• Julie Cali

The Time I Took My Grandma Sandy to Vote for Mitt Romney

#vote #election2022

As long as I can remember, my grandma Sandy, a single parent who tried to buy a car and was told to come back with her husband, had been a women’s right advocate. She marched with the National Organization of Women, and championed her role in advancing the rights of women. The Roe v. Wade decision was a crown she wore proudly, knowing that her part in the process had helped secure reproductive autonomy for me and my sisters and our children. But after 9/11, my grandma retreated from her liberal views and positions. Fearful that we had to secure our borders, she made a turn to the right. I argued with her that George W. Bush, a Republican, had been President during the attack and that all 19 hijackers arrived here legally on visas, but her mind was made up. And with that, the ideology she spouted changed drastically.

Then came the election of 2012. At the age of 85, my grandma was legally blind and unable to vote unassisted. But knowing that it was important to her to do her civic duty and knowing it was important to our country to have all voices represented, I offered to take her. When we arrived at my old childhood library, using her walker, she proudly walked herself into the building, only letting me open the door. She wanted to be as independent as she could. I advised the workers she was legally blind, and I needed to assist her. In our booth, I read to her all the choices, and voted for exactly who she wanted, including choosing Mitt Romney as President. I kept telling her that they were coming for Roe, but she honestly thought they wouldn’t. Although we disagreed, I respected her decision, and cast her ballot. Every vote and opinion matters, even if it is not the same as mine.

Politics have probably always been contentious and personal, just as a child I was immune to the rhetoric and noise. Ultimately, the strength of our country comes from its protection of liberty and freedom, but as with most things, sometimes my ability to exercise my freedom might clash with your ability to exercise yours. Part of living in a functional democracy is recognizing this give and pull, and fighting to shift the pendulum to your side. As a lawyer, I know that throughout our country’s history, we have used the Courts to mull over and decide when freedoms are absolute, protected by government intrusion, and when freedoms can be limited. The Venn diagram of when liberty can be justifiably impeded marked out in a labyrinth of constitutional tests; strict scrutiny is used to review laws restricting fundamental rights; intermediate scrutiny for laws restricting certain protected classes; and rational basis used for other laws, generally economic in nature.

The Dobbs decision overturned a women’s right to choose as a fundamental right, thereby no longer making such laws subject to strict scrutiny. I am concerned what this could mean for other rights, like the right to marry. Could states once again restrict you from marrying outside your race? From having a same sex union? On the other pendulum, people are concerned about the laws interfering with their rights to bear arms or bodily autonomy for vaccines. I was upset during Covid that our governor overruled the will of my county school board to prevent mask mandates; but people up North were upset that their governor overruled the will of their local school board to not require masks. I think in both instances our local school boards should have been able to choose.

Everybody wants freedom and choice—it’s just a matter of what freedoms or choices they are fighting for. These issues will play out over the next few years in our courts and in our legislatures, and if you feel strongly one way or another you should be active in that process. But, as with me taking my grandma to vote for Mitt Romney, we need to be respectful of our differences, and encourage civil political discourse. I pray the events of January 6th don’t mark an end to the peaceful transition of power that has marked our country’s history since the election of 1800. I have many friends who do not think the same as me, and that is okay. I don’t want to live in a bubble surrounded by people who only repeat my own opinions, but I also don’t want to live surrounded by people so caught up in their political beliefs they don’t respect mine. And in the end, I hope we can see our common ground, and use that as a building block to move forward.

In my grandma’s latter years, she once again turned to the left, aligning with the call for civil freedoms. She’d be appalled that Roe was overturned. When my sister and I participated in the Women’s March in 2016, she called the local N.O.W. chapter to add us to their rooster and send us registration cards. Her sense of advocacy, her belief in an individual playing a role in the political process is what I carry in my heart, and what I will hopefully install in my children. The political system acts at the will of the people, and if your party doesn’t “win” today, it doesn’t mean they can’t win next time.