Back in 2008, I received a call I will never forget. I was walking east on Maple Street near State and Division in Chicago. I was just passing Blue Agave, thinking about good times, good friends and great margaritas when my cell rang.
It was my dad, he had news and it sounded serious. He said, "I can't do it."
I stopped walking. I was a little scared by his tone. "What's that?" I asked.
"I can't vote for Bush again."
When I was growing up, we were Republicans. We listened to Rush Limbaugh in the car. We went to church every Sunday. I grew up with the steady drum of black and white thinking. It was a secure world because there was no gray-area. However, that world only exists when you stay on the right side of that gray line.
When our lives landed in the gray-muck it was difficult to maintain the conservative standing without getting confused on all the rules. As a young adult, I became politically indifferent. By 2008, I was living in Chicago and I could not take a step without tripping over a presidential election conversation. It was time to pay attention. My post-conservative apathy had run its course and I was slowly changing my perspectives and beliefs.
The phone conversation with my father signposts that turning point. My father having his own doubts was a significant political shift in my little world.
Here I am four years later, on the other side of the big pond, where most Europeans are completely miffed as to why anyone, who is not super wealthy, would vote Republican. I usually say I am equally miffed (I rarely divulge my Republican upbringing).
Popular liberal opinion claims Republicans are uninformed or under-informed. However, this is not necessarily true. Much of this popular liberal opinion is based on campaigns of the extreme right, the Tea Party and pretty much anything Rush Limbaugh says.
Edging away from the extreme right, you can find intelligent Republicans. It is these non-extreme Republican-voters who can put Romney in office. They want lower taxes, less government controlled entities and more privatized systems. Furthermore, many of these Republicans are driven by their religious beliefs, family values, economic status and ideological standards. If you mix all those circumstances into one pot, you have yourself a Republican-voter.
For these voters, it comes down to one simple message: Leave us alone.
These voters, in spite of the current economic climate, are doing alright. They have a steady job, decent wage and reliable health care. These are home owners who were smart (and/or lucky) enough to dodge the housing market crash. These people are not thinking of the general populous, they are thinking of themselves. And, as far as they can see (past the end of their cul-de-sac), they see rainbows and retirement.
The only political issue on tap for a non-extremist Romney-voter is the national debt. They blame most of this debt on the poor taking advantage of 'the system'. They do not want people living off their tax dollars. (It seems Republicans believe the vast majority of unemployed mirror the cast of Trainspotting.)
Most middle class, non-extreme Romney-voters are not overly interested in issues of birth control or marriage equality. They definitely do not want to talk about it. However, if pressured, they would morally stand with whatever church they go to on Sunday.
I can empathize with the Romney-voters. I understand how "big government" can be scary. I live in Sweden, where many things are government-run. It can be frustrating at times. However, the Swedish government will do everything it can to keep you housed, healthy and fed. So, even with the endless lines and procedures, here in Sweden, your basic needs will be met.
In the U.S., if things do not line up perfectly and there is no family to support you, your life can become pretty hopeless. The system is broken and corrupt. Job loss can spiral out of control pretty quick. If you have no family and/or are mentally ill, find a park bench and pull up a pigeon.
The 'umph' in Romney's campaign is housed in selfishness and fear of that park bench. The selfishness and fear is justified by a well-polished rhetoric. Romney-voters believe if everyone worked as hard as they did, there would be less poverty. Middle class Romney-voters believe the poor are poor because of the poor's own doing. Romney-voters do not want to pay for anyone else's mistakes or hardships. Romney-voters want their hard-earned money to be all theirs. Community support is unnecessary: Every man for himself. They think governmental support is charity and charity should be optional.
Overall, Romney-voters want their money and their families to be left alone.
All evidence to the contrary will not change their minds. To change their perspective would mean their lives would have to be touched by hardship, hardship directly affected by their own selfishness.
And it may take a President Romney to do just that.