Sunday, September 16, 2012

Election Fieldwork #2012-01

We walked the dogs around midnight last night. Most walks include a stop at Dot’s, the famous local diner. A couple of the waitresses dote on Jackson and Sophie; the dogs reciprocate by helping with the bacon backlog.

Dot’s was closed for a private party, après-wedding: crisply-dressed twenty-somethings hanging out around the bar. One of the kids came outside. A young white woman. She sat down on a bench and started petting the dogs. “I love these dogs,” she said.

Then she noticed my Obama t-shirt. “And I love your shirt.”

She told us her story: she’s 25 years old and ready to start a family. So she has no personal stake in the recent Virginia Republican war on women. But she’s horrified that “some 60-year-old men want to control my body.” And she’s angry that they also want to decide who can get married. She thinks the Ryan budget, with its education cuts, is terrible for children, and the war on teachers is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Then the surprising part: she was raised Southern Baptist, very religious, very Republican. Her grandmother sends her “Hokies For Mitt” swag. And she still considers herself a fiscal conservative. She’s pro-small government, and she could definitely see voting Republican sometime in the future. But she didn’t in 2008, her first chance to vote in a presidential election, and she won’t in 2012. The social cost is too much to pay. She was emphatic on the bullshit: people talk small government, then legislate the bedroom and the womb. People talk family values, then balance the budget on the shoulders of poor children.

It was clear from the phrases she used, and the way she organized her thoughts, that she wasn’t ranting off the top of her head. She’d thought, and studied, and talked about this a lot. And Dot’s was full of her friends.