Jay Fleitman: Not an accidental Republican
NORTHAMPTON — I’ve known her for over 20 years. She is smart, hardworking and a dyed-in-the-wool New York style Democrat. Yet it didn’t surprise me when she launched into a long rant about all of those on welfare, food stamps, taxpayer-supported early retirement, subsidized medical care and prolonged unemployment insurance but not looking for work, while she works hard, pays taxes, and doesn’t have retirement in sight. What about personal responsibility or pulling your own weight?
She was very angry. Her harangue made Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47 percent look mild. I blithely commented that she sounded like a Republican. She was shocked. “Never,” she said. She voted for Obama.
I had the good luck to have a conversation with a young African-American woman at a recent Republican event who had an interesting perspective. She told me that her family and friends accuse her of being a traitor because she is a Republican. She finds this puzzling, as they all generally agree on most economic and social issues. Most of her friends and family are quite conservative in their thinking, but they would never consider voting for Republicans. It is simply accepted in their community that black folks vote for Democrats. Unemployment is crushing in the black population after four years of this president, he is supporting the teachers’ unions in their attack on school vouchers which offers them choice for their children, yet 97 percent of blacks voted for Obama.
Just this weekend I was interviewed for a local magazine by their reporter who is an undergraduate. He was clearly a Democrat. Soon into the conversation, as I advanced the reasoning behind many Republican beliefs, he dropped his professional impartiality to defend his party. I think that he was taken aback by the perspective that there is nothing particularly enlightened or sophisticated in the notion of a big centralized government intruding widely in society, that this is an old model found throughout human history with varying degrees of despotism.
That which makes the American experiment so unique was the founding of a government with a primary directive of protecting the degrees of freedom of its citizens. And yes, it is his political party that is the party of enlarging government. He countered with Republicans being “angry old men,” and I said that yes, we are angry that the idea of liberty is under constant erosion, but we are certainly not just old or men.
By the way, I asked, if we don’t have the fiscal conservatism of Republicans, then who did he think was going to be stuck with the $16 trillion debt? It’s not my generation, as we’ll be skating into Medicare, Social Security and retirement. It will be his generation, so what were they possibly thinking with over 70 percent voting for Obama?
This all mirrors, an observation my wife and I have shared during our time in Massachusetts. We have had many, many conversations over the years with friends and acquaintances who agree with us on almost every issue and yet identify themselves as Democrats. There is no way that we have misidentified ourselves as Republicans, so we can’t figure out why these people go out and vote for politicians who clearly don’t support their beliefs.
Elections do have consequences: just look at the president’s conduct of the national debt “fiscal cliff” negotiations now ongoing in Washington.
I am often asked what Republicans think of the election just passed. Universally, my fellow travelers are aghast and furious. We cannot believe that this country re-elected this failed president, and his seemingly heedless rush into national financial ruin in his quest to create the Great Benevolent Government Bureaucracy.
Nor can we believe that the voters of Massachusetts would replace the thoughtful and moderate Scott Brown with an avowed partisan bomb thrower. Personally, this election has made me more militant and less accepting of compromise. Obama is not my president, and the senators and congressmen from Massachusetts are not my representatives.
I consider myself represented by Republicans elected from other parts of the country, and I look to them to defend what I believe is right. I am not against their finding common ground with Democrats, but if required, I do want them to fight no-holds barred. Because of the nasty personal attacks of the Obama campaign, we owe the Democrats no consideration. These elected Republican senators and congress people have the support of the like-minded from across the nation, and I am happy to remind everyone that 49 percent of this nation did not vote for Obama.
Jay Fleitman, M.D., lives in Northampton. His column appears the first Tuesday of the month. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.