A Life-Long Republican Goes Blue

Jo Anne Morse is a 67 year-old retired schoolteacher from Florida who, in nearly 50 years of voting, has never voted for a Democrat. In the interest of full disclosure, she is also the author's mother.

In 1968, as a military wife with a toddler son and a husband overseas, she voted for Richard Nixon. In 1984, she scoffed at Geraldine Ferraro's groundbreaking candidacy and voted for Reagan's second term. Even in 2004, amid an unpopular war and darkening economic skies, she never gave a second thought to supporting George W. Bush's second term.

So why the sudden change of heart? Simple, she says. She looked around her and realized that, in the words of Barack Obama himself, the stakes were just too high to do the same thing and pray for different results.

The following is a brief interview conducted last week.

You've been voting for 50 years. Have you voted Republican in every election?
I have, yeah. All my life, growing up, my parents were always Republicans and I thought that was the thing to do - and here I am, 50 years later! I made my decision differently this year.

Why did you decide to switch this year?
I started listening to what he said, and I was always impressed with the way he ran his campaign. He had people all excited about him - he talked about what they should do and they could do, and it was very exciting to see people thrilled about his candidacy.

I feel like he encourages people to do something - to be more than they are. I think he's trying to get them up.

The Republicans have said so much in the campaign - that he's such a liberal senator, and he's just so left. But I keep thinking to myself, I don't think he is.

They say "you don't know somebody till they're in office, he may raise your taxes," but I don't see that.

Are you concerned that he'll raise your taxes?
Well, he says that he'll give tax breaks to 95% of the middle class. So I'm not concerned that he will.

Do you feel like we can trust him to do what he says he will do?
Yes, I feel like we can trust him. Once he gets into office, I know he'll have a lot of people around him pulling him one way or the other. But I feel like he's a good person and an honest person, and I trust his judgment to do the right thing.

Does Obama address the issues that are important to you in this election?
I think he does.

Do you feel like he understands what's important to people?
I think he does. He comes from working with the people in Chicago, trying to help them, and I think he's in touch with people's needs. We don't all have the same needs, but I think he wants to help people and get them going.

I decided to vote for him because he has an understanding of what people are going through, and he can find answers for that. I just had a feeling of trusting him and believing that he could do it.

Is he able to find solutions to those problems and bring them about?
He is. He's obviously a pretty smart guy, and once he gets into office, I think he could find an answer or find a way to an answer for whatever needs to be dealt with.

I've sat here watching him on the campaign and - I guess when I think about it, I'm surprised that I've gone Democratic, but I feel like he can be trusted. And I believe what he has to say about the war.

You like Obama's position on the war?
Yeah, to get out. There's so much on the other side [Republicans' Iraq positions] that I used to think. But it's so ridiculous, how long it's gone on and how many bad things are happening. A lot of people have been lost, and all the money they've spent to get this thing right. And maybe now that the violence is down, maybe...

I just thought, well, maybe Obama has the answers. Everybody seems to have come to that point [phased withdrawal] by now - except McCain. I don't know that McCain is right, either.

What other issues in this election are important to you?
Well, I'm concerned about all the talk of climate change. I think that's got to be dealt with one way or the other. And I think if we could bring people home from the war, then we could get settled to take care of things here in the US. And I think that's what we need to do right now.

Jo Anne used to joke that she couldn't figure out how she and her husband - both socially conservative, fiscally conservative and politically conservative - had raised two liberal sons. Her youngest (yours truly) would respond "you taught us to have an open mind, to care for the neediest among us and to consider the options carefully." This year, she took her own advice.