The number of people I run across in my daily life are well informed on the issues of the day. When I come across one who is, I relish discussing politics with him or her. One of my acquaintances reads three newspapers a day—the local daily, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. And with that last one you already have enough clues to know we are on opposite sides of most issues.
I, too, read the local daily newspapers and the New York Times, plus a number of opinion magazines. But from basically the same set of facts we draw totally opposite conclusions. When we first started our debates over a decade ago, it was my impression he was a mainstream Republican. Those of you who read this column know I have somewhat different views.
Now, after our latest meeting, I don’t know what he is. He defends even the radical right whose members have largely seized control of the Republican party. Generally, I wouldn’t like someone who would defend the radical right, but he is a likeable fellow who is well informed, even though badly mistaken in his interpretations of reality. My friend makes a professional call at the farm three or four times a year. We spend maybe half an hour conducting our business, then half a day debating political issues. He is a registered Democrat who only votes Democratic in primaries. In the general election, he is the Republican equivalent of a yellow-dog Democrat, someone who would vote for a yellow dog rather than for the candidate of the other party.
He has an advantage over me in that he is seemingly able to talk on and on without taking a breath—a skill I never mastered though I worked in a Department of Communication where several others had that same skill.
In one of our discussions, when he started talking about Democrats and the national debt I reminded him that when we first met he was quoting Ronald Reagan that the amount of the national debt didn’t matter, we could give tax breaks to the rich that would stimulate the economy and spend ourselves out of it. I thought that would corner him, and it did for a few seconds, but then he pulled out his favorite recovery mechanism—he started to filibuster, beginning with something that sounded like it would be a response but then drifted off into other topics until I had no idea what he was talking about. But with that amazing and mysterious breath control, he kept on and on until I finally gave up on the subject.
It is difficult for me to understand how anyone could defend a party that got us into this depression, blocked almost every effort to stimulate the economy to get us out—even basic infrastructure improvements—and blames Obama for not finding a way to quickly pull us out. They seem itching to get us into another war and want to protect the super-wealthy from paying more taxes to help the country bring down the national debt from its scary heights.
Instead, they want to give these people they call the “job creators” more tax breaks and to pay the debt by taking Social Security and Medicare away from the middle class. Most experts think the “job creators” won’t create jobs until people are in a position to buy their products. In other words, it’s the middle class, not the super-rich who drive the economy. Those were all things I wanted to tell him, but I didn’t get the chance to say them.
We won’t be meeting again until mid-Fall. That one will be only a couple of weeks before the presidential election. I’m practicing my breath control.
Lewis Donohew retired from the University of Kentucky College of Communications in 1999 after nearly 35 years of service and having earned a national reputation as a communications scholar and researcher. Now down on his farm growing grapes and living close to the earth, he contemplates issues of the day from a lifetime of experience and a love of the land.