lean a bit more conservative. The Best family (or at least the military arm of it) is too conservative to be Democrat and way too liberal to be Republican. I have an uncle who says that we are a pro-military conservative democratic lot with just a touch of independence.
Once while at a dinner party I got in a mildly heated exchange with a very old and dear friend of mine. This particular friend, who shall remain nameless, also was a lieutenant in the Army and a Republican. The conversation became livelier after he proudly announced to me that he had voted for George Bush.
This friend often amuses himself by getting a rise out of me. He knows we differ on two main things: politics and music. He has goaded me about both during the years of our friendship. I knew that was what he was doing, but I could not help myself from reacting.
“You know I voted for Bush,” he announced rather proudly.
“What!” I said, “You’re proud of that?”
I was a little annoyed because I knew this conversation was solely designed to make me react but even more annoyed by his uncompromising and amused stand. I explained to him (one hand on my hip, the other pointed at him) that according to all that I had read, George Bush left the White House with a dismal economic record. I continued, “By almost every measure and every standard George Bush’s economic track record on jobs, median incomes, GDP growth and financial-market performance quite frankly may have made him the worst president on the economic front, period.”
He chuckled a bit and replied, “Cher, all leaders have their failures.” Then he said more seriously, “I’m impressed that you know about his economic record.”
“Why wouldn’t I know that?” I replied with a bit of an attitude. “Are you surprised that I vote, too?”
He got serious. “I know I tease you sometimes and we don’t always see eye to eye on everything but I think it’s not at all surprising that you care enough to vote. Here’s the thing, one thing that people who vote can agree on whether Democrat or Republican or Independent is that nothing has ever changed, good or bad, without action. People who vote all share an emotional connection to caring. We all care enough about what we believe in to vote and people who don’t vote just don’t care.”
I had no smart reply, no clever comment. He was right. I had to agree with my dear old Republican friend, despite his bad choices. There is a first and a last time for everything.