The Politics of Father and Son
I am the son of a diehard Republican. We often speak late in the evening across 3000 miles of America to discuss the economy, politics and trends in business. I fancy myself as a middle ground moderate that advocates fiscal conservatism, social activism and open arms internationalism. I never leave the fairway on issues. My political ball can be found in the center left or right. Rarely, will I find the rough reserved for those with hooks and hard right slices. I am the voter every politician seeks to woo. The fact that my views on public policy seem to lack the hard calluses of conservative conviction bothers my Dad but we like talking politics. Discourse raises our collective IQ around issues – blending black and white opinions into a slate gray amalgam where clear answers are not easily found.
“Dad, I am voting for Obama.”
“As far as I’m concerned, McCain comes across like the angry old conservative that loves to chase liberals off his lawn. I have no doubt that McCain is a good man, but he is well past his buy/sell date and has been part of the party that brought us record deficits, two wars, laissez faire regulatory oversight and back breaking energy dependence.”
(Sound of crickets)…
“Obama knows he will not get the vote of those he is planning on taxing. He is actually being transparent about the fact that we will be negatively impacted by his tax policies. Yet, his tax cuts for the middle class are three times those of McCain. His tax plan will cost $ 3.5B vs. McCain’s $5.1B. The national debt has doubled under the Republicans. When you voted against Democrats, you always did so telling me that you did not endorse politicians who would increase the deficit, intervene into the free market – (like nationalizing banks), and hijack the country on an idealistic joyride. Isn’t that where we are today after eight years of Bush? ”
There was a heavy sigh on the phone. Finally he spoke. “ Well if it was just about tax policies, I suppose I could tolerate higher taxes but it won’t stop there. You just watch. Jimmy Carter showed us what incompetent fiscal and foreign policymaking can do to the country. He focused on unemployment with jobs programs that bloated the federal deficit while establishing a program of wage and price controls. Neither worked. By the end of the 1980, we still had high unemployment and 18% interest rates resulting in stagflation. We know nothing about Obama – we don’t. America is hungry for hope and grazing on his cotton candy rhetoric because Bush has ruined the Republican party. If that damn McCain would just be himself and stop listening to his handlers ‘attack tactics’, people might see through the great orator Obama and realize he is just a tissue paper, give away artist.”
I felt the need to defend my decision to endorse the dynamic Illinois senator with the razor thin resume. “Dad, you’re right that we don’t know a whole lot about him. However, I do not believe he consorts with terrorists and people disloyal to America. That’s just a hangover political tactic from the Republicans who have spent eight years seasoning our opinions with fear. I want to believe in something and someone. I am sure he believes that trickle down economics disproportionately favors those at the top and falls well short of helping those at the bottom. His life experiences probably include a point of view that justice and prosperity is uneven in America. He probably believes that the underbelly of free market capitalism is marked by inequity and a more polarized society. However, I do not believe you can vilify anyone for having that political view. For many, that was their experience, particularly under Reagan and Bush. “
He snorted a cynical chuckle. “Here’s the problem. The next President inherits an economy in deep trouble. The Treasury Secretary and the White House will have unprecedented power. I am very concerned Obama’s policies will probably deepen the recession and expand government at a time when we need to learn to live within our means by reducing government, decreasing entitlement programs and putting money back into the hands of all consumers by making the Bush tax cuts permanent. I am telling you, you have no idea how much damage a guy like this can do – to our legal system by liberalizing the Supreme Court, to our economy by deepening the multi trillion dollar deficit and to our national security by screwing up the next critical steps we make in foreign policy. I may not like McCain but I am not going to vote for a guy that represents more risk to the nation.”
He was getting into a lather and I knew that I could probably make him spontaneously combust if I mentioned those who must not be named – – Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. He had worked hard to save for retirement. He was feeling more at risk than ever. He was also tired. He had lost confidence in those who he had supported for so long. The race still had a few weeks to go. Yet, deep down, he knew that this time the majority of swing voters were too fed up, too betrayed and too angry at the Bush administration to reverse their desire for a new direction when real fear was scratching at their door.
(More silence.) He was giving me the last word.
“You know Dad, I guess it get’s down to hope and faith. I wager that Obama is a good man. I am certain his life experiences will shape his policies. However, he is a smart guy and if he brings into his administration strong business leaders – the Buffets, Diamonds or Grosses, I think pragmatism will triumph over idealism. Like Thomas Friedman, call me a sober optimist. “
A pause. “ Well, let’s just hope you’re right. But, I’m still not going to vote for him.”
“Love you, Dad”.
There are three things in life I can always count on – death, taxes and the fact my father will never, ever vote for a Democrat. I’m ok with that. It’s his country too.