Westfield, Indiana, is at the very center of Hamilton County, one of the most Republican counties in the country, and the location of my home. It was in my home that a couple of dozen Republicans for Obama (RFOs) met last week to socialize. Yes, I said Republicans for Obama, a phenomenon similar to the Reagan Democrats of the 80's. While the GOP is denying we exist as a movement, the Obama campaign is prepping to support our group on a national level with a presence on barackobama.com as well as staffer support for meetings like this one.
My wife, Sharon, and I have been Republicans since Reagan's first term. We hosted this first "Central Indiana Republicans for Obama In Home Social" on the evening of Thursday, July 24th. Two dozen Republicans attended, as well as several members of the Obama campaign who came to show their support for our nonpartisan efforts. Even a reporter from The Indianapolis Star attended to report on what could be said to be a historic event.
The meeting began with a telephone call from Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower, author of four books, most recently "Partners in Space: US-Russian Cooperation After the Cold War," and outspoken Republican for Obama. Ms. Eisenhower explained that she was first impressed with Barack Obama when Senator Obama called her to request a meeting to discuss foreign policy. When she explained that she was a Republican, and that she didn't intend to support a Democrat, he simply stated that party didn't matter, he was seeking expertise and she came recommended. In time, she became a strong supporter, while remaining a committed Republican.
I told Ms. Eisenhower that the Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman, Charlie White, stated in an interview, "Any past Republican who is supporting the most liberal member of the United States Senate is either not a Republican anymore or they are a former Republican who is into style more than substance." She responded that this sounded too much like "you're either with us or against us" for her taste, and that it was unfair to make such declarations. When her grandfather ran for President as a Republican, he attracted many Democrats, as did Ronald Reagan, and nobody said they were no longer Democrats.
Over snacks, iced tea and lemonade, we each shared our stories of why we've crossed over to support a Democrat in the upcoming Presidential election. For most of us, it's our first time to do so. Attendees included Southern Baptists, Catholics, evangelicals, the nonreligious and even atheists. It was a kind of therapy session for us all, as we are all dedicated to Republican principles but feel we've been betrayed by the neoconservatives who have taken over the Republican Party. We aren't changing parties, and most of us plan to vote for GOP candidates in other positions this year.
The issues of importance were varied, from the Iraq war, to the economy, personal liberty, health care, education, and even life/choice. In each case, we didn't agree with all of Obama's positions, but the ones we did agree on were of higher importance than the ones we didn't. We all agreed that Obama has the leadership and judgment to lead the country in a much-needed new direction of nonpartisanship and independence from special interests and corporate influence.
After our discussion, we broke up and chatted in groups for over an hour, enjoying like-minded fellowship. The energy level was high as we all had stories of other RFOs we know, including "whispering RFOs" who are less public than ourselves, that made it clear we are at the core of a true grass roots movement with political clout.