I’ve been feverishly polling my friends and relations about who they’re going to vote for in the primaries, mostly because I can’t vote in the primaries and am thus desperate to live vicariously through them, and partly because I like arguing with whatever their choice is. It’s actually not been much fun on the devil’s advocate front, because most of the people I know are relatively privileged and relatively young and in stereotypical liberal careers, like teaching or urban planning or perpetual adolescence graduate school, and so they all wishy-washily tend to probably kind of like Obama, so I’m honing that argument but not getting a lot of practice knocking Clinton or Edwards (and my Kucinich-supporting friends have either given up or long since shut up, judging from the lamentably Dennis-free state of my inbox).

So it was with a mixture of anticipation and dread that I hurried to meet my father for lunch, leaving the first (and perhaps only) baby shower I have ever attended (for two mothers from Thing One’s preschool, and even though the invite said “families welcome” and I brought mine, it was like a coven of witches, if witches cooed instead of cackled and amused themselves by flinging miniature pastel outfits at each other while charging tables full of jalapeño dip and chocolate bundt cake, and K. was the only man there and was desperately ill-at-ease even though I reassured him that, since he not infrequently wears pink and reads Vogue, he should feel right at home). Both feelings could be traced to the same source: I was bubbling with curiosity about how the author of my days would be voting, and just as fearful that I wouldn’t want to know. Why, you ask? Because my father, the Sr. to my Jr., the person probably most intellectually and temperamentally like me in all the world, voted for George W. Bush.

Twice.

Now, apart from the obvious chagrin any designer-college-educated liberal such as myself might have at a family member who’d support a quasi-literate warmonger, my basic objections were just that: basic. My dad is not supposed to vote Republican. My dad is an immigrant, a scientist, a person of color, a product of public schools and the University of California (though he did go private for grad school). He should be a Democrat. I’m comfortable with the notion of him being a faintly socially conservative centrist Democrat, like a lot of the rich people I know, but he should, nonetheless, vote donkey.

I didn’t really discuss the Kerry election with him, but I remember very clearly his rationale for voting Dubya in 2000 (and the only argument that might have convinced me to vote Gore instead of Nader was the argument that it would cancel him out): character. Oh, he was concerned about the economy, and he wasn’t thrilled with how the Dems were taking care of him financially, but the crux of his argument was that the single most important factor in choosing a president was character, honesty, basic goodness and humanity, and he thought Bush edged out Gore. Yup, he had decided Bush was more pure of heart, which may have something to do with being exponentially dimmer, but the tragic part of it all was that his hierarchy of Existential Goodness went like this (first pick to last):

Bradley

McCain

Bush

Gore

–So in the race as it turned out, his vote went to the man who sent thousands upon thousands of troops to Iraq to kill and be killed, commit war crimes, and generally destroy their own humanity and that of their hapless victims. He was pretty much manifesting that old Winston Churchill chestnut about how everyone ages conservative if they know what’s good for them, and it was making me want to eat nails.

So today I was pretty worried, mostly because I think John McCain is the antichrist, which you understand is a figure of speech because I’m not a Christian. But I was sure my pop was going to be helping propel McCain to the GOP nomination, and this alarmed me because I’m pretty sure the American public is more likely to elect Craggy War Hero than it is Bug-Eyed Evangelist or Mormon “Hair Club for Men” Model. I’m really hoping Romney gets the nomination because my concept of reality won’t admit that the entire country could elect him, and that means the Dems will win. I’m afraid if McCain is the nominee, we’ll see another four or eight years of social conservatism and warmongering, and no, I am not reassured by the fact that McCain is against torture. Yeah. Is he going to go hang at Guantanamo Bay and make sure no waterboarding takes place?

So all this was present in my mind when I asked how my dad was going to vote. And just imagine my surprise when he said, “I think both your stepmother and I will be voting for Hillary Clinton.” Her I expected (my stepmother practically is Hillary Clinton, and is a staunch Democrat to boot), but he threw me for a loop. His reason? Because he thinks Clinton will be better for the economy, and he thinks she’s competent and observant, and he imagines she’ll have the sense to keep sending Bill to Africa (he loathes Bill, mostly because he sees Bill as a silver-tongued Evader of Consequences, and he’s not wrong).

So today I’m going to crack a Bud* and toast my dad, who has executed an amazing feat today: he’s articulated a preference for Hillary that has nothing to do with her gender or her spouse, something the rest of America seems to find impossible. In fact, all of my semi-young and reasonably cool ‘liberal’ friends keep citing Bill, or “the idea of Clinton dynasty in the White House,” as a reason not to vote for Hillary, and I am continually dismayed by this, because the idea that you could sincerely believe that you were a Populist Crusader by trying to Keep a Clinton Out of the White House strikes me as delusional and idiotic. And on the flip side, 56% of her supporters polled in New Hampshire said they would’ve voted for Bill if he could run again (presumable, Hill was the next best thing).

The idea that a person (woman) is necessarily so heavily influenced by her spouse as to make her independent thoughts and actions irrelevant in the face of his (witness the way people responded to this story about Bill’s Nevada exploits) is not just disrespectful and depressing, it’s indicative of an inability to see women as actors. It seems much of America suffers from this limitation. I’m wondering if maybe my dad not being among them has been an enormously freeing force in my life, one that I am only now coming to appreciate.

I’m thinking maybe it is. I’m thinking that a lot of the women I know have families who give lip service to the idea that women have brains but still embrace a lot of insidiously misogynistic ideas, and a lot of these women grow up with the nagging conviction that they can’t really do or think or be anything without a man in charge, and I’m thinking I’m damn lucky not to be one of them.

*A figure of speech; naturally, I only drink microbrewed beer (when pressed), and prefer single malts, Sapphire, and Bordeaux.

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