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The Unlabeled Voter

December 8, 2011

I’ve been a political junkie most of my life. My Boy Scout Troop used to help tally votes at Republican Headquarters in downtown Findlay back in the 1970’s. There were giant chalk boards with neatly lined columns for tallying precinct votes as they were telephoned in.

Findlay was a major Republican center in those days and I got to meet Congressmen Tennyson Guyer and Jackson Betts (Guyer was running, Betts had retired). I met Congressman Mike Oxley when he was still in the Ohio General Assembly. There were a lot of local GOP celebrities that I no longer remember, but I will always remember the honor of meeting those three gentlemen when I was young.

In recent years, I’ve come to find that I am not as neatly Republican as I once was. Since I turned 18 I’ve never voted for a Democrat, I’ve voted for several Libertarians, and I’ve not voted for numerous Republicans. I’ve also voted straight-ticket many times.

But I’m not so comfortable with that lately.

I’m very conservative – to a point. I am pro-life to a fault. I can’t even think of voting for a Democrat because of their stance on abortion. I am in favor of small government, states’ rights, the second amendment, American exceptionalism, etc. The Star Spangled Banner still brings me to tears and I get a lump in my throat when I read “In Flanders’ Field” on Veterans Day.

But I part company with conservatives on many points:

  • I am a pacifist. I have great respect for those who serve in the military, but it’s not for me and I don’t think military solutions are ever the best for anyone involved.
  • I favor making a way for illegal immigrants to stay here. Not only is it compassionate, it’s Biblical.
  • I oppose the death penalty. The Lord teaches us directly to show mercy to those who least deserve it in the Sermon on the Mount.
  • I don’t think you can legislate morality. All you get when you try to do that is more government doing things government is not supposed to do… and aren’t conservatives all about smaller government?
  • I’m not a big fan of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.

There are many ways I respect liberals.

Years ago when I left the Friends Church, I was in a time of spiritual crisis. One conservative, evangelical person grilled me as to whether or not I had “violated any of the Ten Commandments.” Another conservative Friends pastor told me that my services were no longer needed on a yearly meeting project. Other than those two, I didn’t hear from a single conservative pastor.

I knew most of them. I had stood with them for conservative issues in the yearly meeting. I prayed with them in quarterly meetings. I wrote their Sunday School lessons.

And none cared to call or write.

But, I did hear from a Quaker minister who was scorned by most of the yearly meeting, Stephanie Crumley-Effinger. Stephanie was the campus minister at Earlham College, a liberal bastion in an otherwise conservative and evangelical yearly meeting. Stephanie and I had disagreed publicly on many issues, yet we seemed to understand each other.

And in the midst of my crisis, Stephanie (the liberal) was the only Quaker minister to call or write. She assured me of her prayers. She didn’t interrogate or castigate. She just let me know she cared.

I took a far different look at liberals after that.

I like their stated concern for the poor and outcast. I like their stated concerns for workers’ rights (Mom was a union official, Dad a union organizer). I like the emphasis they have on trying to hear all voices.

I like that liberals agree with me on peace and the death penalty, immigration (and Glenn and Rush). But I’m not so close to their point of view, either:

  • I am pro-life (I can’t emphasize this enough). From conception to natural death. The primary reason I don’t donate to NPR is because they are generously supported by Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Rights Action League.
  • I believe in fair wages but I also believe that a person has a right not to belong to a union if he or she works in a union shop.
  • I believe in the separation of Church and state, but I don’t have a problem with kids singing Christmas carols or having Bible clubs in school.
  • I don’t have an issue with gays or lesbians on a personal level. But I think marriage is the divine gift for a man and woman especially for the creation of children. Gays in relationships are okay with me, but its not marriage.

My conclusion is that I am an unlabeled voter.

What this means is that I have thought about my positions. I can’t abide by the pat answers that the parties give.  I can’t be pandered to because of my demographic. I want to hear real thoughts and have the freedom to accept them or disagree with them.

I don’t want to be “sold” on a candidate – I want to believe a candidate.

I suspect that there are many other unlabeled voters like me. Their issues list may be a different mix than mine but that’s okay. I’m sure they are thoughtful, intelligent people who, like me, are tired of pandering and money and who want more than sound bites and commercials.

I want a candidate who would befriend the Boy Scouts helping in the headquarters on election (and not have him accused of inappropriate behavior).

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