Book Club: Dirty Sexy Politics by Meghan McCain

“Being a Republican is not a lifestyle choice…And it shouldn’t be controversial to be like me – a straight, pro-life Christian who is utterly determined to pass gay marriage in this country, who believes in a strong national defense, is worried about climate change, continues to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who thinks government is best when it is efficient and accountable and stays out of people’s lives and business.”

It’s New Years Day and I woke up long before my alcohol addled body had enough sleep. I figured I’d read a few chapters than nap my hangover away.

I never got to that nap because I couldn’t stop reading. And thinking. As if my head didn’t already hurt from last night’s champagne indulgence!

I thought about reading Barry Goldwater’s book “The Conscience of a Conservative” a few years ago. Having grown up in liberal household that watched news commentary on CNN, I’d always gotten the impression that conservatives simply hated everyone who wasn’t rich, white, straight, male, and didn’t attend churches run by TV preachers.

Considering the state of the Republican Party since I started paying attention during the Clinton Administration, I can hardly be blamed for thinking that.

Goldwater’s book was the first time I had been presented a conservative agenda that didn’t vilify people. It was calm and reasoned and it made sense. I disagreed with much of it, but it made sense. Even weirder than that, some parts of it made so much sense to me that they replaced my previously liberal ideas.

That book was life and thought changing. It thoroughly changed the way I thought about and approached political problems. I can’t help but (naively, I’m afraid) think that if both sides of every vitriolic debate could just understand where the other side was coming from we’d be much more efficient at solving problems.

Understanding isn’t the same thing as agreeing, but how can you even begin to effectively compromise and get things done if you don’t try to understand?

This is why I like Meghan McCain. I’m not really sure when she came onto my radar, but I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while now and I absolutely adore her.

She wants to change the Republican party. Like Goldwater, she has a true conservative ideology that makes sense to those of us who may not agree with everything she thinks. She wants to change the Republican party, but I think people who think like her and approach problems with logic, reason, and humanity can change politics.

It was utterly fascinating to relive the 2008 campaign from a viewpoint different from the one I cared about. And reading about the insights into her family was a good reminder that what you see with people in the spotlight is rarely what they are. After reading about her relationship with her father, I felt an overwhelming need to talk to my Dad. It reminded me of us.

As I finished the book I thought about Election Night 2008. I was overwhelmed by the historicalness of Barak Obama’s election. I truly believed in everything he stood for. And while his presidency has been less than his supporters wanted or expected, on that night I felt all the hope in the world that things could be okay.

That night I also watched John McCain’s concession speech. I remember seeing him look so defeated and sad. He’d given so much running for President twice. I remember my heart breaking for him.

I’ve had trouble with my political alliances because anything right of center doesn’t seem to allow for feeling something towards people. Which puts me in the position of voting for Democrats because they at least pretend to care. I believe in a smaller national government. I believe the government needs to get out of our lives as much as possible. Oddly enough, the political ideology I most agree with is Libertarianism. The problem is, I’ve got a heart that won’t stop bleeding and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The feeling that Meghan McCain had of not having a place in the Republican Party, and the feeling I have of not having a place in politics, we can’t be the only ones to feel this way. If the last election has shown us anything, it’s that people want something to believe in.

It sure would be fantastic if politicians and parties would realize that.

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