When my sister turned 18 and registered as a Democrat, my father didn’t speak to her for several months (turns out party lines did matter a little bit to Dad). So when I was finally able to register to vote, I registered as a Republican in a shameless effort to win my father’s love. Then I went to college and promptly became the Co-President of the Penn State Clinton-Gore Fan Club. With my Co-President and roommate, Heather, and Beki and Denise as Co-VPs, our fan club membership totaled four. We were a proud group.
Over the years, I have listened to the candidates and made my decisions based on who I thought made the most sense, regardless of party. This year, in Connecticut, Chris Dodd is retiring, and the race for his Senate seat is wide open. One of my first bosses on Block Island was a strong, smart businesswoman who constantly faced (and still faces) opposition simply because she has a brilliant (okay, and stubborn) head on her shoulders. It was this fondness for my former boss Mary Jane that really made me like Linda McMahon as a candidate. She’s the former CEO of a male-dominated industry – the WWE – and I respect that. My childhood crush on Stone Cold Steve Austin probably had nothing to do with my decision.
I agreed to distribute signs in my town for the McMahon campaign. This got me invited to the third debate between her and Dick Blumenthal in New London. I heard my parents’ voices in my head: “Get involved! Wear clean underwear!” So I went.
When I arrived, there were people rallying outside. Some guy with a microphone was shouting in support of Blumenthal, but he was saying things like “Linda McMahon wants you all on steroids!” and “Vince McMahon is the son of Satan!” Note to the Blumenthal campaign: get people who are not crazy as fruit bats to speak on your behalf. I quickly got in to line to wait for the doors to open. A gentleman next to me noticed my Linda sign and leaned over. “You’re voting for the right person,” he opened. “I know,” I smiled back, and we began chatting. Rich was a Republican, and this was his first senatorial debate (mine, too!) We agreed to sit together and bask in our smug self-righteousness over our decision to back Linda. We were herded inside, and while we were waiting, Rich continued the conversation. “So you listen to Rush, right?”
Uh-oh. He’s not talking about the band.
I started to get a little scared. I don’t listen to Rush Limbaugh. As a matter of fact, I own a copy of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot. In hardcover.
Panicked, I lied. Sort of. I nodded. Forgive me, Al Franken!
Rich continued, “And of course you watch Fox news. I don’t know why these liberal Democrats won’t watch Fox news. They should be more informed.”
Um, maybe because Fox news is so unbelievably slanted and biased that it’s kind of like watching tobacco companies argue about why cigarettes are good for your health? I kept silent. Cold terror was coursing through my veins.
He continued to talk, and I continued to nod and add things like “yup” and “mm-hmm” to the conversation. What if he found me out? What would I do if he suddenly started pointing at me and screaming “Democrat! Demmmm-oooo-cratttt!” I might have to make a run for it.
We made it through the debate, which was fun, I’ll admit. The crowd was restless and rude, the candidates were snarky, and I was really glad I went. I was a little distracted, however, by visions of death by rabid Republican.
We shook hands after the debate was over, and Rich went on his way. I managed to shake the crazy Blumenthal guy with the microphone when he tried to follow me home. I called my sister and promised her that I would never, ever, try to masquerade as one of the politically passionate again.
Then I curled up with a book and a cup of tea. A little Jon Stewart did wonders to soothe my nerves.