Democrat Lynette Long, a therapist from Bethesda, speaks about switching her support to the Republican presidential ticket at a rally in Fairfax County for nominee John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin. (By Susan Biddle — The Washington Post) Democrat Lynette Long, a therapist from Bethesda, speaks about switching her support to the Republican presidential ticket at a rally in Fairfax County for nominee John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin. (By Susan Biddle — The Washington Post)Lynette Long, a Clinton Democrat in the District, is campaigning for the GOP presidential ticket. (By Nikki Kahn — The Washington Post)
Lynette Long’s friends can barely sputter their objections. “How could you?” they say. “What about the environment? What about gay rights? What about Roe v. Wade?” Long’s son calls, flabbergasted. And her patients in affluent, liberal Bethesda? They can hardly fathom it.
Lynette Long — psychologist, feminist, Democrat, Dupont Circle dweller, Whole Foods shopper, George Bush hater, Hillary Clinton supporter (to the max) — is not just voting for John McCain and Sarah Palin, she even took the stage at their rally in Fairfax to trumpet her decision to the world.
Long got the call from the McCain campaign at 10 the night before the rally this month. With a twinkle in her eye, the struggle for women in her heart and a bit of mischief in her mind, she agreed to be a warm-up speaker for the Republican ticket.
She had never been to a candidate’s rally before. She had voted for the Democrat for president in every election except for the elder George Bush’s first time, against Michael Dukakis in 1988. Sure, she had demonstrated against the Vietnam War, but she basically wasn’t the political type. That is, until Hillary Clinton came along.
All of a sudden, Long saw hope. As she told her son: “How would you feel if every day all the people you saw in authority were men, all the statues in Washington are all men, the money in your pocket, all pictures of men — and then finally, a woman comes along and she could be president? How would you feel? I would vote for her.”
Long didn’t just vote for Clinton in the D.C. primary. She blogged for her, campaigned for her, even wrote op-ed columns about her. But as Clinton’s campaign faltered, Long felt wronged. She blogged about purported irregularities in caucus voting, accused Barack Obama and his supporters of taking women for granted, put all her hope in the Democrats picking a woman for vice president.
After Clinton’s campaign ended, Long was among a group of local supporters who called McCain headquarters, asking, “What can you do for us?” To Long’s shock, they were invited to a meeting — with McCain himself.
“We told him we wanted gender parity, on the Supreme Court and in the Cabinet, and he listened,” she says. “His eyes opened.” At meeting’s end, a senior staffer asked Long if she would endorse their man
“No way,” Long said. “I’m a Hillary supporter.”
Then, lo and behold, Sarah Palin happened.
By coincidence, Long was on an Alaskan cruise that week. “Everybody there loved” Palin, Long says. “I could see people glowing with pride.”
The next time the McCain campaign called, Long was ready. She had 10 hours to write a speech, sleep and get herself to Fairfax City.
“What do you want me to say?” she asked the organizer. “Do you want to see my speech?”
Whatever you want to say, she was told. And no, we don’t need to see it.
“I was shocked,” Long says. “I wouldn’t let someone go up and speak without seeing the speech. But they did, and that told me something about the man.”
Long agrees that Palin is not exactly, um, worldly, and that she lacks a certain base of knowledge. (“But I know character and instincts, and she is real.”) And yes, Long vehemently disagrees with the Republicans’ social conservatism.
But other factors trump those issues, she says, naming Obama’s inexperience, Clinton’s treatment by her party and the media, and the Democrats’ failure to choose a female running mate.
The issue that has most of Long’s friends recoiling in abject horror from her decision is abortion. Long calls herself unwaveringly “pro-choice.” But, she says, “as long as we let that determine our votes, we are hostages to the Democrats. If someone really tried to turn around choice, there’d be a revolution in this country. And I’m not going to let a future possibility nullify my vote. Women have sacrificed our power as the largest voting bloc in the nation because of one issue, abortion.”
Now hold on: Long disagrees with McCain on many issues and concedes Palin’s limitations. Then, when her e-mail lights up with unfounded rumors that Obama might dump Joe Biden and switch to Hillary Clinton, she nearly explodes with excitement. Is she really pro-McCain, or is she just being provocative?
Long is the kind of person who is drawn to a fire, she grants that. She says she wore her Palin button to the Whole Foods on 14th Street NW just to see if she’d get a rise out of the assembled crunchies. No one would even look her in the eye, she reports.
She seems downright gleeful as she describes her fellow liberals’ faces draining of blood when she sings Palin’s praises. But when I suggest that the McCain camp is using her even as she uses it to teach fellow Democrats a lesson about taking women for granted, she says: “No, that’s too crass. You have to break down a house to rebuild it, but Palin is likable, popular and has integrity. She’s a person who will listen. Is she smart enough to do the job? Hey, Reagan was no brain surgeon, but people would follow him. It’s about leadership. Sarah has made mistakes, but out of naivete, not out of corruption.”
Every couple of minutes, Long — looking like the unPalin in black T-shirt, cargo pants and canvas sneakers — reflexively checks her e-mail, revealing a new list of fire-spewing rants accusing her of betrayal, sexism and worse. She loves it.
I posit that her newfound activism is really more about sticking it to Democratic men than about any real belief that McCain might promote the interests of women or that Palin would be a good president should she ascend to that role. Long protests that she really would be happy with a President Palin, a woman who understands the majority of Americans as no man could.
And then she says this: “I just don’t understand how the Democrats couldn’t see that women wanted a woman. I’m not getting back in bed with someone who’s just abused me. Yeah, it’s payback time.”