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October 29, 2008

To Thine Own Self Be True

Tom McLaughlin

I am a Democrat and support Jennifer Dougherty and Barack Obama. I would support the Democratic ticket if the devil himself were on it. I am sure there are Republicans who feel the same way.


I did vote Republican once. The Democrat absolutely, positively, had to go. I walked into the booth and closed the curtain. I had to guide my shaking right hand with my left over to the Republican candidate and forced the finger to pull down the lever.


Then I got the flu for three days. And my car broke down. So, to you Republicans who have never voted Democrat in your life, it can be done!


On a good note, the Republican turned out to be more liberal than the Democrat especially on environmental issues. Sadly, Wayne Gilchrest (R., MD 1st) was defeated in the primary late last winter.


But there are a vast majority of Americans who don’t think the way I do. They sensibly examine each candidate and vote for the one they think best. They will vote for the person who will best represent their interests.


But this election is different. There is a black man on the ticket. The first in our history.


The big question is: Will people vote for Sen. John McCain because Senator Obama is black?


In talking to people throughout Maryland the answer is sadly, yes. There are voters who will absolutely refuse to vote for Senator Obama because of skin color. I know because they tell me. Not in so many words, but through non-verbal communication, innuendos and hints. I will vote for Senator McCain, they say. When I ask why, they reply “You know why.”


When that happens I break into my statement: “Do you know there are still people who won’t vote for Senator Obama because he’s black? Isn’t that awful? They look away, embarrassed, realizing there is no ally in me.


I hope I have changed some minds, but, alas, very few. Prejudice is still deeply ingrained in this state and in the country.


Given the times, an economy in shambles, an unwinnable war and a flawed healthcare system, Senator Obama should be 20 points ahead in the polls. He would be if he were white.


As of this writing, he is 10 points ahead, but how many have lied to the pollsters? I believe there are a substantial number of Democrats who have worked hard for Senator Obama, wear his buttons, will walk in the booth, vote for Senator McCain and will forever after swear they voted for the Illinois senator. They will even lie to the priest giving them the last rites.


There will also be Republicans who will do the same for Senator McCain. Vote for Senator Obama and then swear they voted for John McCain. Will they balance out?


It is ridiculous for me think that people are not prejudice. But the important thing is to admit that we are and then ask ourselves why.


Were you raised in a prejudice family as I was? Dad led the charge to stop the integration of our neighborhood. My uncle had more racist jokes that I unfortunately still remember. Mom was the same.


This will be a very hard vote for many to cast. It means asking “am I prejudiced?” Then to look inward to find out why, and then examine the issues with that baggage thrown out. If John McCain is still your candidate, then vote for him. But make it an honest vote.


Can we Americans do that? I have a great faith in the people to meet this moral challenge. All you have to ask yourself is: “Am I voting for Senator McCain because Senator Obama is black?” A hard question, yes; but one that needs to be answered.


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