I have a confession to make. I’ve been entranced by the Republican debates and primaries this past year, from the brief, wondrous campaign of Hermain Cain to the multiple (sometimes racist) campaign gaffes of Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich to the photo of Michele Bachmann with Nicki Minaj eyes. I’ve been gripped, and I can’t look away. There were seven debates in January alone. Whenever I call home I ask my parents if they were watching last night, what their thoughts on what so-and-so said are (and on a few occasions, they sheepishly admit that they hadn’t watched last night, Parks and Recreation was on). My dad once even asked which Republican I was going to vote for, being the politically-conscious and well-informed 21-year-old that I am.
It was a joke and he laughed afterward, because he knows I’m a left-leaning, Obama-loving, card-carrying Democrat whose vote is all but guaranteed this November.
The fact of the matter is, I’m not that politically conscious. I’m a close-minded liberal, as unreasonable and surly to debate with as a member of the Tea Party, just leaning in the opposite direction. I really don’t know that much about Obama’s economic or foreign policies. I couldn’t tell you his tax or education plans. But I know nearly everything about the Republican candidates. I’m a political voyeur, streaming the Republican debates on my laptop with a Word document open, taking personal notes, checking The Daily Show and The Colbert Report every night to see if they caught the same things I did.
Kids our age tend not to be that politically conscious. I got swept up into the Obama fever my freshman year on campus in his city and briefly toyed with the idea of joining and working for College Democrats but ultimately decided I didn’t care enough. It was easy enough to buy into the speeches and go to the celebration rallies in Grant Park and feel good about ourselves, to the point where we didn’t actually need to read up on the issues or do any kind of homework. I remember kids on my floor making jokes about the number of times John McCain crashed his airplanes instead of debating his stances on foreign policy. I laughed and joked along, having already (blindly) decided where my vote was going that November.
These primaries are fascinating to me. At least the 2008 primaries had figureheads, McCain and Huckabee (and, of course, a younger Romney). The candidates this year seem almost thrown together, loose odds and ends and leftovers from years past. I remember hearing about Newt Gingrich during his Speaker of the House days, and that he could take a full 10 years off and come back as a strong candidate feels unreal. Ron Paul is every Internet libertarian’s favorite. I remember my dad talking about “smart, fiscally conscious politicians” like Mitt Romney when he was pursuing his MBA 10 years ago, and I grew up in Pennsylvania, so I’ve known about Rick Santorum’s as-close-to-literally-crazy beliefs for a long time. In a strange sort of way, I grew up with these candidates, have been familiar with them for years, and I feel a strange sort of almost-but-not-quite affinity for them.
One of the beautiful things about this country is the freedom of democracy, the freedom to choose who to vote for after informing oneself of the competing policies and plans and making the best educated guess for the future of oneself and one’s country. At times, however, I feel guilty of betraying this gift, locking myself firmly into one party for the foreseeable future. I feel like I’m throwing breadcrumbs to the pigeons in the park. I feign interest, sign up for mailing lists, watch the debates so I show up (mis)represented as a Nielsen rating. Sometimes, after wondering why I just sat through another two-hour debate, watching middle-aged white men I won’t vote for sling mud at each other’s campaigns, I even feel like the pigeons.
Maybe it’s just my circumstance. It’s easy to be an idealistic liberal and a fan of raising the taxes when you’re a creative writing major with no job offers and a yearly salary of $0. My dad always tells me I’ll become a Republican once I have a family and a home and bills of my own, and there’s a chance he’s right. For the foreseeable future, though, without that family and home and bills (at least two more election cycles), I’m a pseudo-politically-conscious, semi-informed, Obama-loving, card-carrying Democrat, a political voyeur at a peep show, and I cannot wait for Super Tuesday.