How and why I’m voting my conscience in November
Once upon a time, I was a proud political activist. Young, outspoken and fearless, I took my college campus by storm. I joined Amnesty International, a human rights group on campus, and quickly became their Social Action Chair. I was eighteen.
Passionately pro-life, I set out to change minds on campus about the death penalty. Those informative anti-death penalty pamphlets found on every table in the dining halls across campus? I made those.
The dramatic anti-death penalty rally held in front of the Student Union every year? That was me too.
Political activism was my future. Or so I thought.
As I matured through college, so did my both my political views and tactics.
I had several activist friends who were involved in different campus groups including, but not limited to, Women’s Action Coalition aka WAC. I referred to these young women as WACkos.
The WACkos just couldn’t shut up about how unfair the world was with their misogyny, rape culture, and trigger warnings. We had fundamental differences. We disagreed about the best way to serve women, and we disagreed about abortion.
To be fair to these well meaning women, the feminist agenda had been pushed down my throat since high school. Every book…every essay…we were always required to analyze with a feminist critic. When research papers were assigned, I was elated to finally be given free will! I chose my topic wisely — feminism! For the next few weeks, as I carefully researched and crafted my paper, I pictured my English teacher, Ms. FemNazi, dancing around the teacher’s lounge giddy with excitement over my chosen topic. I reveled in the horror she’d feel when she read that the entire paper was about the backlash of the feminist movement!
To my surprise, Ms. FemNazi thought my paper was great. I got an A. 🤓
Back to the WACkos at college — their group and the Young Socialists infiltrated every group on campus — including my beloved Amnesty International! Imagine my horror!
One night I was trying to run my Amnesty International meeting, “Thanks for coming everyone. Let’s talk about international human rights violations and write letters to stop them.”
What can I say? I was F-U-N in my early college years.
Just then, the WACkos interrupted me to tell everyone about their “Take Back the Night” rally.
I’m sitting there…listening to the WACkos talk, “blah, blah, blah, boring feminist stuff that no one cares about, blah, blah, blah.”
Then they got my attention.
“We left our banner draped over the entrance to the Idiot Box,” they bragged.
Cue laughing from crazy feminists.
I was pissed. The “Idiot Box” was the bar that the Greeks (fraternities and sororities) typically drank at. It’s real name was the Inn Between or “IB,” and I would work there my senior year of college as a bartender.
I asked them why they left the banner at the front door of this particular establishment (as opposed to one of the other bars in town).
“Well, you know, frat guys get pretty drunk there. There are always couples stumbling out of the bar together at night,” they explained.
“But are they raping anybody?” I asked sincerely.
They didn’t answer.
“What about the small business owners who own that bar — are they condoning rape because they serve alcohol?”
They didn’t really have an answer.
That’s when I knew I was done with my liberal political activism. I wasn’t a Socialist. I wasn’t a WACko. I was a Catholic, and I was pro life. In the future, I would become a registered Republican.
I opposed both abortion and the death penalty, and I realized I didn’t need to be an in your face political activist to influence others. I just needed to talk to them, like the awesome person God created me to be. To my surprise, I was more successful talking about my views with friends while sitting in the dining hall than I ever was passing out flyers or organizing rallies.
I learned that a little humility — a virtue Trump and Clinton both lack — goes a long way.
Recently, my political views changed yet again. I turned on the news and listened to the now infamous hot mic tapes of Donald Trump and Billy Bush.
I poured myself a glass of wine and took my opinion to Twitter.
Almost immediately, I started getting Tweets back about men getting away with it all the time and reports of good, Catholic men (and women!) defending Trump as a the Republican candidate. Some of the men defending Trump were Catholic priests.
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. How could Catholics defend Trump when he behaved in such a vulgar and predatory manner?
I tweeted for over two hours to Catholics #UseTheBrainsGodGaveYou
Political activist Kate was back!
Insulated by strong, good men, like my husband and father, I quickly realized what a privileged, sheltered life I had been leading with regard to sexual harassment and assault.
Although I do have my own #notokay stories, it had easily been 20 years since they happened. I had been “grabbed by the p***y” by a male student in high school. I was 15. Freshman year of college, I was chased across campus by a male student I had seen ogling me earlier at a frat party. I was lucky. I outran that man until I stumbled upon a large group of students coming home from the bar. I knew then, at 18 years old, that the men who tried to sexually assault women didn’t always fit a cookie cutter mold. I would later see the man who chased me at a poetry reading at the local coffee shop.
That night on Twitter, I thought I’d start some sort of revolution — that Catholics everywhere would come to their senses and stop supporting Trump. I quickly learned it would require more effort than hashtags and retweets.
It would require conversations. That’s what I'm trying to start here.
Those WACkos I talked about earlier? Those women were wrong and naive to stereotype rape and sexual assault as a frat guy problem. It’s much larger than that. It’s such a big problem that if either Trump or Clinton wins, we will have a sexual predator in the White House…again. That sickens me.
The national debate over the Trump tapes has convinced me that those young women from the Women’s Action Coalition were right about some things. Misogyny is pervasive in American culture. Rape culture does exist.
When Catholic organizations, leaders, and priests, continue to support a candidate who promotes rape culture, objectifies women, and brags about sexual assault, these organizations and leaders are continuing to support a culture that leads to abortion.
As a lifelong pro-life Catholic, I feel betrayed. I feel like I did during the Church sex abuse scandals 15 years ago.
Conor Friedersdorf, writer for The Atlantic, described my emotions (shared by many other women within the GOP) in a more eloquent manner than I ever could,
“These sentiments felt so familiar to me. Then I realized why. It’s how I heard Catholic women of my mom’s generation talk after the church’s child molestation scandal broke. Learning about the predatory behavior was awful in its own right. But what really caused them to lose faith, what caused many of them to never return to the Catholic Church, were the religious leaders who failed to denounce the molestation; who dishonestly minimized it in hopes of saving the institution in the short term.
A bad actor can cause a scandal in any institution. The true test of core soundness or rot is how everyone else reacts to the depravity. Do they reject it or say it isn’t so bad?”
Catholic Americans, we are being tested again. If we stand silent or try to rationalize Trump’s actions through over contextualization, we are compromising our morals in standing by such a deeply flawed candidate.
Trump has had three wives and brags about sexual promiscuity. He sexually objectifies his own daughter. He brags about about sexually assaulting women. He has made numerous racist remarks. Those are not the values of the Catholic Church, and I hope to God those are not the values of America.
To make my stance crystal clear, I want you to know I won’t be voting for Clinton either. Clinton’s stance on abortion, the contraception mandate, and her inability to be trusted are all deal breakers for me.
I share the feelings of Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia when he writes,
“In the meantime, a friend describes the choice facing voters in November this way: a vulgar, boorish lout and disrespecter of women, with a serious impulse control problem; or a scheming, robotic liar with a lifelong appetite for power and an entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots.
In a nation where “choice” is now the unofficial state religion, the menu for dinner is remarkably small.”
Fellow Catholics, I know it’s tempting to vote out of fear, to vote for Trump’s promised conservative Supreme Court nominees, and to tell ourselves that it was our only option. I know it’s tempting to vote for Clinton out of fear of a misogynistic, hot headed Trump being elected. The problem with voting out of fear is that fear comes from the devil.
Hope, on the other hand, comes from God. If I vote with hope, then I vote my conscience. For me, that means a vote for pro-life, write-in candidate Evan McMullin. It may be a long shot, but “it’s far from impossible.” I’d rather lose an election than vote against my conscience. I know my responsibility is to vote with the brain God gave me.
Kate Kotary loves writing, telling stories, and making people laugh. She lives outside Kansas City with her husband of 15 years and their four young children.
Kate would love to hear from you. You can reach her @katekotary on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Thanks for reading!