People who agree with the opinions in my columns often ask me about the email I get from critics, occasionally smiling and shaking their heads at the thought of the digital venom I must receive.
Well, the emails from the most obnoxious of my repeat critics are automatically relegated to “junk,” but as a body of work, the negative messages take various forms.
One genre is what you might describe as “ha-ha” trash talk, simple-minded rants about how their side won, my side lost, and to hell with me and everyone like me.
Another genre arrives with a pretense of arguing that Republican policies under Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and Scott Walker are working just fine, thank you. One fellow repeatedly reminded me how my 401(k) was soaring under Trump, as if the bull market that began in March 2009 was the president’s doing. (Those emails stopped after recent market declines, especially the big drop following Trump’s misguided steel and aluminum tariffs.)
A third genre is messages that vilify Hillary Clinton some 17 months after the election. During the 2016 campaign, I wrote in support of this smart and accomplished center-left woman, so if anyone in the media ecosystem criticizes her, I will probably get a “told-you-so” note and a link. I am still convinced the single greatest “crime” by “Crooked Hillary” was running for president while female.
Anyway, from first-hand experience with feisty, gloating Republicans, I have concluded they fall into two groups.
The first is the one attracted to blow-it-up Trump populism, mostly non-urban blue-collar whites, convinced, I presume, by years of Republican propaganda that their low wages and lost manufacturing jobs are the fault of immigrants, African-Americans and professional urban elites. They think the rest of us disrespect their culture and want to take away their guns.
How many books and in-depth stories have you read since Trump’s shocking victory that endeavor to illuminate their collective grievances? You know, the anecdotal first paragraph describing some guy in a coffee shop who says that despite Trump’s womanizing and porn star trouble, the Russia investigation and the anti-middle class tax law that he stands behind Trump because, well, Trump said he would blow things up and he is.
But that is not the Republican voter who truly repels me.
That group would be the traditional mainstream Republicans, the sort of people who probably seldom if ever interact with the Latinos or African-Americans Trump has targeted.
These Republicans either don’t know or simply don’t care that Trump has brought a shower of hate down on people of color as well as on Jews and gays. I doubt those Republicans saw the latest Southern Poverty Law Center headline: “The Year in Hate: Trump Thrills White Supremacists in 2017.” How would these Republicans react if it was their children who were being increasingly targeted for taunting, bullying or worse?
And yet, they are out there in their fancy cars and fancy homes, the beneficiaries of fine educations, people who are no doubt abundantly aware that mainstream media outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post are not “fake news” and that the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation are filled with patriots who have sacrificed much to serve the country. Yet they don’t seem to care.
They mingle with Madison liberals in the same service clubs, restaurants, stores and entertainment venues and apparently — inexplicably — manage not to be outraged enough to abandon Trump.
Take Walker, for example.
This election year, he is trying yet another 180-degree pivot, masquerading as a friend of public education after years of decimating its workforce and funding. At the same time, he is giving away the proverbial store at taxpayer expense to Foxconn Technology Group after years of policies that drove many of our best and brightest young people to other states. You can bet, though, that should he win a third term, Walker will pivot once again to follow directions from the Koch brothers and other far-right puppet masters to appear conservatively pure enough to run in a national GOP presidential primary.
I would urge Democrats to make sure that Wisconsin voters are regularly reminded just how obsequious Walker has been with Trump. If a picture tells the symbolic story, it was the one showing Walker sitting in Trump’s Oval Office desk with Trump behind him. Walker looks like a little boy trying out daddy’s seat.
As Trump continues to undermine the institutions of our democracy, Walker, Ryan and other sycophantic Republicans duck and cover or change the subject. Most of the mainstream Republicans I encounter in Madison do the same.
They certainly get encouragement. In the New York Times, Jeff Roe, campaign manager for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s failed GOP presidential primary effort, recently exhorted GOP candidates in an op-ed: “Don’t run from Trump.”
He wrote that candidates should rally around Trump to avert huge losses this fall. “What will it be, my fellow Republicans?” he asked in conclusion. “My answer: Fix bayonets and charge the hill.”
Well, fix your bayonets by all means, but here are my questions for the traditional, mainstream, well-informed Republicans in Madison and beyond, people who philosophically think government is too big and taxes too high.
Do you condone this monstrous new era of racism that has been unleashed on innocent people who lack your Caucasian prosperity and lifelong white privilege?
Do you, with your college degrees, really believe climate change is a hoax? Do you ever think about its impact on your children and grandchildren?
Do you truly believe that there should be fewer restrictions on owning semi-automatic weapons than on driving a car?
Do you actually doubt that Russia has successfully attacked our country with an impact it never achieved during the Cold War?
Do you really accept your country and party being led by a lying, cowardly narcissist, occupying space once filled by the likes of Republicans like Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln?
Fair questions, it seems to me.
But hey, I know, those of you high up the income scale are getting a big tax cut and, anyway, you’ve personally experienced little of the damage Trump Republicanism has wrought.
So party on, dudes, and keep sending me those anti-Hillary rants.