I get my politics from my mother. This is a great revelation to me, as I wasn’t really aware I had politics until recently. Thinking back on it, though, I think I know when the seeds were planted. Jimmy Carter was in office, so I wasn’t even 10 years old (Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, the year I turned 11). I turned on the TV and instead of the program I wanted to see, there was ol’ Jimmy, holding forth on some boring thing or other. I was a smart-aleck youngster, so I popped off some uncharitable comment which brought an entirely unexpected reaction from my mother. “You don’t talk about him that way! He’s a good man.” I remember this so clearly because it was shocking; my mother is very laid-back and she almost never speaks sharply. I must have asked her why. “He tries to help ordinary people,” she said. It stuck with me.
In due time, Reagan took office. My mother was unimpressed; she knew him as an actor, and his economic policies did not sit well with her Depression-raised sensibility. I, in my teenaged-know-it-all stage, heartily agreed. I was a nightowl then as now; I would sit up late watching the new cable TV with the volume turned low and soon developed a fondness for Tip O’Neill, the Speaker of the House in those days. His Irish bluster and small tolerance for fools appealed to me, but my scatter-shot attention span prevented me from following the issues and ordinary teenage-girl concerns eventually took over.
Years passed, and I married. He was a Republican. This dismaying fact didn’t diminish his appeal; he talked to me about his political ideology, I talked to him about mine, and we decided that the way to ensure a peaceful household would be to never talk politics. Since neither of us were terribly politically-minded, it worked out well. My mother had told me though the years about how her parents would drive to the polls together and knowingly cancel each other’s votes, so I reckoned we were carrying on a family tradition. He shook his head bemusedly when I pulled the lever for Bill Clinton, and I probably said something snarky when he voted for George W. Bush, but we carried on amicably. At some point, we realized that his actual values were much more akin to mine than those of the party he associated with. He now enjoys debating politics from a leftward viewpoint on social media, whereas I largely keep my politics to myself and vote my conscience. This policy has served me well, though I grow increasingly distressed with each major election. I still see the Democratic party as the party of Jimmy Carter, that good man who tried to help the ordinary people, and it saddens me to see those ordinary people voting against their own interests.