Once more into the breach

In Texas, early voting starts on October 24. As an election worker, I will be seated next to my Republican counterparts. I already know most of them, we get along well, as they are generally charming people. I have a feeling that most of the people I work with will not be voting for Trump, but of course we never talk politics when working elections — it would be not just bad form, but against the law.

I do not want to implicate my Republican coworkers in the rise of Trump, but to some degree I still see them as Trump enablers. Some of them have been listening to Fox News too often and have developed an irrational hatred of Obama and Hillary that I find disturbing. I think that possibly W’s main moral flaw was his willful failure to realize that he was out of his depth, his lack of curiosity and engagement. I never thought he was the Antichrist and never wished him personal harm, although I worked to defeat him in 2004. Some of today’s Republicans seem to have no trouble demonizing Obama and Hillary, and would like nothing better than to hasten their demise.

Part of the divide we see today is due, I think, to the fragmentation of the news sources and to the shallowness of most coverage. Increasingly, elections are covered purely as horse races rather than as a contest between representatives of opposing governing philosophies. After a full day’s work, it takes less time and effort to look at the most recent polls than to delve into the complexities of the tax code — and I plead guilty to that too. Add to that the competition for TV ratings, which drives the hunt for scoops, and the recognition that stories of malfeasance, sex and money attract viewership, and you have a toxic brew. As nobody reads retractions, and types like Bill O’Reilly never admit they were wrong anyway, the wildest misperceptions proliferate. Asked why they think what they do, most Republicans will mumble “Benghazi”, “Wall Street” or “birth certificate”, but be unable or unwilling to give any particulars.

Conspiracy theories create a feeling a superiority, a feeling that you are in possession of knowledge that others are unaware of. They create a tribalism of sorts. Trump was masterful in activating his base by making them feel part of a movement, and by putting down those people he described as “elites”. Basically, he inoculated himself that way against the thinking press. He, the self-described mogul with the beautiful wife, beautiful family, beautiful properties (you get it…) was going to let everyone in on the secret of his success and together they would make America great again by….. doing what, exactly? Never mind, he said, just “believe him, trust him” and it all would happen through the sheer force of his personality and the astuteness of his bargaining skills. If you turn on TV after working double shift, that sounds pretty good.

I do not think for a moment that most of my Republican co-workers were taken in by Trump. They are a smart bunch. Many of them probably belong to the “elites” that Trump seems to have problems with. The tea party element in the Republican party, though, has worked tirelessly to portray Hillary as an incompetent, morally compromised harridan in the pocket of Wall Street bankers. They whipped their constituents into a frenzy of hatred for Hillary, and by extension for her supporters, because they thought that down ballot Texas Republicans would ride Trump’s coattails to a crushing defeat of the Democratic Party.

I happen to think that American society is at its best when all three branches of government, at all levels of government, are populated with representatives of both parties who have the imagination and good will to see and weigh the other party’s arguments. The current political atmosphere is so focused on winning elections through demonizing the other party that we are on a dangerous path. I am as committed to Democratic values as any dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, and I want us to win big in this election cycle, but I prefer a working Republican party to the current hot mess.  That is why I will put away thoughts that my Republican co-workers may have been Trump enablers. If Democrats win nationally, and if (gasp!) we manage to turn my state of Texas blue, or at least purple, I will not gloat. There will be some serious reckonings after the election. Meanwhile, once more into the breach….

 

Disclaimer: Marie-Anne wrote this post. As always, she thinks she knows everything, but her kids have repeatedly undermined her claims… The views expressed are her own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Rockwall County Democrats.

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