“I will be okay,” she told one caller. “I just don’t think we will be okay.”
Here in the heart of Red America, Cox and many others spent last week grieving not only for themselves and their candidate but also for a country they now believe has gone wildly off track. The days after Barack Obama’s reelection gave birth to a saying in Central Tennessee: Once was a slip, but twice is a sign.
If, as Obama likes to say, the country has decided to “move forward,” it has also decided to move further away from the values and beliefs of a state where Romney won 60 percent of the vote, a county where he won 70 percent, and a town where he won nearly 80.
Among so many Romney voters, perhaps none had been as devoted to the cause — as indefatigable, as confident, as prayerful — as 44-year-old Beth Cox, a member of the school board and a volunteer who had committed to Romney early in the Republican primaries. She had run the small GOP campaign headquarters in Sumner County by herself for six days a week during the last four months. She had been the first in line to vote on the first day of early voting.
Now it was left to her to clean up the aftermath. She stood next to a space heater in a small building in the exurbs of Nashville, taking inventory of what supplies they had left and packing up boxes of red-white-and-blue streamers. She put away the pink Romney shirts, the white Romney-Ryan hats and the GOP bumper stickers with the Tennessee logo. Down came the sign that read: “We Built It!” Down came the elephant flag and the George W. Bush commemorative emblem. Down came the signed picture of Romney, with a typed inscription that read: “This is a great time to be a Republican.”
But now Cox was wondering: Was it?
She had devoted her life to causes she believed were at the heart of her faith and at the core of her Republican Party. She counseled young married families at church, spoke about right to life in area schools and became a stay-at-home mom with two daughters.
Now, in a single election night, parts of her country had legalized marijuana, approved gay marriage and resoundingly reelected a president who she worried would “accelerate our decline.”