So You Wanna Discuss Politics? Do You Have To Be An Asshole?

Full Disclosure: I’m typing this while standing on a soapbox. Also, I’m an idealist…basically.

My father and I had an interesting political relationship.

I am a liberal, gay woman with a Masters degree in Political Science. In other words, I’m one of the “educated elite.” My dad, on the other hand, owned a business and was a self-proclaimed “independent,” which meant that he was as far right as one could go – fiscally and socially.

But, then…he loved me anyway.

Our political discussions began pretty early on. I clearly remember during the year of Bush/Dakakis drawing a picture of a bush on fire and a large pile of caca with “President 1988” written in bubble letters as a headline. I was 10. (And I am aware that the use of the word “caca” just now reduced me back to that age range, but “caca”/”kakis”…you get the correlation.)

When I showed it to him, he agreed with the depiction of Dukakis, but not so much my interpretation of Bush. I remember being confused because my grandma – a staunch Democrat – had made it clear that Bush was absolutely NOT the guy we wanted running the country. I just assumed everyone in my family thought the same. I was definitely wrong. In fact, I’m in the minority in my family – at least on my dad’s side. The Coxes are a family of Republicans. And by “Republican,” I mean they are con.serv.a.tive.

But, then…they love me anyway. Well, most of them.

My father and I spent the vast majority of my twenties debating politics. Then came 2008 – “the black fella” versus “the veteran.” My father actually said that this might be his first election to abstain from voting. John McCain was “far too liberal” for my “independent” father, and “the black fella” was a “socialist” and “we all know that didn’t work in the communist countries” and “completely inexperienced.” Then, the clouds parted, and the sun illuminated a woman named Sarah Palin.

She saved 2008 for my dad. I was appalled. I knew he was hardcore when Sarah Palin saved 2008 for him.

If my father could have had five minutes alone with her, he would have charmed her into becoming wife number 5, I’m sure of it. Alas, he didn’t.

During the 2008 campaign, I would call him, and in my best Sarah Palin voice, I would talk to him about stupid shit.

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Ring.

“Thank you for calling Aamco. Hal speaking. How can I help you?”

“Uh…Mr. Cox. This is Sarah Palin. Hi, there. How are ya?”

“Oh, God.”

“I was wondering, Mr. Cox…if I don’t wear lipstick, but rather chapstick, does that make me a pitbull or a hockey mom? Or does it simply make me you, sir?”

My dad was a little obsessed with chapstick.

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The day after the election, when the love of his life went back to just being Governor of Alaska, I called him as her to let him know that “I was OK and was ready to go moose hunting.” Sometimes he would laugh. Other times, he would play along. There were times he would just hang up on me (that was my favorite). But it was always fun.

For the eight years prior to this election, I opined the policies and decisions of the Bush Administration – the Patriot Act, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush Doctrine, tax cuts, a constitutional amendment on the definition of marriage, just to name a few. My father turned me into a debater, surreptitiously picking apart each point I’d make. He wouldn’t make counterarguments; he made arguments.

You see, we talked politics – policies, decisions, stances. At no point, however, did we call each other’s guy (or girl…’cause at one point, I was all over some Hillary Clinton) a “terrorist” or “unpatriotic” or an “enemy to the state.” In fact, even when I grew more and more appalled at the fear-mongering nature of the Bush Administration…as more and more people were whisked away to be tortured under an arbitrary law that gave too much power and control to our Executive…not once, did I ever call Bush a “terrorist” or a “torturer.” I read the Patriot Act. I picked it apart. I explained the problems with subjectivity in any kind of federal document. But I didn’t call Bush a “power hungry mother fucker who would scare his way into a re-election because he was too injudicious to actually win it on his own prowess or smarts.” I could have. But I didn’t.

My father and I discussed the economy, human rights, the devolution of social services, foreign policy. Rarely did we change our positions, but we heard each other. Why? Because we had a mutual respect for each other, and we had a mutual respect for the office.

Don’t get me wrong…there were times when I would have to remind him that there is a difference between being “right” (as in right “of center”) and “right” (as in “opposite of wrong”). He hated when I would say that. “Just because you’re right, Dad, doesn’t mean you’re right.”

By DonkeyHotey

If my dad were alive today, I would be talking to him about this year’s election.

We would discuss the war on women – and it is just that, don’t be fooled. Any time a woman’s reproductive rights are called into question; any time a politician qualifies rape with terms like “honest” or “legitimate” or “a gift from God”; any time we are told that this “war on women is just a distraction,” (as though more than half our country is a distraction); any time women are scoffed at for bringing up equal pay; know that the war on women is real.

We would debate human rights versus national security. I would stand firm that they are not mutually exclusive; he would argue that keeping American secure was more important. I would talk about the feeling of security versus the actual defined rights we are afforded as humans.

I fundamentally disagree with Mitt Romney on the vast majority of his stances – gay rights, women’s rights, healthcare, social services, foreign policy, the economy. I mean, I think I disagree with him – he kind of changes his stance a lot. (Boom.)

That being said, I don’t hate Mitt Romney. I don’t think he’s a terrorist because his beliefs are antiquated and simple-minded. I think he’s a chronic politician who is so excited to be in the running for the highest office that he’s willing to say just about anything to get into that office, but I don’t think he’s un-American. I just disagree with him. Fundamentally. Our values are different.

Here’s the deal: on Wednesday, November 7, you’ll have to get up and go to work with some of the 50% + 1 that vote for the guy for whom you didn’t vote.

Did you call them stupid during this process? Un-American?

There’s a great line in the play I’m currently in… (What? You’re in a play? Yep. At The Playhouse – it’s called November. David Mamet wrote it. Buy tickets.)

“If you look at the polls. It seems: we are a “nation divided.” But: we aren’t a “nation divided”…we’re a democracy – we hold different opinions. But: we laugh at the same jokes, we clap each other on the back, when we reach that month’s quota, and…I’m not at all sure that we don’t love each other.”

Sure. It’s ideal as all hell. In the end, we should all stop and sing We Are the World. But the sentiment I take from that line is this:

You’re gonna have to get up on Wednesday morning after the election. And all that shit you’ve been talking – that angry vitriol that you’ve directed at the opposing candidate and your friends and colleagues on the other side of the aisle – will still be there.

Hold different values? Sure. I mean, it’s harder to remain friends if we have fundamental differing opinions on the ultimate value of all human beings, but we can give it a shot. Have disagreements on policy? Absolutely. This is easier because policy is about solutions – you may believe your solutions to a problem are more acceptable than mine and vice versa. This is America, after all. You’re allowed to disagree and discuss and problem solve and change your mind…or not. The angry name-calling, though? Unacceptable.

On Wednesday morning, I would love to be able to call my dad and say, “So, what do you think?” We would talk it through. One of us would be disappointed; the other would make a stupid joke…unless it was me, then it would be a brilliant joke. (Duh.)

I don’t get to do that this year.

What I do know is this: I wouldn’t feel ashamed calling him on Wednesday. We discussed. We disagreed. We debated. We never acted like assholes.