So there is my Dad, all alone, trying to convince his giant family that we are all niave and have been brainwashed by the liberal media etc. etc. The problem is, we are a smart bunch, if I do say so myself, so he frequently gets backed into a corner, at which point he gets angry and shuts down the conversation with some non-sensical platitude. For instance, when I was asking how he felt about the way the Rebublicans undermined Kerry's war-service by lying about him (he claims to hate lying), he just shut the conversation down by saying "both sides play dirty and and went off to cool down. Needless to say, talking to my Dad about politcs is VERY FRUSTRATING. I generally don't do it.
Dad voted for Bush. Twice. I was so sickened by this I was afraid it would harm our relationship. You see, my Dad is a very good man. A very nice, caring, loving man. He is generous, compassionate, and tries very hard to do what is right and selfless. It is just that he lacks any rebellious instinct, and his family is conservative with a capital C. His parents made it seem like the republican values were morally right (his dad was a minister) and independent thinking was dangerous. None of the kids rebelled. As my mom points out, compared to his siblings, my dad is a "flaming liberal". So, my Dad ends up voting for terrible candidates and does some impressive mental gymnastics to justify it. Much of his justification comes from Fox News. For instance, after Obama's speech on race, my Dad said it was one of the best speeches he has ever heard and he thought he would vote for Obama. This was his own, spontaneous reaction. A week later, after he had watched Fox for a week, he was questioning Obama's judgment for not leaving the church earlier, etc, etc. Ugh. After that, I decided to stop talking to him about politics, I just couldn't stand it.
So how did Obama convince my stubborn, Fox-news watching Dad to vote for him? By not trying to destroy McCain's character, and instead demonstrating his remarkable leadership qualities. My Dad has a man-crush on McCain. He practically gets weepy when talking about his honor and service to our country. I get that. I think McCain is running an awful, hate-filled campaign, but I also think he sacrificed a lot for his country and should be honored for that. However, I am capable of separating these two things, but my Dad is not. There is no McCain then and McCain now. My Dad continues to describe McCain as "an honorable man" even now, after the dirty commercials, the lies, and the smears. He has a real blind spot, and so do a lot of conservatives, but fortunately our candidate is much smarter than most of us and realized this.
When many democrats were frantically calling for Obama to hit harder, he stuck to issues and remained calm. Even his few attack ads are grounded in fact and generally ended with a positive Obama message. This was a genius decision because it allowed people like my Dad to come into the fold.
My Dad told me last week he was going to vote for Obama. I was surprised but didn't let on, any emotionality on my part could send him scurrying back to the comfort zone. I just listened as he explained. Was it the lying? The horribly negative tone of McCain's campaign? The idiot Sarah Palin choice? No (he doesn't think Palin is ready to lead, but that wasn't it). He explained, "I still love, love McCain but I think during these times, we need someone who can inspire people. Obama can do that, he is a good leader.
That was it. A simple reason, that allowed my Dad to vote against a man he admires. He did not have to change his views of McCain to do it, and that is a crucial point. I don't think my Dad could change his views of McCain unless he raped or killed someone. But he can recognize a good leader when he sees one. Thank you Obama, you just made it that much easier to relate to my Dad.