Wednesday, February 17, 2016

January 17, 2016--My Republican Friends

She sounded so angry.

"I hate them!" It was a lifelong friend calling from New York.

"Is everything all right?"

"No! Everything's all wrong!"


"I just told you. With everything"


"Well, not everything." She was beginning to calm down. "But pretty much everything. We're finished."

"We're? Who's the we? And again what's the everything? Or the pretty much everything? That sounds serious." I was looking for some way to lighten the mood.

"The country. Everything's getting worse. Look at the election. I mean, at the Republicans."

"We can argue about all of this because I don't think everything or pretty much everything is getting worse. I agree that some things are worse; but I'm old enough, and to tell the truth, so are you, to remember when down here in Florida there was legal segregation, women couldn't easily get into medical or law school, pretty much all gay people were closeted, there was a lot of overt antisemitism, there was World War II and the Cold War, and . . ."

"You're right about much of this but still. Maybe it's an aging thing, I hate what's going on and I hate them."

"Again the them. You have to help me out here. Clearly I'm not following you. If, as you say . . ."


"That's who you hate?"

"I despise them. Is that better than hate?" I could sense her quivering.

"To me, not that much better. And . . ."

"And I know what you're going to say. I've told you this before, you spend too much time with them. With Republicans. I read your stuff and a lot of it sounds as if you're apologizing for them. How many positive things have you written about that horror show Donald Trump? Whose last name you keep insisting on capitalizing."

"About this we can really disagree. Both in Florida and in Maine I do have quite a few Republican friends and, though I differ with them about most of their political views, I really like them and beyond that learn a lot from them. Partly by having some of my insufficiently examined beliefs and views challenged but also because I find myself agreeing with some of what they have to say."

"There. You said it--you agree with them."

"Not about everything. Far from that. But . . ."

"But about what?"

"Like we need to revisit the cost structure and effectiveness of our social programs. Especially Social Security, Medicare, and the Veteran's Administration."

"You'd cut them back? Obamacare too?"

"No. But make them work better and make sure that people who need them get more assistance than at present. Making the system more pay-as-you-go. Remember that concept? Shouldn't we liberals or, if you prefer progressives, who believe in a significant role for government, be the first ones clamoring to clean up the inefficiencies and abuses and stop making excuses for them?"

"Sounds dangerous to me. If we join the conservatives in critiquing these safety-net programs that people pay for, we'll only contribute to pulling the rug out from under them."

"But doesn't our reflexive, unquestioning support for these programs do more harm than good? Doesn't that call our credibility and the justification for these programs into question? I'm trying to say that though I come to very different bottom lines than most of my Republican friends I share their criticism that all these programs should have to face scrutiny and be forced to clean up their act. So they can run more efficiently, be less vulnerable, become more cost-effective, and do more good. I don't hear too many progressives saying this."

"And what about your Donald Trump? You seem unduly attracted to him."

"He's not mine but I'll admit to that."

"You'd consider voting for him?"

"Maybe but when it comes time to pull the lever I doubt I would. In any case, I'm not ready just yet to do any declaring."

"What's the attraction?" I was happy to hear that my friend had stopped sounding so agitated.

"For me he's a wonderfully disruptive force. Even a radical one. More than Bernie Sanders. Which is why both establishments are so afraid of him. He could turn out to be a traitor to his class. I'm not saying he's potentially dangerous because the GOP feel he'd lose to Hillary. Or because the Democrats are afraid he'd win in November. But because they both fear that if he wins he will expose and then change the nature of the game both parties have been playing for years and getting away with."

"I still hate them all."

I chose to ignore that.

"Take just two recent examples--how he responded to getting booed during the debates in New Hampshire and South Carolina. How TRUMP turned on the audience, saying that the auditoriums were packed with party hacks, donors, and lobbyists who were invited to attend by the Republican National Committee. He was right about that. Ditto, by the way, for the Democrats. And, here's the radical part--he didn't care that they were booing him. He responded with a dismissive wave, indicating he doesn't need them. That in fact they are at the heart of our political and governmental problems. Not part of the solution."

"I admit I did like that," my best friend said.

"And my other example, an even more potent one, was how he insisted on picking at the 9/11 scab, saying, correctly I'm sure you would agree, that George W. Bush didn't 'keep us safe.' Quite the opposite. He reminded Republicans that George W was president on 9/11, not Bill Clinton, and had been for eight months. Then after that he had us invade Iraq, lying--that was his word--about their having weapons of mass destruction. And how as a result that region is now in almost total chaos. What did you think about that?"

My friend muttered something into the phone which I didn't understand.

"Remarkable, right, that the GOP front runner would say this, and double down on it, while in South Carolina on the very same day ex-president Bush emerged from his political cocoon to campaign for little brother Jeb. And when someone from the press suggested that he'd pay a political price for saying this, especially in so-called 'Bush Country,' TRUMP said, he literally said, 'I don't care.'"

"I didn't hear that."

"Maybe that's because you don't have enough Republican friends."

At that at last we both laughed.

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