I went into a neighborhood eatery the other day to grab some breakfast with one of my politically aware buddies, Rocco. It was crowded and we happened to sit right next to a couple of young tradesmen—a carpenter and an electrician—who were talking politics and worrying out loud about the new Republican tax bill; was it going to help or hurt them? As we waited for the waitress to take our orders, I gave Rocco a look that said, squelch it! Keep your mind off their conversation and your two cents to yourself.
Rocco’s ability to endure silence lasted about three minutes. Just after our orders were taken and our mugs filled with coffee, Rocco asked, quite matter-of-factly, “You folks vote Trump? You Republicans?”
Uh oh, I thought, here it comes. But these guys seemed neither offended by Rocco—a rather big, lumbering type of guy—nor taken aback by his butting into their conversation. I was thinking that we’d just dodged a bullet when the three of them began to gab away, with Rocco taking the lead. “Don’t get him started,” I warned them. (Too late!)
“Now that you’ve had almost a year of Trump and his promises,” Rocco quizzed, “why do so many of you working-class Republicans, especially you younger white guys in your thirties and forties, back politicians who don’t support your economic and social interests? You claim that you want change—more jobs, better education, affordable health care and housing, and want to ‘make America great again.’ But, instead, Trump and his Republican flunkies are exploiting you and dragging you into their self-destructive rabbit hole.”
I grimaced but kept my mouth shut.
Barely breaking for air, Rocco continued, almost choking while he tried to take a sip of his coffee.
“Taxes; are you kidding me? In six years, all middle-class benefits disappear, except the limits to your deductions, which will never disappear,” Rocco said. “Jobs? Infrastructure? Automation? You hear anything new? Coal; hold your breath. Access to college—they’re cutting scholarships and research and closing the door to foreign students who underwrite tuition costs and help keep our medical and technology fields at the cutting edge. Healthcare? You guys are probably independent contractors and without Obamacare, you’re screwed. And as for the environment, what kind of future are you leaving for your kids?
“Am I talking too fast for you guys; hard to keep up? I’ll slow down when my eggs hit the plate.
“Almost every day,” Rocco continued, “Trump and his minions are pulling a bait-and-switch, and like pigs to the slaughter, you play into their con game. You sit on your keisters worrying about your fears and insecurities—guns, gay marriage, abortion, racial diversity—while they’ll say and do whatever it takes to string you along.
“All the while, Mr. Bone Spurs robs this country blind and edges his finger closer to that [larger-than-North Korea’s] nuclear button. He plays to the lowest common denominator—hate, ignorance and intolerance—and scares you into compliance. You watch Fox News and get off on the scapegoating of immigrants, Latinos, Muslims and women. The vengeance of Trump and his racist clones knows no end.
“And how do you deal with the fact that Trump is a traitor as well as a liar and a thief? In Trump’s America, Hillary Clinton and the media are the enemy while a brutal dictator—Vladimir Putin—is a revered world leader who’s allowed to hack into and influence our elections. Trump’s America tolerates attacks on our democracy and sabotages facts and the truth. Why don’t you get it?”
“Whoa, there!” exclaimed the carpenter. “Let’s not get too worked up. Trump’s had some real successes lately.”
“Are you kidding?” responded Rocco. “He undermines the credibility of institutions—the courts, the FBI, intelligence agencies, the media—that can check his power and expose his deceit and disloyalty. He uses his bully pulpit to attack individuals with made-up facts and figures. The moral authority of this president and that of the Republican Party is in tatters, and the tone of this country, under his leadership, is becoming more and more vulgar every day. Racists are emboldened and now prominently included in any congressional Republican coalition.”
“But, he stands up to the world,” declared the electrician.
“How?” Rocco retorted. “By conducting sensitive nuclear negotiations over Twitter, calling his counterparts demeaning pet names? Morale at the State Department is in collapse, as diplomatic talent and experience flee in horror of his impulsivity and recklessness. The world is now constantly on edge. Like the petty gangster he is, Trump alienates our allies by demands for protection money. And, week by week, we forfeit international trade deals that will hamper our ability to compete economically for generations to come.”
The waitress arrived in the nick of time, delivering our food and, thankfully, breaking the tension that was clearly building. As Rocco became occupied with peppering his eggs, both the contractor and the electrician got up to leave, looking a bit unsettled.
“OK, calm down and enjoy your food,” the carpenter said. “And I’ll think about some of what you said.”