During the 1992 presidential race, political strategist James Carville hung a sign in Bill Clinton's Little Rock campaign headquarters that read, "The economy, stupid." It kept everyone focused on what he felt was the most important issue. Although it's been slightly amended, the phrase "It's the economy, stupid" is now used by many political candidates as well as the general public and is understandably considered by many to be the most important issue of the current presidential race.
It shouldn't be.
I was raised to believe in our nation's fundamental, core principles of freedom, liberty and equality for all -- the very ideals set forth by our founding fathers and laid out in our Constitution. So strongly did I embrace such principles that when I was old enough I enlisted in the Marine Corps and honorably served in a Force Recon unit, willing and ready to give my life in defense of freedom and equality. Some of my friends did indeed,give their lives for these basic principles. Although I disagreed with my fellow Marines on many issues we worked and fought together for our common beliefs -- beliefs I viewed as nonpartisan and that all Americans wished to protect and defend.
You'd think so, but apparently not.
Certainly, there's a myriad of other issues to consider when deciding whom to cast a vote for, such as job growth, the environment, health care, and economic policies, to name a few. I have my own views on such things, of course, but I respect and appreciate that knowledgeable, intelligent people on all sides can and should (and do) engage in rationale, reasonable civil debate and respectfully disagree on these important topics. I support compromise on most issues. It's the American way.
But here is what I am not willing to compromise on (and neither should any American): freedom, liberty, and equality for all!
Certainly, our nation has not always lived up to its core principles; we've experienced long, difficult struggles for civil rights, women's rights, and other rights. But we've always progressed toward more, expanded freedom and liberty -- not less. Today's Republican Party would take us backward. It would, for example, for the first time in our nation's history, add an amendment to our Constitution that would restrict and deny freedoms and equality to a large segment of our nation's citizens -- including gay men like me.
Today's Republican Party has been hijacked by so-called, self-professed Christian Tea Party types (who hardly practice true Christian principles of nonjudgmental love and acceptance) -- people who would turn our nation into a theocracy, basing national public policies on lies and misinterpretations from an archaic book written as far back as 3,500 years ago, and who continually exhibit harsh judgment, bigotry and hate. They think the Constitution starts with "We the wealthy, white, Christian males" instead of "We the people." They want to turn back the clock; they want to take us backward; they want to reverse hard-won achievements in freedom, liberty, and equal rights. They vow to add an amendment to the Constitution to define marriage as a union between "one man and one woman," which would be the first addition to the U.S. Constitution that ever denied rights, freedoms, and equality to a large portion of Americans. They vow to reinstate the "don't ask, don't tell" policy -- the repeal of which is the most important civil rights achievement in recent years. They pledge to deny and rescind freedoms, rights, liberties, and equality to hundreds of thousands of gay Americans -- simply because we were born genetically wired to be emotionally and physically attracted to the same sex.
I did not voluntarily enlist and serve in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit -- and put my life on the line -- to protect and defend job growth, the environment, health carem or economic policies. The friends of mine who died while serving our nation in the Marine Corps did not sacrifice their lives for job growth, the environment, health care, or economic policies. We did it to protect and defend basic American principles of freedom, liberty, and equality for all.
Yet today's Republican Party would deny me the same freedoms, liberties, rights and equality that other Americans enjoy and take for granted.
The only way the Republican Party will break the bonds and distance itself from the dangerous influence and control of the un-American Tea Party types -- and allow the more rational, reasonable, and intelligent of the bunch to take their party back -- is to send a message, loud and clear, in the upcoming election that we will not tolerate their anti-American agenda.
Simply put: A vote for Romney, Ryan, and other leaders of today's Republican Party is a vote against the American principles of freedom, liberty, and equality for all!
DAVE STALLING is a formerly closeted, former Marine. He is a writer and passionate advocate for gay rights, and a professional wildlife conservationist. He lives in Berkeley, California. Read more of his work at his blog, "OUT Into the Wilds."Read more of his work at his blog, "OUT Into the Wilds"