November 8 is Not the End: Sympathy Leading Me Forward

(Everyday Bravery, Day 15)

The turning point for me was Wednesday night’s debate. Specifically, the moment it became clear to me that Hillary Clinton was defending the indefensible (partial-birth abortion), I felt a surge in my chest: Sympathy. Every part of my clenched-up heart, which had for so long been agitated at the thought of all those pro-lifers supporting Donald Trump, just… released.

I still wasn’t there myself. I still wasn’t planning to ditch my write-in dreams. But when I heard Clinton express her support for that most tragic of offenses, I suddenly felt the weight of the obligation that many feel to support her opponent, whoever he may be. I experienced an explosive growth in the sympathy I feel towards pro-lifers who have come to a different conclusion than I have.

Read the rest at the Catholic Review.



This post is the fifteenth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery


Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

Loyally Yours: A Letter to the Republican Party from Pro-life America

(Everyday Bravery, Day 10)


Dear Republican Party,

I know that things have been seeming kind of questionable between us lately (or at least, that other people have been questioning our relationship), so I just wanted to take a moment to reassure you:

I’m not going anywhere.

Sure, there have been some bumps on the road, some unpleasantries. I can find you disappointing. You can take me for granted. Sometimes we fight a little. Sometimes we test the limits of our relationship.

But I’m here to tell you that I really am in your corner. And I’ll stay here as long as you do one little thing for me: Continue to nominate presidential candidates who claim to be pro-life.

I’m not asking much. Your guy doesn’t have to be convincing as a pro-lifer. He doesn’t have to demonstrate any knowledge of the issue or any attachment to it or to me. He doesn’t have to talk about it much. (A mention every now and then at a Christian college is plenty.)

He doesn’t even have to talk about appointing pro-life judges. I’ll do that for him. (And anyway, I know that you, Republican Party, will make sure the pro-life judges happen. Right? Right?)

Your candidate doesn’t have to demonstrate any character or guts or grit. He doesn’t have to be honest or trustworthy. His life doesn’t have to show that he respects the institutions of marriage or the family. Heck, he can even threaten to kill the families of bad guys.

He can be a complete jerk. I mean, come at me: He can be boorish, dismissive, overbearing, mean-spirited. He can demean and belittle people. He can show disdain for the disabled and the unattractive and the unsuccessful. (In other words, for the little guy. But just not for the littlest little guy, if you catch my drift.)

He can be just awful to women. And I mean awful. He can gauge their worth by their appearance. He can rate them. He can use them for his own satisfaction. He can cheat on them and leave them. He can even brag about going up to random women and grabbing their genitalia. I’m cool.

I mean seriously – I am really, really good at taking any issue at all – even the sum of lots of issues – and comparing them to one very particular thing: abortion.

It’s a big thing, to be sure. It’s a super important, super evil thing. It may not be the total of what supposedly makes up the pro-life cause (things like euthanasia and the death penalty and maybe even health care and poverty and war are in there too, I guess), but I’m not going to bother you about the total package. Nah – as long as your main guy makes that one claim, we’re set.

Oh – and he does need to have a pro-choice opponent. But that’s no sweat. We both know the Dems would never put up a candidate who says it’s wrong to kill teeny, tiny innocent babies.

Okay. Once again, just to make sure we’re clear: I want you, Republican Party, to know that I am yours. As long as you nominate a presidential candidate who claims to be pro-life (and I know you always will), I belong to you.

I am completely willing to cast my vote for your guy with a pit in my stomach. I am willing to feel disgusting for you. I am willing to cast aside everything else I stand for, I am willing to make excuses, I am willing to minimize whatever pain your guy might cause me and others (even rape victims).

I’ll do whatever it takes. I promise.

Loyally yours,

Pro-Life America

P.S. I was hoping to not have to spell this out, but it appears I should. This is SARCASM. I may be a proud member of Pro-Life America, but I am greatly concerned about the message the pro-life movement is sending the Republican Party this election cycle. If pro-lifers will support Donald Trump, who won’t they support?



This post is the tenth in a series called Everyday Bravery: A Write 31 Days Challenge. Every day this month I’m publishing a blog post on Everyday bravery – not the heroic kind, not the kind that involves running into a burning building or overcoming some incredible hardship. Rather, the kinds of bravery that you and I can undertake in our real, regular lives. To see the full list of posts in the series, please check out its introduction.

These Walls - Everyday Bravery


Interested in coming along with me as I share stories about my family and chew on the topics of motherhood, politics, and society? Like These Walls on Facebook or follow the blog via email. (Click the link on the sidebar to the right.) You can also follow me on Twitter and Instagram and you can find me at my politics blog at the Catholic Review, called The Space Between.

On My Mind (Vol. 2)

Yesterday morning I published a new post on the new blog, but then rushed my crew off to a fun day at the Maryland Science Center before I could post any links to it. We brought two teenage girl cousins with us, which I highly recommend to anyone considering taking four young children to a museum and waterfront and restaurant. Extra helpers for the win!

These Walls - On My Mind 2

Of course we came home late and then had to scramble to get the little ones to bed, and then of course I had to catch Mr. Donald J. (Why does he insist on that silly J?) Trump’s acceptance speech.

Ugh. Is this really what’s become of us?

(I probably shouldn’t write that, but then I suppose I’ve made my feelings toward Mr. Trump well enough known here already.)

Anyway! Before last night’s speech there were Wednesday night’s speeches (including Ted Cruz’s! So much intrigue!) and I wrote a blog post about them. Well, about them and the convention in general. And the downfall of the Republican Party. And Turkey. And the recent shootings of/by police officers.

So I hope you’ll take a look at it. Here’s an excerpt:

“Many say – and maybe they’re right – that Trump’s done so well because he’s been able to take advantage of white working class anger at such things. But he doesn’t deserve all the credit.

Because it’s not all about those conditions. I think the Republican Party has had an outsized role in its own disruption/decline/dismantling/demise/whatever this is. The Party’s leaders, egged on in recent years by the Tea Party, have made hay by saying that “Washington” was the problem.

Well, what did they think they were going to do when voters (understandably) decided that “Washington” includes Republicans too? And not just the old-school, committee chairman-type Republicans – the Tea Party types too. The Ted Cruzes.

A whole generation of Republican politicians has made promises they could not keep. They have conditioned the electorate to expect ever wilder promises, to reach toward ever more unattainable goals. It’s no surprise that they faltered when they were called out for not delivering what couldn’t be delivered in the first place.”

Head on over to the Catholic Review for the rest.

The Space Between - On My Mind 2


#NeverTrump: It’s Not Enough to Not Be Hillary

Last night when I heard that Ted Cruz had suspended his presidential bid, I thought my heart would stop. I stood at the kitchen sink, motions suspended, heart feeling like it would slow to nothing.

I had not expected him to drop out. I didn’t even like Cruz, but I counted on him to be there until the end. I clung to the hope that he and Kasich could drive us to a contested convention, where surely the majority of Republicans who dislike Trump would finally triumph.

I thought somehow we would be saved. (INDIANA, YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO SAVE US!)

I’m numb as I consider the future of this race, and indeed this country. I’m disturbed to think of the millions who voted for Trump. I’m generally pretty respectful of those with whom I disagree, but this time I can’t muster it. I cannot respect those who would vote for a bullying, lying, irrational, ill-tempered, inconsistent, incoherent, outrageous showman. Or (for those who think Trump isn’t really as bad as he makes himself out to be) for one who plays that act in order to get votes. Donald Trump has pandered to our basest instincts, to our worst fears, to the darkest, most selfish parts of ourselves – and it has worked. For shame.

So no, I most definitely will not be voting for Trump in November.

“But, but… Hillary!” you might cry. “You don’t want Hillary to win, do you?”

No, of course I don’t. I do not like Hillary Clinton. I think she lacks integrity and I think she thinks that she can play by a different set of rules from the rest of us. I disagree with many of her policy positions (most especially when it comes to abortion) and I think she views people who are ideologically different from her – people like me – with disdain.

But I base my support (or opposition, as the case is here) of candidates on a number of measures, and not being Hillary Clinton is not one of them.

I want to agree with my candidate on the issues.

This is probably the most obvious thing to consider when choosing a candidate, but it can also be the hardest to achieve. Have I ever encountered a politician with whom I agree on everything? Doubtful. I subscribe to what you might call the Catholic platform: I’m staunchly pro-life, by which I mean I’m against abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. But (and I really shouldn’t feel like I have to say “but” here) I’m also for programs and policies that help struggling people get ahead in life. Housing, health care, workforce issues – you name it – I think government has a role (a role, not the only role) to play in improving people’s lives. I also believe in recognizing the dignity and potential of all people via fair asylum and immigration policies (i.e. NOT A WALL) and just religious freedom protections.

I doubt that Donald Trump and I agree on any of those issues. (Though honestly it can be a little hard to tell, what with how scattered and nonsensical he is when describing where he stands.) When it comes to Hillary Clinton, ironically, I may actually agree with her on a few issues. Imagine that.

I want my candidate to have integrity.

If there’s one glaring thing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have in common, it’s probably their spectacular lack of integrity. Clinton’s got Benghazi and the phone hacking scandal (and years of more) under her belt; Trump’s got so much I don’t even know where to begin. I don’t trust either of them to act honorably in office. So unfortunately, the integrity measure is pretty much moot in this match-up.

I want my candidate to be capable.

Here’s somewhere I see a difference between the two candidates. Like her or loathe her, I think Clinton would be capable at governing. I realize that to some of her foes, Clinton’s potential for governing capably is just another reason to fear her, but I guess I think a functioning presidency would be better for the country than a sloppy, reckless, fumbling one. Sue me.

I want my candidate to be able to work with people with whom they disagree.

I know that in this election cycle, lots and lots of people want candidates who promise to go into office ready to “blow up Washington.” Well, count me boring or deluded or out-of-touch or something, but I expect elected officials to actually be able to work with other people to get things accomplished. We got into this mess by demonizing those with whom we disagree. Doing more of the same won’t get us out of it.

This is another measure on which both candidates are spectacularly bad. Trump belittles those who oppose him, he calls people names, he makes people who disagree with him out to be idiots, he even incites violence against them. And Clinton, well, her talk of wanting to be a president for all Americans is pretty much laughable. Hillary Clinton is one of the most divisive figures in modern political history. She’s not going to stop being divisive because she’s got Trump for an opponent. I’m sure she’ll be the same sort of “inclusive” president as Obama – she’ll be happy to work with you as long as you think she’s right.

#NeverTrump: It's Not Enough To Not Be Hillary - 1

How I’m feeling right now.

In sum, I cannot think of one compelling reason to vote for Donald Trump in November. I don’t agree with him and I have no confidence that the Republican label will magically make him fall in line. (He has campaigned exactly as he pleases, he’ll govern exactly as he pleases. I think pro-lifers, in particular, are deluding themselves to think he’ll be better than Clinton.) He lacks integrity. He is in all likelihood incapable of or unwilling to govern responsibly. He seems constitutionally unable to work with those with whom he disagrees. There’s nothing left. He ticks none of my boxes.

Moreover, Donald Trump is absurdly, outrageously awful. He makes a mockery of our electoral system and the values for which our country stands – the values for which I stand.

It’s not enough to not be Hillary.

So what am I going to do? Who will I vote for? I’ll either choose a third-party candidate or I’ll write one in. I happen to live in a state that will go for Hillary regardless, so I know that my vote against Trump but not for Hillary won’t somehow help him. But if I did live in a state where the competition was very tight, if I did think that choosing a third-party candidate would be helpful to Trump… I would vote for Clinton. I hate to say that. But I would do it. Our country is too important to dump into the lap of Trump.

#NeverTrump: It's Not Enough To Not Be Hillary

A Vote of No Confidence in the Republican Party

A week ago, I was feeling a punchy sort of delight in the wackiness of that particular moment in politics. I was noticing a strange phenomenon in my media consumption (social and otherwise): cohesion. A sense of togetherness, a shared purpose. Half the nation seemed to be biting its collective fingernails over a common bogeyman: Donald Trump.

I saw liberals pleading for their fellows to switch party affiliation so they could help select a more palatable Republican nominee. I saw conservatives pledging support for a third-party candidate or even (gasp!) the dreaded Hillary Clinton should Trump receive the Republican nomination. I read solid cases against him and detailed strategies for ensuring he lost the nomination. I saw #NeverTrump, #AnyoneButTrump, #StopTrump, and #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain. I read virtually identical anti-Trump Facebook posts from my most liberal and my most conservative friends.

It seemed ironic to me that the thing to bring so many of us together across party and ideological lines was our shared horror at the thought of being governed by The Donald. Could Trump, in some backwards way, prove to be our nation’s great unifier after all? My poli-sci major brain was half-way giddy at the prospect.

Today, though, those feelings have evaporated. All I feel is dread.

I mourn the loss of Marco Rubio, my favorite of this year’s candidates. But more than that, I mourn the loss of the hope that somehow this race would turn around. That somehow the two-thirds of Republicans who disapprove of Trump would get it together well enough to settle on a strong, honorable candidate for the presidency. And that such a candidate would be able to work towards healing the Republican Party (and later, the country).

Today, those hopes seem lost.

More than that. Today, I think I’ve finally given up hope in the Republican Party. And that is so hard for me to admit.

I grew up in the Party, wearing my Republican granddad’s campaign shirts at parades and fundraisers, urging my elementary school classmates to support George H.W. Bush’s campaign and my college classmates to support his son’s. I defended Reagan and Bush and Dole and Bush and McCain and Romney.

But I think I’m done now.

I’m reminding myself that politics is, at its core, nothing more than the method by which differently-minded people work out how to govern together. And that political parties are nothing more than tools to make that process function more efficiently.

As groups of (ever-changing) people, Parties’ principles, the ideas that bond them together, shift over time:

There is nothing immutable about the way the two parties currently line up. Republicans used to be the big-government progressive party, formed in opposition to slavery and pushing to remodel the South after the civil war; they have also been the small-government party, not only now, but in opposition to the New Deal in the 1930s. Democrats were once the small-government party, opposing those who wanted a more powerful federal government and defending the interests of white southerners against Washington; now they are famous as the big-government party, pushing federal anti-poverty programmes in the 20th century and government involvement in health care in the 21st.

Political parties are not religions. They are not nationalities. They are not perfect and they are not permanent. They are simply groups of like-minded people who band together in the hope of having more of a say in how they are governed.

I am not obliged to support any one of them.

In this time of Donald Trump, this time of discontent and proud disloyalty and redrawn lines, who can say what the Republican Party stands for anymore?

I have no confidence that the Party that will be on the ballot in November will in any way reflect my values or my priorities. So no, I won’t pledge to support the Party’s eventual nominee. I’m tired of feeling bound to a group that seems more scattered, more angry, more dysfunctional every year.

I think I’m done now.

These Walls - A Vote of No Confidence in the Republican Party


What This Catholic Wants In a President (And How the Candidates Measure Up) – Part One

Welcome to my very first series!

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President

I’m excited to be undertaking this little project – something of a departure from most of my recent posts, which have waxed sentimental on home and love and my three beautiful little boys.

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part One - 1

Sniff, sniff. Maybe it’s the pregnancy hormones.

Anyway, this series is not a departure from my most recent post, nor will it be surprising to anyone who’s clicked over to this tab.

This week you’ll be getting three posts from me on the topic:

  • Tonight I give you Part One, in which I describe where I come from, politically, and explain why my Catholic faith has had a major influence on my political outlook.
  • Tomorrow you’ll get Part Two, in which I’ll discuss some of the qualities I want in a president, the kind of experience I want him or her to have had, and a few broad issues (government size, taxes, bipartisan cooperation) that tend to have an impact on the more specific, exciting ones.
  • Friday you’ll get Part Three, in which I’ll get into those more specific, exciting political issues – ones like abortion, immigration, the environment, etc.

Beginning next week, and going on for however long I have the stomach for it, I’ll be periodically posting my thoughts on how the individual candidates stack up to my little (okay, long) list of qualifications. I doubt I’ll get to all of them (sooo… maaany… caaandidates…), but I hope to get to most, including all of the frontrunners.

Thanks for joining me today! I hope you’ll come back to check out the rest of the series.


As a refresher to long-time readers and an introduction to newer ones, let me start by sketching out why this stay-at-home mom makes a habit of writing about politics. And Catholicism. And the meeting of the two.

First and foremost, I grew up in a political family who happened to be Catholic. (Not the other way around.)

My Granddad, who has been involved in Republican politics for most of his life, served as a local elected official through most of my childhood. My aunts and uncles served as treasurers and campaign managers on Granddad’s and others’ campaigns, and we all pitched in on election days. My childhood memories are full of political fundraisers, campaign signs, parades, and the Republican booth at the county fair. It remains rare for us to have a family gathering in which politics isn’t discussed.

In college, I majored in political science. After graduation, I worked for the federal government. Later, I worked as a lobbyist.

And through it all, ever so gradually, my Faith grew more important to me.

In high school, I defended the Church – and especially her position on abortion – from precocious friends who delighted in the debate. In college, I was exposed to devout Catholics (some of them seminarians) who were far more grounded in the Faith than I was. I was challenged by professors (representing a range of religions and political persuasions) who expected logical, well-formed arguments. I interned for an organization that represented the Church’s positions on political matters. I wrote my thesis on why and how the faithful American Catholic fits neatly into neither political party.

As a young professional, though I worked a very staid, governmentish government job, I dabbled in buzzing, what-do-you-do, who-do-you-know Washington. And I was sorely tempted by it. Ultimately, though, I found my place advocating on behalf of the Church, for the poor and the immigrant and those whose religious freedom was under threat. I remained there for over five years, until full-time motherhood beckoned.


I may be a lifelong Republican, born into a solidly, actively Republican family, but I wouldn’t say I’m your typical Republican. (As if any member of the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Tea Partyers and Pro-Lifers and farmers and Wall Street’ers can really be called ‘typical’.)

Because first and foremost, I’m a Catholic. And that designation will always mean more to me than that of ‘Republican.’

For one, my Faith forms and encapsulates my convictions on God and goodness and justice and salvation and eternity. (And really, what can be more important than those things?)

For another, political parties change their stripes all the time. What was liberal becomes conservative, what was conservative becomes populist, what was popular becomes unpopular. Polls change, trends change, issue positions slip and slide all over the place. But the Church – and the Truths she defends – they remain steady.

So if I attach myself to a thing so of-this-world as a political party at the expense of the Truths and rights and wrongs of particular issues and particular candidates – well then, I think I’ve erred, not just logically, but morally.

So I no longer go down the list and think that anyone with an (R) after their name is good enough. I no longer look for my crop of political priorities in the platform of the Republican Party.

Instead, I start with the fundamental Truth that underlies the Church’s position on most of the issues that people consider ‘political’: All human life is sacred.

All human life is sacred – no matter its age or condition or station.

That means the unborn baby at risk of abortion, the pregnant woman with no financial or emotional support, the child growing up in poverty, the black man unjustly targeted by police, the police officers who risk their lives for the safety of their communities, the undocumented immigrant, the refugee abroad, the serviceman completing his third tour, the murderer on death row, the cancer patient living out her remaining days in hospice care – all of their lives are sacred.

And I’m obliged to favor policies that respect the importance of those lives.

So that’s what I try to do. And that’s what I want ‘my’ presidential candidate to do – because yes, I want a president who reflects my values.

Why, you might ask, do I still identify as a Republican when I no longer agree to always toe the Republican line? I suppose it’s because I still want a place in our imperfect, limited political system. (And specifically, I want to be able to vote in primaries.) The fact remains that we have just two major political parties in this country and most anyone who wants to make a difference has to choose one or the other. Between the two, the answer for me is still clearly: R.


To close, allow me to clarify two points:

  • First, though I prioritize the Church’s teachings in my own political decision-making, and though I used to lobby for the Church, I do not claim to speak for it. For the Church’s official positions on national-level policy questions, please see the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Some of the issues I discuss in this series will have a clear connection to those the USCCB advocates on. Others will not.
  • Second, though I may hold a degree in political science, I am no political scientist. I’m a stay-at-home mom who pays a greater-than-average attention to the news. Feel free to call me out on anything you think I’ve gotten wrong.

Thanks again for joining me. I hope to have you back here tomorrow!

These Walls - What This Catholic Wants in a President Part One - 2

7 Quick Takes on Last Night’s Debate (Vol. 35)

Has it really been a full week since I’ve posted? Nah… can’t be. At least it doesn’t feel like it, because I’ve been doing so much writing. (Which has felt great!) I was trying to get something out in time for last night’s debates, but I just couldn’t pull it off. C’est la vie.


The silver lining to the situation is that I now have enough written to kick off a little series (Is this my first series? I think it might be) next week:

These Walls - 7QT on Last Night's Debates - 2

I’ll begin with a few posts on (you guessed it) what I want in a President and what my Catholic faith has to do with it. Then I’ll follow with several posts on (you guessed again) how I think the individual candidates measure up.

Should be fun!

Now, on to this week’s 7 Quick Takes regarding last night’s prime-time Republican presidential debate.

Seven Quick Takes Friday


First of all, this thing (the prime-time debate) was so much more fun than I expected it to be! I was kind of dreading watching the debate, approaching it as a sort of duty. I figured it would produce an annoying combination of boredom and discomfort, and I feared that most of the candidates would cower in the presence of The Donald. (Cringe.)

But no fear! Right out of the gate, the challenges started coming fast, with Fox panelists asking really tough questions of the candidates – especially of Trump. The first was perfect:

“Is there anyone on stage, and can I see hands, who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”

Of course Mr. Trump raised his hand. Good to have that out there in the open – he won’t promise, in the event he loses the Republican primary, not to run an independent campaign during the general election. Lovely.

And it went on. I don’t think time was distributed quite fairly – a few candidates (namely, Ben Carson) seemed to get passed over for the more interesting-to-the-panelists candidates (including John Kasich, who barely made it into the group of ten, based on his poll numbers) — but I thought each candidate was asked fair, tough questions. There were some interesting exchanges and verbal tussles (namely, between Rand Paul and Chris Christie), and some great quotes and one-liners.

In sum, I’m no fan of Fox News, but I was generally impressed with how they conducted the debate.

But, I was really annoyed by that last question, on God, asked by a Facebook user:

“I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first.”

I’m not opposed to the candidates being asked questions regarding their faith and how it plays into their policy priorities. (That’s kind of my thing here.) But the way it was phrased just seemed silly to me. And it probably seemed gleefully absurd to most Democrats.


More fun than the debate itself, perhaps, was following along with others via Facebook and Twitter. I was taking notes on my laptop to prepare myself for writing this post and at one point I typed: “Okay, having a hard time keeping up here now because Twitter and FB are way too much fun.” They were! I’m honestly looking forward to the next debate.

Here’s some of what I was tweeting and re-tweeting:

These Walls - 7QT on Last Night's Debate - 3

These Walls - 7QT on Last Night's Debate - 4


Now for my take on the winners (as I declare them to be):

Marco Rubio. He looked great — came across as really composed and comfortable – “presidential”, even. He was articulate and on-point and made valuable contributions to the debate. I couldn’t help but relish the idea of him going up against Hillary Clinton in a general election debate. I went in liking the guy and came away more impressed than I expected to be. He might just have what it takes.

John Kasich. I also went in liking him and he did not disappoint (except for maybe bringing up the fact that his father was a mailman a few too many times). He had good, well-put-together answers and came across as both compassionate and competent. We need a dose of both right now.

Ted Cruz. I am no fan of the guy. Honestly, between his Evangelical-preacher demeanor (sorry, Evangelicals), his willingness to advance himself at the expense of the Party, and his position on immigration, he bugs the heck out of me. But I think he did a good job last night. He was composed and articulate and probably persuasive, if you didn’t already think he was a big creeper. (I wouldn’t know, being a member of that camp myself.)

Mike Huckabee. Again, I’m not a big fan. There’s nothing (or not much) I substantively dislike about him, but I don’t think he has a snowball’s chance in hell with the general electorate. So, you know – why bother? But he did well last night. He looked more comfortable than any of the others (save maybe Rubio) – really in his element. And his responses were smart, colorful, and likeable.

Rand Paul. Another one of whom I am decidedly not a fan. On him, though, it’s mostly a matter of substance – I’m just about as far removed from a libertarian as a Republican can come. The guy might be perfectly lovely – I don’t know and I honestly don’t care. To his fans, he probably came across very well. He spoke a fair amount, he got in several (seemingly well-rehearsed) one-liners, and he had a nice little tussle with Chris Christie. (All of which is why I’m putting him in the “winner” category.) But he still seems like such a niche candidate to me. I don’t think he translates any better to the masses now than he did before the debate.

Ben Carson. This one surprised me. Being from Maryland, I’ve known of him (as a famous pediatric neurosurgeon) for years, so I’m naturally fond of him. But he’s a complete political novice (more so even than Mr. Trump, who excels in the politics of business and television), and I really expected him to flounder. He did nothing of the sort. He didn’t get much air time, but he used his opportunities well, coming across as intelligent and comfortable; he even seemed like he was enjoying himself. I didn’t love all his answers, but I thought he both held his own and made a generally favorable impression. His campaign has more of a future than I’d thought.


And my take on the “meh” middle and the outright losers. (But what do I know?)

Scott Walker. He could really go either way. His answers seemed solid, so I know some people will put him in the “winners” camp. But he just seemed so flat to me. I guess I had a more fiery impression of him, because boy, was I unimpressed with his demeanor. He did nothing to stand out and in such a large field of candidates, I think that will be a handicap.

Chris Christie. Again with the going either way. He seemed very him on his answers, which his supporters will like. But he also seemed flat, which (again) surprised me, given his reputation. Moreover, I just don’t think he did much to win over the (sizeable) number of people who are lukewarm-to-hostile on him. I was kind of bored with his contribution.

Donald Trump. I just cannot stand that man. He was obnoxious and his answers were shallow and abrasive — exactly as I had expected. But I’m still shocked that as many people like him as they do, so who knows — what I saw as the height of annoying they may have seen as appealing. I have no idea. I give up.

Jep Bush. I like the guy – I always have. But for all his experience and money, he has a HUGE hurdle to overcome, given his surname. (I mean, while writing this I accidentally typed “George Bush.”) And I don’t think he performed nearly well enough to begin to move past it. I thought he looked uncomfortable and out of his element. It was painfully obvious just how long it’s been since he’s participated in a debate. Worse, his answers were just kind of okay and he didn’t seem to exude any of his brother’s joy or energy. He struck me as a candidate from another, less interesting generation. I walked away thinking of him as a less formidable competitor than I expected.


I didn’t get to watch the 5pm, second-tier debate (witching-hour viewing with three boys under the age of six? not gonna happen), but I’ve heard that Carly Fiorina did really, really well. I’ll have to check it out. I know very little about her.


You know I’ve got to say something more about Trump.

He dominated in the run-up to the debate and maybe he’ll dominate in the wake of it, but I’m glad that he didn’t get more air time during the debate than he did. Because just the idea of Donald Trump was so distracting to me, I had a hard time focusing on the others.

I can hardly describe to you just how much that man bothers me. I could go on and on. But at one point I posted the following on social media, and I’ll let it sum up my opinion of the guy:

“I’m trying to take notes on this thing, but every time I get to Trump, I can’t seem to write anything but: JERK.”


As for those I’m more favorably disposed to, I went in liking Bush, Rubio, and Kasich, but I wasn’t sure if any of them really had what it takes. Based on their performances last night, I’m less sure than ever about Bush. But I’m more hopeful than I expected to be about Rubio and Kasich. I plan to look into them further. Both strike me as pragmatic and positive, and compassionate to those who are struggling. It’s a good start.


Thanks for indulging my poly-sci-major giddiness about yesterday’s debates. I hope you’ll come back next week for the beginning of my little series. And I hope you’ll head over to Kelly’s today to check out the other Quick Takes! Have a great weekend!

These Walls - 7QT on Last Night's Debate - 5

Full Disclosure

As I plan to write about some political and religious issues on this blog, I thought it would be useful to provide a little background on the evolution of my outlook in these areas. (I have all these country songs running through my head as I write this: “Where I Come From,” “God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you,” etc.)

I thought this little ‘disclosure of my biases,’ as I think of it, would be useful for a few reasons: (1) Political and religious subjects can be pretty touchy. (No surprise there.) (2) Our opinions on them usually have a strong basis in our own life experiences. (3) I aim to be as fair, open, and even-handed on this blog as I can be. And (4) I personally prefer news and commentary sources that either (a) represent both sides of an issue equally well or (b) openly disclose their opinions and make no pretense of impartiality. So I kind of thought I’d cover all my bases.

But before I go any further, let me say that this post makes me nervous and I had a hard time writing it. (Which is part of the reason I wrote so few posts this past week. I was trying to take this one in a different direction and it stumped me.) The words below represent my past and my thought processes and my faith, family, and friends, and it’s all very personal. It’s also probably a big ol’ case of TMI. But I felt like I needed to get all this out there before I proceed with a bunch of other posts I have lined up in my head.


I was raised Catholic in that I regularly attended mass with my mother and I was provided with a religious education through our parish. But my father is not Catholic and there was little mention of faith in our (very happy) home. These days when I read blogs that mention a devotion to this saint, or a fondness for that novena, or a special attachment to such-and-such prayer, or a thousand little ways to live out the liturgical seasons, I feel kind of lost. Like I don’t fully fit into a community that should be my own. Yes, I’m Catholic. Yes, I love Christ, I am devoted to His Church, and faithful to its teachings. But no, I’m not familiar with all the trappings of my Faith.

While there wasn’t much discussion of religion in my family, there was a lot about politics. My grandfather was a local elected official, so I was exposed to campaigns and political chatter from a young age. Various family members worked on Granddad’s campaigns and we all helped on Election Day (which was just about my favorite day of the year when I was a child). My family was (and remains) very Republican in a very Democratic state, so I was instilled with a strong attachment to conservative ideals, but no illusion that these ideals were universal. (Rather, I understood that they were uncommon and needed to be defended.)

In my (public) high school I had a great group of smart, articulate, and religiously/politically diverse friends. And we liked a good debate. As the sole practicing Catholic and one of the only conservatives, I became the defender of all things Catholic and some things conservative. Just as my family’s experience as members of a minority party had prodded my attachment to conservatism, so my lunch-table debate experience bonded me to my Faith. Not that I understood it very well: eight years of Sunday school and one year of confirmation class do not a well-informed Catholic make. But my own little role as Defender of the Faith prompted me to research, ask questions, contemplate, and pray.

This all set the stage nicely for my next step: a political science major at a Catholic college. More lunch table discussions, this time with classmates and seminarians who had been raised in devoutly Catholic families, gave me glimpses of the depth and beauty awaiting me in the Church. Philosophy and theology classes helped me to better understand it. And my political science courses, not to mention informal discussions with friends and professors, gave me an appreciation for the broader context in which we live out our religious ideals. I had always been interested in the convergence of differing ideas; in college I became particularly interested in the convergence of politics and religion.

I wrote my senior thesis on “The American Catholic and the Two Political Parties,” which explored the poor fit between the Church’s teachings on matters of public policy and the ideological break-out of today’s American political parties. I also completed an internship with a Catholic organization that advocated on behalf of the Church’s public policy interests. Several years later, after a stint with the federal government, I returned to the organization to work as a lobbyist for the Church.

There, I was tasked with representing the Church’s positions on social justice matters, which included a wide range of issues related to poverty, housing, health care, and immigration. (Along with a few others.) Most of the positions were what Americans would call “liberal.” Which was a real challenge for me. Coming from a conservative background, I was comfortable with the Church’s teachings on abortion and marriage. I was comfortable promoting school choice. But the Church’s social justice teachings made me uncomfortable. I didn’t necessarily think they were wrong; it’s just that they challenged the political ideals under which I was raised and so they caused discomfort.

Oh, what a learning and growing experience it was for me. I read and I talked to people and I prayed.  I began to gain something of an understanding of people who faced challenges that I never had – people who struggled to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads, people who came to this country seeking a better life, people whose poor health or poor treatment by others or whose own poor decisions had stymied their chances of making it on their own – and even people who struggled to be able to function in society at all. I was changed and I was humbled.

I was grateful for the opportunity to give voice to these people’s concerns – and also for what I felt was an opportunity to bring people closer to Christ through this work of His Church. I feel like a cheesy ball of mush writing this, but I had so many moving experiences doing this work: I huddled in a group of elderly immigrant women and tried to convey to them (through our language barrier) that their Church was there for them. I spoke to crowds at parishes and pleaded with them to connect their own preferred cause for the “least of these” with another that was more challenging for them. I testified before lawmakers and told them, time and again, that all human life has value, regardless of its age or station.

Perhaps I have digressed. What I’m trying to explain is that, yes, I come from a particular place on the political spectrum. I get the conservative thing. But I have also been emerged in an unfamiliar (liberal) political territory, and I got to know it too. I feel richer for the experience.

When I was a lobbyist, I found that I could lobby more effectively when I put myself in the shoes of my opponents – imagining and even empathizing with their motivations. I think the same holds true when you’re discussing a difficult subject. All too often these days, people seem to regard consideration of and empathy with “the other side” as a sign of weakness, even foolishness. But it is such an asset. Sure, it helps you to build a solid case for your own cause. But more importantly, it helps you to explore your own opinions and motivations and be sure that you’re on the right course.

When you get together a group of people who all bring this kind of consideration to their conversation – well, that kind of discussion moves everyone forward in understanding. That is what I feel my background has prepared me for and that is what I hope to encourage with this blog.