In defense of Republicans

I posted this meme on Facebook. As expected, a lot of people- including people I know are committed Republicans and Democrats- who "liked" it.

But there was one exception- a liberal Democrat who insisted that both parties are not equally to blame for our nation's plight and that the whole problem basically is the Republicans.

It might as well have been a Republican saying that about the Democrats. I can't help but be bemused by the inability of the partisans of both sides to see that the very things they complain about in the other party are the mirror image of things they do themselves. Jesus might well have had our two American political parties in mind when He gave us the parable of the moat and the beam!

I have been an active member of both political parties at various times in my life. I'm one of the few Iowans who has been a delegate to the state conventions of both major parties. Part of the reason for that is a piece of my family heritage of which I am proud. My grandfather, an immigrant from Belfast, named his two sons John William Gladstone Waters, after the great Liberal prime minister of Great Britain, and Robert McKinley Waters, after the conservative Republican president who was assassinated shortly before my father was born. My grandfather himself was of a conservative bent but always regarded the character and qualifications of a politician as being of equal importance to his political philosophy.

My dad, too, was of a rather conservative bent, but not so conservative that Barry Goldwater wasn't a bridge too far for him. Dad's two political heroes were Robert Taft and Walter Reuther. I agree with both my grandfather and my father: only a fool allows partisanship and ideological rigidity to blind him to the fact that character and temperament matter, too, and also to the fact that the biggest difference between the parties is not that one is inherently good and the other inherently evil, but that they disagree about how big a role government should play in solving problems everybody deplores. I also agree with both my grandfather and my father that the character and temperament of a person need to be included in one's assessment of his or her fitness for high office as well as the candidate's political philosophy. It's his character and temperament (as well as what appears to be the lack of any philosophy other than self-promotion) which is why I oppose President Trump.

A word about that. Ben Shapiro, one of the sharpest knives in our national door, refers to himself as "sometimes Trump." Shapiro, who is Jewish, opposed Mr. Trump's nomination. As a result, he was portrayed in two different memes during the 2016 primary campaign as a concentration camp inmate, one simply as a prisoner in "Camp Trump" and the other with a smiling Trump dressed in a Nazi uniform in the act of gassing him. Lest the point be missed, both of these memes were posted by supporters of Donald Trump. That's the man's base. That's what has taken over the Republican party, whether the all the decent Republicans are willing to admit it or not.

That's what Donald Trump being elected President of the United States has made, if not respectable, something that can be openly expressed with absolutely no sense of shame.

Ben Shapiro supports the president when he thinks he is right and opposes him when he thinks he's wrong. That seems to me to be a rather obvious posture to be taken by any person of integrity with regard to any president. But sadly, it isn't the position most conservatives and Republicans are taking these days. I respect Ben Shapiro, even though I don't always agree with him. But there are many conservatives whom I've hitherto respected and admired for whom I'm rapidly hemorrhaging respect.

I've said many times that the thing that upsets me most about this president isn't his personal instability or his unprecedented degree of dishonesty or his general lack of character or even the number of issues on which I disagree with him, often profoundly. What upsets me most about Mr. Trump is the way he has seduced so many decent Republicans and conservatives into supporting things that would have made them vomit three years ago. We are so polarized as a country that these people see defeating the Left- in many ways a worthy agenda- as so important that they are willing to defend the indefensible in order to bring it about. All those free trade conservatives who are willing to sign on to retaliatory tariffs and trade wars and a posture toward our nation's enemies reminiscent of what the Left has been advocating as a foreign policy for a generation are depressing enough. But the number of intelligent and hitherto reasonable conservatives who have been willing to tolerate the underlying xenophobia and outright racism that underlies the ideology of an administration whose essential character is dictated by the alt-right core of its president's support is nothing less than tragic. He who lies down with dogs may or may not get flies, but people without ready access to flea powder who notice that they have are likely to keep their distance from them in the future just in case.

I am somewhat to Ben Shapiro's left. I approve of fewer of the things Mr. Trump has done than he does. But I applaud the rescue of the Supreme Court- and with it, the Constitution itself- from the thrall in which they've been held by a judicial philosophy which essentially sees the role of the Court as amending the Constitution by judicial fiat whenever the zeitgeist or the Leftist political fad of the moment requires that the law and the character of our society be pushed in a particular direction. The Court was the single valid argument I saw for voting for Mr. Trump in 2016, and I acknowledge that the nation and history owe Donald Trump considerable credit for restoring the careful, thoughtful, deliberative process for modifying our Constitution that the Founders intended.

Yes, I am dismayed by Mr. Trump's endless reign of error. Some of the untrue things he says are exaggerations. Some are the result of the underlying ignorance and lack of sophistication which was a major reason why I was never able to take him seriously as a potential president. But a great many of them are outright lies- more, I think it's safe to say, than any national political figure in our history.

Donald Trump is "fake news." Yet the extreme liberal bias of the media is a reality. As uncomfortable as I am with Mr. Trump's contempt for a free press, the fact is that American journalism suffers from a malady which also affects science, the liberal arts, and virtually every educated profession in America: a lack of political and philosophical diversity.

There is no liberal conspiracy to distort the news. Let's be clear about that. There is only the well-documented reality that something like ninety percent of working journalists are liberal Democrats. The overwhelming majority of them honestly seek to report the news with complete integrity, doing their best to do so objectively and in an unbiased manner. And-predictably- they fail.

Nobody is objective. Nobody is unbiased. And even with the best intentions in the world, what every human being on Earth sees as objective truth is, in fact, a subjective distortion of the truth based on one's own values, background, and experiences.  The fact that journalists (as well as scientists, educators, and the members of a number of other opinion-making professions)  are graduates of the same colleges, move in the same circles, go to the same parties, hold similar values and attitudes, get their information from the same sources, and generally lack cultural and ideological diversity means that a single set of distortions colors the way that truth is presented to our society, and that this distortion is as pervasive as it is consistently left-of-center.

Yet one element of our society implicitly believes the media. Another distrusts it- and often implicitly believes President Trump. Neither view is objective. Both are distorted. But all too few of us recognize that and treat both views of events with suspicion.

And so, my Democratic friend wrote,

One party wants to help the poor, the other the wealthy. One wants healthcare for all and the other doesn't. One strives to protect the environment and the other likes to gut the EPA and favors coal/oil over clean energy. One likes to demonize people with dark skin while the other, not so much. One would like to make choices for women, and one believes that they are capable on their own, etc, etc, etc.

Here is my response:
Thanks for providing such a perfect example of the problem.

We are a nation polarized at the extremes, governed by two political parties less concerned with the nation's welfare than with maintaining rigid ideologies while caricaturing, lying about, and demonizing the other, much as you have done. As a result, the dialog and the give-and-take which is the lifeblood of democracy has been stifled. We listen only to propaganda from our own side and don't even understand the viewpoint of the other. Neither do we care, really.

Your kind of hyperpartisanship created Donald Trump. He would not have been possible before Americans became numbed to over-the-top rhetoric, the demonization of scapegoats and political opponents, and the us-against-them mentality. I hope you're happy.

Tax breaks for everybody are not simply "tax breaks for the rich," although I grant that since the top ten percent in income pay two-thirds of the income taxes and the hated one-percent nearly a third, they benefit from them the most.

I'll grant something else,too: any meaningful gesture toward addressing the deficit and putting the Federal government on a sound financial footing is going to involve substantial increases on the taxes paid by the rich. It's not that they aren't bearing their fair share of the burden now. It's just that the economic realities of this moment in history demand that they pay more because they're the ones who can.

It's also going to involve cuts in spending on entitlements. I don't like that any more than you do, and nothing would please me more than for some genius economist to come up with a solution. Unfortunately, the numbers no longer make the negative income tax feasible, as it would have been in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when Milton Friedman of (the University of Chicago) designed it and the Nixon Administration proposed it. It would have done more for the poor than all the government programs one can imagine, and actually been cost-effective to boot. The deficit would likely not exist, and perhaps not the growing gap between the rich and everyone else. Unfortunately, the Democrats wouldn't stand for it.

And since Republicans today are unlikely to stand for heavier taxes on the rich, and the Democrats are unlikely to tolerate cuts in entitlements, we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. Too bad we didn't act when we could have. Incidentally, don't even bring up military spending. Cutting there would be great, but the only way to do it without compromising not only our own national security but the security of the world would be for Russia and China to do the same. But that would require the diplomacy of a Nixon or a Reagan, wouldn't it?

Nixoncare, the program put together under a Republican administration by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, would have made Obamacare look like a symbolic gesture. Oh, wait- Nixon was a Republican, wasn't he?

I'll grant that today's Republican party doesn't have a real alternative to Obamacare that allows access to healthcare for all Americans, or even as many as Obamacare did. But don't you think that maybe instead of accusing the Republicans of not caring, it might be good to be honest and to recognize that the real issue here, as in so many of the issues separating the parties, is the respective roles to be played by the private sector and by government? Why is the malice necessary? Why can't you disagree with the other guy, instead of making him out to be evil?

Of course, I'd ask the same question of the Republicans. But since you're claiming that they're the whole problem, I guess that's outside the scope of this response.

The Republicans INVENTED the EPA... Chalk up another one for Dick Nixon- who, had it not been for Watergate, might well have gone down in history as the most effective president of the Twentieth Century.

"Demonize people with dark skin?" Really? Well, I'll grant that Trump has done a bit of that, though he and his supporters would never admit it.

"Make choices for women?" Why the euphemisms, Peter? Why not come out and say that the Republican party opposes allowing women to take the lives of their unborn children for any reason, even on a whim, while hiding behind dishonest rhetoric about "controlling their own bodies" as a code for destroying somebody else's, conceived and abiding in that body in all but a tiny percentage of cases by virtue of (the) voluntary participation (of the owner of that body) in the act that put them there?

Ever since Roe v. Wade... polls have shown that a majority of the American people support Roe. We hear that pointed out quite often in an attempt to make the pro-life cause look "extreme." But most of the American people aren't lawyers and aren't familiar with precisely what it is that Roe says. Most take "Roe v. Wade" as simply an alternative way of saying "legal abortion." But are you aware, Peter, that every year since Roe was handed down, Gallup has done a poll on the precise attitudes of the American people on abortion, and that in all but two those who say that abortion should be illegal in some, most, or all cases have been a majority?

Don't get me wrong. Militant feminists absolutely should be free to try to persuade the of us that abortion should always be legal, just as pro-lifers should be free to try to persuade the rest of us that it should never or almost never be. But in the meantime, why not be honest, and admit that one position is just as "extreme" as the other, and just as out of step with the national consensus? Why not change the law to reflect the moderating position which represents the actual values of the American people, which (has) been relatively stable ever since Roe was handed down? Why set American against American? Why not change the law to reflect our actual national consensus, even while the ethical debate about abortion continues?
No, it's not just the Republicans. And neither is it just the Democrats. The biggest problem our nation has is that both parties have become echo chambers made up of people who are not only never exposed to the reasoning of the other side, but who are no longer able to comprehend it. And if we are ever going to be one nation again- or even to survive as a nation, and certainly as a republic-  we're going to have to address that factl


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