As a twenty-something, politically aware New York woman, watching the Republican Convention last week taught me one thing: I'm immensely worried about the future of our country.
It wasn't along ago that a woman of my age would have been expected to stay at home, raise a family and keep my opinions to myself. Part of the reason I'm even able to write this article today, in a world where women's voices are heard and valued, is because forward thinking has been rewarded, change has been encouraged and we've taken the time to engage in dialogue with those who may be different from us. Liberals may have been accused of not caring about America, but I respectfully disagree. I want to see change because I do care about my country. I'm worried about the future of our nation because to me, just one overarching theme emerged from the speeches, formal interviews and conversations with various members of the Republican party: "we only care about those that are exactly like us." What's even more surprising is that while this may have been true for elections past, for one of the first times in political history, the goal of the party seems to be to exclude as many people as possible from financial, legal and moral consideration. If we vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, we're voting against the poor, the middle class, immigrants, women, gays and lesbians, workers, senior citizens, environmentalists and perhaps many, many others.
To me, the unveiling of the official Republican platform was not only shocking, but it was also a sad day in America's politics and history. For a country that prides itself on equality, freedom and the opportunity to live the dream, creating a platform which systematically denies the right of same-sex couples to marry, revokes the right of women to their bodily autonomy and abandons the lower and middle classes who are working so hard for their livelihood is shameful. There is, in fact, no other word for it.
The United States of America was built on the notion that we are all endowed with certain "inalienable rights", among these "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I'd argue that though all of these rights bear substantial weight alone, it is only when they are experienced together that they are most powerful. It may be possible to live without liberty and it may be possible to have basic liberties without the pursuit of happiness, but that is not the type of life our country was built on. We were built on the idea of a life free from not only persecution, but also free from the dictation that the only proper life was one lived according to another's rules.
Republicans seem to have forgotten that their party's ideological beginnings enveloped the belief that a bigger government wasn't necessarily a better government. Republicans of the day only still believe in this mandate when it benefits them directly, through governmental non-interference of the business sector (which, if we may recall, brought us to our current economic crisis in the first place). Though Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan may believe that the government has no business in our business, literally, they and others like them find it perfectly acceptable to force governmental involvement in something as intimate as a marriage or as monumental as the decision to have a child. Apparently, the belief in government noninvolvement is only supported when convenient and cast off otherwise.
What I'd say to anyone undecided or even any Republican unhappy with the direction of their party is simply this: you will only be safe as long as you agree perfectly with the party line. If that sounds suspiciously like an ominous Orwellian warning from the likes of 1984, then my intent was met. Today, you may agree that same-sex couples shouldn't be allowed to marry and that women shouldn't be able to exercise choice, but what if, one day, in the near future, the Republican Party decides to target you? What if, one day, a war is waged on working women? Or black men? Or teenagers? Wouldn't you rather vote for a party that values you, nurtures you and protects you despite any ideological differences that may arise? While the Democratic Party may be far from perfect, it is, if anything, inclusive. The ideology, for the Democratic Party, is set in place to establish a government that protects everyone, not just the chosen few.
Similarly, even if you don't agree with and in fact, never agreed with President Obama or any of his policies, one thing is clear: at the start of his presidency, one of his stated goals was to unite the parties and end the unnecessary vitriol of modern day politics. Whether he accomplished that is anyone's guess, but at the very least, he recognized that divisiveness wasn't the key to bettering our nation. The same can't be said for the current crop of Republican hopefuls.
Astonishingly, we've seen that in this coming election, Mitt Romney's pick for vice presidential running mate will stop at nothing, including outright lies, to convert others to his cultish constituency. I use the term cult purposely because it implies a group of people who cannot be swayed, no matter what the cost, from their venerated beliefs. It seems that neither science nor reason nor evidence nor fact will sway the Republican Party from believing, and in fact, espousing anything they want.
Republicans would begin by taking away the rights of women to reproductive choice and finalizing the inability of same-sex couples to marry, but where does it end? Unfortunately, that question can't be answered because no one really knows what lows Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republican base are capable of in restricting our rights. Although no politics are immune from mistakes, this November, remember that a vote against social justice and human rights is a vote against us all. No matter what the circumstance, I want a party who believes that everyone, not just a few, are worthy of each of the inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Don't you?