Recently, I had the bright idea to have a dear friend, let’s call him RED, a serious Republican (thus the nickname) and sometimes Trump supporter…. and another friend, let’s call her BLUE, a serious Democrat (thus the nickname) and serious Trump hater…meet me in the window of Ghostlight coffee for a cup of Joe and a chat. I really wanted to see if there was any common ground left in this battle of the political positions. Little did I know by conversation’s end, the thought of running into Wayne Avenue and causing a hit and run would appear relieving.
‘How did we get here?’ I begin. My voice is strong to start. ‘And how do we figure this mess out?’
Red jumps in quickly. ‘You have to go way back…that’s for sure. This isn’t a contemporary problem. I think you can go back to Reagan to see when things began to change. Many in the conservative movement look at him as the last great President. So, now we have Trump, and it feels similar.’
Blue sits quietly. Like a spider.
‘Keep in mind, Reagan understood the working man. He knew that middle class mattered, and since then, the middle class has been completely forgotten.’ Red continues.’Finally, this election we fought back. And won.’
I interrupt. ‘Won what exactly?’
Red sips and says, ‘I think we won recognition. Attention maybe. Look, we have paid for everything in this country. We have paid for the rich in their Wall Street mess, and the poor in providing them insurance we can’t afford.’
Blue leans in. She seems ready to speak. ‘I want to say I get that. I do. I do understand the idea that people have paid a lot in the past and especially the working Americans. But Trump? That’s a win? This is little like social suicide! And the insurance comment bothers me. I feel everyone should have insurance. It’s moral. It’s ethical. I feel it’s more Republican than they even realize.’
She sits back. All calm…for now. I look around the coffee house. No one seems to feel my nervousness, so I proceed.
‘What is it about Trump? Why do so many hate this guy?’ (I play dumb…I think I already know.)
Blue starts off this section of chatter. ‘He said things, and did things I cannot forget and may never forgive. Look, I understand the pendulum theory. Democrat-Republican-Democrat-Republican. Checks and Balances and so on. I could have handled Kasich, even Bush. This guy is insensitive and out of touch. He’s beneath the office.’
Red swallows and speaks up. ‘He finally said what many of us have waited to hear for years!’
‘About women? Or Disabled people? What did he say?’ Blue shoots back.
Red remains calm. ‘He said the little guy was done taking it. He said it was going to come our way for a while. And if you honestly look at it, Clinton said nothing, about anything, ever, except him.’
My turn. ‘So you like Trump? Is that what you are saying Red?’
Quiet for a moment. ‘I don’t know about that. I have to say, much of what went on during the campaign bothered me. On both sides.’ Red goes on, ‘I was done with the Obama era for sure. Come on. I understand the redistribution of wealth, but where was my share? I want my kid in college, not paying into a system that sends everyone else’s but mine. Unfair!’
Blue responds. ‘At the core, I see what he means. I do. But, you have thrown the baby out with the bath water. In exchange for financial issues you have accepted a man who will demonize women, muslims, gays, blacks…the list goes on. What’s worse?’
‘No. Since the election, I see him as even worse. I think he is proving to be what he said he would be. He’s a bigot. He’s not trustworthy. And he sounds like he might even be Russia’s buddy.’
Red laughs. ‘Come on. I remember when Obama won and everyone was going to prison camps, old people were going to be put to death and blacks were going to throw whites out of the country. None of that happened. This is no different. It’s said to scare us. Media.’
‘I can’t handle that response. I really can’t.’ Blue jumps back in, ‘The media never said Obama was putting old people to death. What do you want, a country where the media is stifled. Careful. Be very careful. One person’s voice leads to terrible things.’
Quick change of subject. ‘So Red. What do you see as our future with Trump?’
‘Well, first of all. I am not 100% behind the travel ban. I think it’s not a real healthy idea. I like the idea of security in our country, but that’s a strange price to pay. And I also think the wall is wacky. Reagan, sorry to bring him back into this, tore down walls. I like that better. I think Trump has the right idea. Put us back in the game. Let’s shows the world our guidance again. A stronger, more prosperous place. Let’s lead by strengthening the very people who are America. IT’s our backs that carry it.’
I turn to Blue. ‘What do you see?’
‘I feel very imperiled by his presidency. The world could quite easily lose respect for us. We have long been the voice of diversity and intelligence. I don’t think of him as a great spokesperson. I wish Republicans, in general, would realize that it is their vision of social freedoms that keeps more of us from trusting them. Trump, and his party need to stay out of people’s personal lives. It’s that easy!’ Blue wrings her hands. ‘He is unsettling. He just is. People died, are dying, for our freedoms. His pen is taking them away with no fight at all.’
For a brief spell, I let them steep. Then, ‘Where do you agree? How do we meet in the middle again?’
Blue starts this time. ‘It’s all up to the people. It is. I can’t believe we elected this arrogant misogynist. We did. So, now, I think, we the people, need to listen to the needs of our citizens. I kind of think Trump may, by accident, bring people together by making missteps that unite us. Look, I love this country. I love being American. I want a healthy dialogue with my friends of all thoughts. I just don’t want to sit back and think things are just going to work out. We have to make things work out.’
Red retorts, ‘Ok. Ok. So, if the middle means talking with people of different ideas, I’m in. I would say, he (Trump) probably can’t do that. At least, not yet. I concur as well about love of country. And I have no doubt Democrats love this country. But, being American still means working hard and earning a good living through that work. That’s what ultimately drew us to the polls. Obama won because the rich had gone way too far in causing economic collapse. People were angry. Trump won because entitlements went way too far and people are angry. It would be so nice to vote for a President because you wanted him or her to win…not the other to lose.’
Blue remarks, ‘Good point. I agree to that!’
I think we are making some headway. ‘One more thought. Do you think the divisiveness of today can be fixed, and by who?’
Red says ‘Us. Not politicians for sure. Not the media. Not social media. Us. Real people meeting and giving each other a chance to express ourselves without fear of some kind of retribution or ridicule. There’s been too much of that.’
Blue concludes. ‘In a way, your point reminds me that politicians separate us. They do. We have to choose a side. That alone makes the process acrimonious. And, I’ll agree that the media needs us apart to keep us entertained and validated. I will likely never support Trump. I will never support him. But my ears are open to whatever can heal us. I want that. I want a great America. I think the next step is the public coming together and finding a way to elevate moderate voices. Somewhere in the middle lies the truth. Let’s get there!’
Not so bad. Maybe they are on to some thing!