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Political junkies like us often get caught up in the day-to-day minutiae and nonstop jabs between campaigns that really ultimately don't matter to 90%+ of the electorate.

Fortunately, my roommate, a person who is my opposite in many respects, is there to give me some perspective. She has recently (unintentionally) provided me a lot of insight about some feminist issues affecting this election.

In many ways, my roommate and I have a lot in common. She's a mid-twenties woman who's a tech geek and has a job in the tech industry. I'm a mid-twenties gay guy who is also a tech geek and I have a job as a programmer. We're best friends from high school. We have the same taste in movies and music, and just generally have a lot fun together.

But there is something about which we couldn't have more differing interests: politics. I'm a full-fledged political junkie. I spend much of my free time reading DKos, Huffington Post, and more standard mainstream media. I have a subscription to the NYT and The Economist, and spend most of my TV time watching news, from C-SPAN, to MSNBC and CNN, with a little Daily Show and Colbert thrown in for good measure.

My roommate (let's call her K.) typically couldn't be more different in that respect. She's deeply pessimistic about government at every level. Of course, I can't blame her; it's not like things have gone very well lately on that front. She's pretty much of the mindset that I see a lot on the Internet: it doesn't really matter who wins the election -- they'll all be the same.

It's hard to argue with some of the points she makes. For instance, she's not highly motivated to vote. Her argument was that it would just end up harming things if someone who was consciously ignorant of politics casts an uninformed vote. But I did convince her to update her voter registration (we recently moved) and reminded her that she doesn't have to vote for everything on the ballot, not even President, just for the stuff she cares about. We're in California, and I only asked her for one thing: to please, please, please, vote against the upcoming amendment to ban gay marriage. I do know that she supports gay marriage, and it's not like that's an issue that requires much research. And happily, she agreed with me on that one. But she has professed to not care about much more, even the Presidential election.

On the national stage, she's been informed mostly because of newspapers around the house, or me watching the news when she walks in; that kind of thing. She was excited about Hillary, and I can't blame her. Yeah, it was a negative campaign, but it was nonetheless a historic run, and there's no doubt Hillary would have as President, and still will, in the Senate and beyond, push the feminist cause forward. I consciously kept negative comments about Hillary during the primary to a minimum when she was around, mostly because I was just happy she was becoming more engaged with the news.

So she was disappointed, as were many people, that Hillary lost the primary. But she didn't really harp on it too much and (it seemed) became uninterested in politics once more, to my chagrin. But sometime in the last couple weeks, in the run-up to the DNC, I was watching some talking heads bloviating about those PUMAs who might vote for McCain, and my roommate happened to be in the room. She seemed taken aback that this group actually existed. She asked me, and I'll paraphrase, "People who supported Hillary would vote for Republicans out of spite?"

This gave me the opportunity to point out McCain's stance on various "feminist" issues, including his desire to roll back Roe v. Wade and his position on Viagra versus birth control. She was pretty pissed off by this whole PUMA issue, especially when she saw that Hillary threw her full support behind Obama.

So she restored my faith in critical thinking: though she hasn't followed this election closely, she saw PUMAs for exactly what they were: either completely irrational or just undercover Republicans anyway.

I was even more pleasantly surprised the other day. When I mentioned to her that McCain announced that his VP pick was a woman, the governor from Alaska, her response was essentially an incredulous facepalm. She immediately saw it for the cynical political gesture of identity politics it was. She did not for one second consider voting for McCain.

I don't believe she'll ever be a political junkie of any type, and it's nice to have someone around who gets my mind off the daily political grind from time to time. But she did restore my faith that many "average" voters can be pretty insightful if they actually try to think critically instead of purely on partisan lines.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

P.S. By the way, when describing McCain-supporting PUMAs to her, I came up with a new acronym for it: "Please Usurp My Abortion-Rights."

Originally posted to gsadamb on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 02:50 PM PDT.

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