Well, that was hard. Like most sentient beings, this student of life knew enough to avoid political discussions at a relative's Thanksgiving weekend get together. No upside - no minds to change; no interested people who hadn't thought about the big issues; little understanding of relatives and guests leanings and hot buttons. As long as everybody understood the groundrules there were enough ballgames to carry the day.
But there is always one, fortunately not a relative, and fortunately a short conversation with a limited audience. California Democrats approach political discussions knowing that they are right and assuming that everyone that they would be associating with agrees with them. We San Francisco Republicans are inured against the misplaced confidence, and recognize the futility of real engagement. Trump makes any potential discussion even more fraught - support his policies, and you share his real and imagined personality defects. Thus, the battle was not joined.
Question 1: Were you disappointed with the election?
- The polite response: Yes.
- The real answer: In San Francisco, where compassion always trumps prudent management, the Board of Supervisors moved to a progressive majority and we voted to double the $300 million budget for homeless services. California was a disaster, well beyond expectations. The moderating hopes for the "top two" primary system - quality women Republican candidates; qualified "decline to state" candidates like Steve Poizner for Insurance Commissioner; and qualified non-machine Democrats like Marshall Tuck for the Department of Education - all lost to the Democratic machine. Nationally it was a somewhat negative mixed bag, given the norms for the mid-term elections after a president's first election. Progressive members of the House will try to create all nature of problems for the President; likely speaker Pelosi might try to legislate by finding common ground on a few items like prison reform and infrastructure spending, but mostly it will be a tune up of people and themes for the 2020 presidential election. The expanded Senate majority will facilitate judicial appointments and block any real stupid stuff coming from the House.
Question/Assertion 2: How could anyone support Trump, given that he is morally reprehensible, devoid of empathy, and mentally ill?
- The polite response: I supported Romney, Rubio, and Kasich, and did not like Trump. But I have grown in my understanding that the political establishment of both parties has not governed in the interests of the working class. (Pause for the interruption that it is "the white working class", as if that makes Hillary's "deplorables" morally inferior or politically irrevelant.)
- The real answer: This is like the school playground where the "cool" kids have been bullying the kids from the other side of the tracks forever. Suddenly a bigger, tougher kid takes the side of those who have been the victim of the bullying - by the media, by Hollywood, by the universities, by the Democratic party. The "flyover states" realize that they should have more Senators than the cool coastal states. Norman Rockwell and the Boy Scout Oath are OK again. We have a president who unapologetically puts the interests of American citizens above the globalists who have governed for decades while the American manufacturing base has eroded, our borders have been badly compromised, our trade policies have helped China and others at our expense, and we have been engaged in foreign wars without end or strategic purpose. Trump's attraction really isn't about any specific policy; the globalist direction has gone too far and the pendulum has swung back. As for analyzing Trump - mammoth books will be written about Trump Derangement Syndrome and the total inability of his enemies to understand or accept what has happened.
Question/Assertion 3: You have to agree that Barack Obama was a great president.
- The polite response: He was a gentleman and a great orator. He represented American progress, being the first African-American president.
- The real answer:
- From a partisan Republican perspective he was great. During his time in office the Republicans captured two-thirds of the state legislatures, three quarters of the governorships, a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate, and ultimately the presidency and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Seeing Obama's vision and ineffective leadership, the country turned to the right.
- There are two policy perspectives:
-- He was a globalist, noting that American exceptionalism was no different than the perspectives of other countries. The son of a Kenyan father, an Indonesian stepfather, an expatriate mother, and a communist tutor in Hawaii, he grew up with little understanding of or appreciation for Americana. To understand who he is, one need only read his autobiography, "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance."
-- With the skills and experience of a community organizer, he was unprepared for the role of president. Domestically, he inherited a financial mess, threw $1 trillion "Stimulus Plan" at it, continued President Bush's budget deficits, oversaw an unusually slow recovery, and allowed the FBI to get involved in the politics of the 2016 presidential election. His healthcare reform - for better or worse - actually belongs to Nancy Pelosi. Internationally, he was a pushover, empowering ISIS, allowing Putin to seize the Crimean peninsula, dithering over Syria while a humanitarian crisis unfolded, and doing nothing about North Korea or the global trade deficit.
Silence is golden. The healing process has begun. The easy answers were provided. It is unlikely that the longer answers would change any California Democratic minds, but they encapsulate a lot of thought for a centrist Republican.
This week's bonus is the real highlight of the Thanksgiving weekend - highlights of #3 Gonzaga's victory over #1 Duke.
bill bowen - 11/30/18