First, I do not swear oaths, I affirm. I have been that way even before first learning that Quakers did not swear because it implied when they were not under oath they might not be telling the truth. I strive to be honest at all times.
Which is why I cannot commit myself as a Democrat, and part of why I myself have never sought public office . As we approach the end of this year, I thought I would offer my final diary on this subject. It will not be long, and will probably draw little interest. No matter. I have a few moments before returning to planning (for classes, for yearlykos), and this is what is on my mind
I grew up in a household of moderate Republicans. My mother was the family politician, serving at one point as vice-chair of our town's (Mamaroneck NY) Republican committee. She wound up as a Nelson Rockefeller appointee as an Assistant AG. She once told me that she had never pulled a straight party lever in her life, and that it was rare that she did not vote for at least one Democrat based on the merits. But in Westchester County in the late 1950's and early 1960's, if one wanted to be a player political one had to be a Republican, and hence her public orientation.
Through the election of 1956 I probably considered myself a republican as well, although I am not sure how much awareness and understanding I had as a 10 year old. My mother was volunteering for Rockefeller in 1958, but I really was not all that excited by a governor's race between two multimillionaires (the incumbent being A. Harriman). By 1960 I was drawn to Kennedy, if for no other reason than the fact that my parents, having been in the OPA at the same time as Nixon, were not particularly fond of him. From then on I was more likely to support Dems than Repubs, although I did support John Lindsay for Mayor of New York. More likely, but not blindly loyal.
And that is the key. I saw far too many Democrats who repulsed me, whether on civil rights issues, or demagoging the Vietnam war. I saw people in office, or running for office, some of whose positions repulsed me. I saw Democrats who were corrupt, or stupid, or both.
I do not believe in blind party loyalty. And when the Democratic party nominates candidates with whom I have strong disagreements, I may well not support, even with a vote, such candidates. I may chose to support no one, or in some rare cases I have been known to vote for Republican, most recently in a school board race here in Arlington a year ago when there was nothing wrong with the Democratic candidate but I knew the Republican, he was a good guy dedicated to the schools and I did not see any benefit to the schools in replacing him.
If a Democratic nominee considers a position of doing away with all teacher tenure, that Democratic candidate runs the risk that I will not vote for him. For quite some time I was unwilling to consider voting for Kerry precisely because of positions he had taken on education, the issue closest to my heart. And had he picked Gephardt or someone like that rather than Edwards, I would not have voted for him.
I have also publicly stated that I will not support in any way anyone who voted for Abu Gonzales as AG. To me torture is non-negotiable. Ken Salazar may have felt ethnic solidarity, but that is insufficient reason in my mind for such a vote. And Hillary Clinton's support of a flag law, even with her having now received written support from Bob Kerrey on the issues, disqualifies her from receiving my vote. In either case a public acknowledgement that the judgment made by the Senator which leads me to reject supporting them was a wrong action on his or her part would be sufficient for me to reconsider, although it might not be sufficient for me to change.
I am well aware of the need to make choices. Often our selections are all less than appealing. And there can be compelling reasons for me to hold my nose and vote in support of someone who otherwise is unacceptable. I am well aware of the consequences of presidential elections as seen in what happens to our courts.
But ultimately I have decide whether there is line beyond which I am unwilling to go. That is an individual issue, a moral issue. It is one ultimately of self-integrity.
I have as a guide in this a statement I first encountered as a freshman at Haverford. It was made in a commencement address to the class of '88 (that's 1888) by the college's president at that time, Isaac Sharpless. It has been prominently displayed in the Common Room, part of the oldest building on campus, Founders' Hall, first constructed in 1833. A framed copy is prominently displayed in my classroom, because as a teacher I try to abide by the same principles. I close by offering it for your consideration.
I suggest that you preach truth and do righteousness as you have been taught, whereinsoever that teaching may commend itself to your consciences and your judgments. For your consciences and your judgments we have not sought to bind; and see you to it that no other institution, no political party, no social circle, no religious organization, no pet ambitions put such chains on you as would tempt you to sacrifice one iota of the moral freedom of your consciences or the intellectual freedom of your judgments.
Have a Happy New Year.