Are You a Liberal or a Conservative?

by Bill Meulemans and Earl Starks

Many of us know whether we are a liberal or conservative, but few of us could explain why. It never occurs to us to go inside our own heads and ask the questions: why do you feel this way about current issues? How did you come by these attitudes? Do you ever listen to the other side in an objective manner?

Finding out where our individual ideology came from might be the challenge of a lifetime. Did we get most of it from our parents, our church, or our job?  Do you still remember the lessons you learned from that high school history teacher? At what age did you become politically aware? Was there one mentor or one political candidate that really started you down that certain path? Perhaps you can’t really account for your political point of view. That would be an important fact in itself.

Sometimes listening or reading about someone else’s point of view can set your brain in motion. I had a friend who said he didn’t know what he believed until he heard someone he disagreed with – then he knew. But even when we disagree with the opposition there is a certain desire to hear the other side. It’s intriguing to find out what makes another person tick. Strangely, when we listen with an objective mind, we not only understand our opponents, but we may better understand ourselves. Whatever the process, it is important that we delve into our own brand of politics, economics, spiritual beliefs and racial views – to find out why you became you!

Have you ever thought there are some things that are stuck inside you? Some things that are baked-in that will never go away? For many of us it is those baked-in beliefs that drive us as we establish ourselves as an ideological person. In the coming pages you will read the words of two people who are stuck in their roles: one is an authentic liberal and the other a genuine conservative. In the coming pages ask yourself why you agree or disagree with each of them.

Making of a Liberal

Ever since I was about 15 years old, I wondered why I was drawn to people in trouble. In books or movies I always worried about those left behind. The word “empathize” was not yet in my vocabulary, yet I was a walking example of someone who always put himself in someone else’s shoes. To this day I have little interest in books and movies unless they have a social, political, or racial message. It’s usually about helping the downtrodden – targets of discrimination – the outcasts of society. 

 I remember thinking I was different from a lot of guys in school that made fun of other children.  There were incidents in grade school and high school when a group of boys would shame or ridicule someone who couldn’t defend himself.  Everyone laughed except me.  I didn’t do anything heroic like defend the kid physically, but I would speak up and say, “Why did you guys do that? He wasn’t bothering you.”  Then, within a few minutes, I would go over and stand by the person who was the target of the jokes.

One of my proudest moments was years later, when a young man named “Edward” told me that I was the one child that “stood up for him in grade school.” He said he nearly quit school because the bullies taunted him on a daily basis. To this day, tears come to my eyes when I remember the names of other people I’ve known like Edward, who just didn’t fit in.  Later it dawned on me that my whole life has been becoming aware of the Edwards of the World. These folks were drawn from different races, religions, nationalities, and belief systems. So why was I drawn to them?  What made me tune into the cries of the dispossessed? Why did I always think about the little guy? Was there something wrong with a young man who didn’t identify with the rich and powerful?

Those questions are difficult to answer, but I can see some connection to my mother. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my mother was a soft touch for every homeless person who came through my hometown.  She never spoke about why she feed the hungry, but I suspect it was because of her strong religious beliefs. There was no lecture for me, but I learned by example.  In family conversations, she was the only one who defended the less fortunate. We had a string of relatives who needed help.  There were uncles and aunts who didn’t have enough for the essentials of life. She could always find extra clothing, food or a little money. It was important for her to share. 

Other members of the family may have regarded her as a pushover because she sometimes gave away too much.  But she was my quiet example.  She didn’t realize that she was raising a little liberal that would someday flirt with radicalism. She had no idea that her little boy would spend his entire life working for left-wing candidates and speaking out in favor of government programs to help the poor.  Neither did she consider that her son would be driven by the desire to find out why people disagreed so much on the topic of aiding the underprivileged. She was the teacher and I was her student.

When I was younger, it bothered me a lot to hear persons who were insensitive to the poor, but then I came to realize that also was part of my education. I encountered people who seemed to enjoy showing off their wealth. There were others who profited by exploiting those who were poor, and there were even some who discriminated against others for racial or religious reasons. All these things upset me, but those experiences added to the depth of my political socialization.

By the time I was 18 years old, I began to see life as one big research project.   Everywhere I went I asked questions and I soon discovered that people loved to talk about themselves and what they believed in.  My rule was: don’t argue – just ask why.

I remember learning early on that tempers would flair when discussing politics or religion.  I wondered why until I realized that these two sets of beliefs have a lot in common.  You can’t prove either one because they are basic beliefs all wrapped up in how we are socialized and who we respect.  Both religion and politics have the added quality of providing an answer to the most important questions of life: why are we here and what should we do to make this a better world? I also learned that I could separate people by hearing them talk about those two topics. Some people cared about others, while other folks just cared about themselves.

I had always been a supporter of Hubert Humphrey – first as Mayor of Minneapolis and then as a U.S. Senator representing Minnesota.  One of my favorite quotes from Humphrey was a speech he gave before the Democratic National Convention of 1948. He brought liberals to their feet with his ringing proclamation: “The time has come for the Democratic Party to come out of the shadow of states’ rights and walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.” That was the year the Dixiecrats walked out of the Democratic Convention in opposition to the civil rights plank favoring integration of the races. Humphrey, known as the “Happy Warrior,” was the essence of liberalism.

 I was stirred by Humphrey’s call for equality.   Just thinking about him made liberals like me smile.  He always believed that average people could have a better life if we acted collectively to promote economic justice. In many ways, Humphrey was the conscience of America. He had the courage to point the finger at the forces of inequality and discrimination and to propose solutions that were fair to everyone. He gave everyone an opportunity to be a better person.

The last time I saw Hubert Humphrey was in Washington, D.C.  It was in a congressional conference committee meeting between the House and Senate conferees. A group of young Republican members was trying to amend a civil rights bill by cutting out the enforcement provisions. Humphrey sat at the end of the table watching and listening. He was suffering from cancer and was bent over and gaunt, but then he stood up straight and lectured everyone (in a booming voice) about how the government could act as a positive force to preserve the civil rights of everyone, especially the poor. His old, high-pitched voice was still there along with his idealism from his early days.  Humphrey shook his finger at the young Republican members of Congress as he scolded them for trying to “rip the guts” out of the bill.  When he finished, everyone in the committee room (including the Republicans) stood up and cheered. The committee adjourned with the bill intact. It was his parting shot. He died the next year back in Minnesota.

When Humphrey died in 1978, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an editorial comment about what he did, not only for the people of Minnesota, but for everyone:

We think of him with his shirtsleeves rolled up,

 smiling, shaking hands, talking.

He talked us into believing in ourselves

and in the future.

He talked us into making sacrifices.

He talked us into accepting the world

as a great place to live,

 but one which could do with some improvement.

If we’d work at it.

The talk got through to all of us.

And it helped change so many things.

In this state and in this country.

In the world.

We’ll miss his voice.

Looking back, I remember feeling like a traitor in 1960 when John F. Kennedy ran against Humphrey in the Wisconsin Primary Election. Kennedy needed to win in Wisconsin to prove he could beat Humphrey in his own backyard.  I was torn between my heartfelt support for Humphrey versus the magnetism of Kennedy. 

The turning point came in April of 1960 when Kennedy came to speak at the University of Wisconsin. As chairman of the Young Democrats, I met briefly with Kennedy along with two professors.  We were in a small room off the stage of the auditorium, waiting for the crowd to settle in.  It was my first personal contact with a presidential candidate. I stood back and watched the young senator from Massachusetts who seemed so ill at ease. He kept touching his hair and straightening his tie. I was surprised because he seemed so unsure of himself. He didn’t really hold up his end of the conversation in that small room with three other people. I wondered whether he was really prepared to address the students.

But when the auditorium filled, Kennedy was transformed:  he stood up straight as he strode out on the stage to a roaring crowd. Within the first minute, hundreds of people were cheering.  He rose to the occasion – he had the crowd in the palm of his hand.  For the first time in my life, I understood the word charisma; he had a political charm that defied description. Somehow I stumbled through introducing him that morning, and I knew my loyalties had changed. I was, from that day forward, a Kennedy supporter and went to work in his campaign as a volunteer. My political activism had taken a new form.

Liberalism flowered in the 1960s. The New Frontier, The Great Society and all the progressive legislation that was passed and signed. Hubert Humphrey proposed the Peace Corps. John Kennedy sent in Federal Marshals to integrate the University of Alabama, and Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But there were sad moments also, when John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were gunned down, yet there was still a reservoir of compassion as the country actually tried to fulfill its promise. Those were the years when I first marched for civil rights, and for an end of the war in Vietnam.  It was a grand time for a liberal to be alive.

Yet the challenges nearly tore us apart. We knew we were off track during the terrible years of the Vietnam War, and the decade neared an end in the convulsions of the 1968 riots in Chicago and the election of Richard Nixon. Since then, many liberals (including myself) felt the country had lost its way. The years of Reagan and the two Bushes were a time when the country no longer seemed to care about those left behind; the focus was on tax cuts, defense spending, and slashing government programs.  There was a modest attempt to renew our purpose during the Carter and Clinton years, but we were no longer committed to care about everyone.  It was different and we all knew it.

The ideals of liberals were mocked on cable news channels as we fell off the path of using government for the collective good of all. The new heroes were rugged individualists who prided themselves on avoiding taxes and breaking labor unions.  Political leaders turned their backs on helping those who couldn’t help themselves. It was like the nation had forgotten The New Deal, The New Frontier, and The Great Society. We had lost our way.

Because of the gridlock, middle-class people also lost their homes, their jobs and their faith that someone cared about them. Before 2016, few recognized the widespread sense of betrayal felt by many voters, who were looking for someone (anybody) who wasn’t tainted by politics.  Angry voters turned in desperation to a political amateur, a carnival barker who bellowed out the slogan. “Make America Great Again.” Trump was a boisterous candidate, without much content, but he spoke their language.

The inspiring message of progressive politics had been traded in for a message of fear and an eagerness to blame everyone else for our problems. It hardly seemed possible that the rhetoric of Hubert Humphrey had given away (in my lifetime) to the crude, threatening white nationalism of Donald Trump.  Where did the good times go? Who let us fall into this reactive pattern?  Have we forgotten the message of the “Happy Warrior?”

Liberals of today are in retreat to the extent that they no longer call themselves “liberals.” It’s not stylish any longer to idealize the purpose of helping those left behind. There’s a new ethic: “It’s a dangerous world out there and everyone has to watch their own back.” Trump is in the process of disassembling all the agencies and programs that gave people a second chance. The government that inspired people to help each other is being refashioned and privatized so it will yield a profit for the wealthy above the heat of the struggle. We are now in the era of the “morning after” when people are waking up to the changes that are taking place.

Is liberalism dead or have we just entered a prolonged time when we no longer feel obligated to educate everyone, clean up the air and water, and deal with the reality of climate change? Have we forgotten history, or are we just resigned to go back into a boom and bust economy? Do we really want to discredit the free press in exchange for a regime that conducts policy-making in secret? Will we feel comfortable in a world where a politicized clergy can hide behind a tax-free status and endorse and fund political campaigns? What will be the result when we cut public funding for schools and early childhood education? Do we really need a $20 billion wall on the Mexican border? What will be the result when we ban specific religious groups from entering this country? How can we respect a president who makes fun of the handicapped?

We have lost our political soul since the days when we were inspired to “give to our country” rather than just “taking as much as we can get.” According to Fox News, liberals of today are seen as “foolish” and “unrealistic” when they advocate helping the powerless. It’s become naive to talk about sacrificing individual advantages for the sake of the nation. The Donald Trump crowd is laughing at us.

I heard a television commentator make fun of a New York Times front-page story noting that the temperature of the earth had risen again (for the third straight year) and there was concern that we might have reached the tipping point on climate change. I couldn’t help but wonder if the liberal sense of obligation for the planet has been completely lost? Will a collective concern for humanity ever return?

It’s so much easier to tear down than build up. Programs passed by liberals were high risk to begin with because they were aimed at persistent problems like poverty, environmental pollution, and wholesale discrimination against minorities. It wasn’t an easy fix and a lot of things could go wrong. It was comparatively easy to find something wrong with programs designed to help everyone. Now all these programs are being systematically disassembled.

“Every man for himself” has become a part of the American creed. The goal, out on the marquee, is to deregulate the country and “Make America Great Again.” The sign out front says it’s to increase freedom, bring back jobs, to silence “fake news,” and to get rid of troublesome groups like labor unions.  But in the backroom there is another set of goals that are more revealing; it’s to increase corporate profits, destroy the credibility of the mainstream media, and undercut workers who need a living wage.

When I was 16 years old I had a brief, part-time job working on a carnival that came to my hometown.  I was hired because it was my hometown, and most people in the community knew and trusted me. It was the old scam of throwing a baseball at five metallic-colored plastic milk bottles (3 on a bottom row and 2 stacked on top). First, I was shown how to draw in a potential customer (usually a man) by showing them how easy it was to knock down the whole pile.  All the bottles looked the same but one of them was filled with lead.  If I put this heavy bottle on the top row (and if the ball hit any part of the pyramid) all the bottles went down, and the man won a prize. It was so simple.   If the heavy bottle was on the bottom row it was nearly impossible to win.

They taught me how to catch the eye of a rube (a customer) who was wandering down the midway that looked like an easy mark.  I would throw the ball myself showing him how easy it was to knock down all the bottles, and how they could win any one of these prizes for just one dollar. My take was 25 cents. It was a surefire way to con a customer. But I quit after one hour because I couldn’t bear to cheat people in a rigged game. It was dishonest and I couldn’t abide by the hoax to take people’s money, especially from individuals I knew.

The milk-bottle swindle came to mind as I watched the 2016 election campaign. It was the old trick of hoodwinking the public by making them believe they could win at a game that was based on a lie.  It was based on deceiving the voter.

Donald Trump drew people in through mass deception. He distracted the public by making brash, outrageous promises he couldn’t keep, and insulting all those who questioned him. It was the old milk bottle trick, fashioned as a mass rally shown on national television.  But there was one important difference: the carnival could leave town before the people caught on.  Now, however, the voters are becoming aware that something that “seemed too good to be true, was not true to begin with.” 

In a televised interview, (during a moment of candor) Donald Trump said he would like to be compared with P.T Barnum of the Barnum and Bailey Circus.  It was the world-famous showman Barnum who said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

 

 Making of a Conservative 

I was raised to be independent.  I was taught self-reliance as a child and have tried to practice it all my life.  I believe that it is incumbent upon each of us to make a contribution to our families, our communities and our nation.  Relying on others to do things that I should be able to do for myself is not on my radar.

I went to school, joined the Navy, worked my way through college, became a law enforcement officer and launched a successful business career.  Along the way I had the privilege of raising a great family. While I did attend public schools I neither asked for nor received any assistance from the government.  I accepted responsibility for my own life and believe that it is necessary for each of us to do that to the best of our ability. There are those, who through physical or mental disability or lack of education cannot assume responsibility for themselves.  Only then should government step in to help.  Dwight Eisenhower said “Democracy is an opportunity for self-discipline.”  I am a conservative and that sums up the foundation of my personal philosophy.

I experienced poverty as a child.  My father was poorly educated and he had to quit school to help support his family.  As soon as he became of age he joined the Navy and sent his pay home to help feed and clothe his five siblings.  His dad made a meager living, first as a sharecropper in east Texas and then as a low level railroad employee in Utah.  His family lived in a small house with no plumbing or electricity.  No one gave them anything.  By contrast my mother came from a wealthy family in Chicago that had lost it all in the market crash of 1929.  My parents came from very different backgrounds but both contributed immensely to my current attitude.  From my father I learned the value of hard work and from my mother I gained an appreciation for education.

I was born in Los Angeles prior to World War II.  Though I was very young I still recall how united we all were in the “war effort.”  Everyone participated in their own way and this country was truly one nation.  We may never again see this near total unity.  How sad.

My family, including my grandmother, lived in a tiny one-bedroom house in south-central Los Angeles.  When the war ended my uncle and his wife moved in with us.  We were all piled in there but I recall it was a happy time.  Jobs were scarce in Los Angeles so we moved to Utah where an unfinished basement was to be our home.  My dad found work as a plumber.  The winters were brutal and my dad suffered severely from working outside in the cold.  Our circumstances would have been dire except for the loving kindness of church, family and friends.  The Federal government had not entered the welfare business at that time so we were on our own.

To get dad out of the cold we moved back to California where he went to work in a “union shop” which provided a reasonable income and, eventually, the opportunity to retire with some degree of comfort.  I began to appreciate unions when their demands were reasonable.  I soon discovered that union demands were not always “reasonable”.  I can remember when the United States could boast of the greatest steel industry and the best railroads in the world.  We had unmatched manufacturing facilities and our automobiles were the envy of everyone.  The stamp “Made in the U.S.A” meant high quality at a fair price.

We reached a point, however, when unions were so powerful they became the “tail that wagged the dog”.  Union demands for wages and benefits far exceeded the value of the product. Manufacturers were forced to raise prices or lower quality.  To compete in a global market it became necessary for many to leave the country for a better labor market.  I have only to look at Pittsburgh or Detroit to see the effect of all-too-powerful unions.

I joined the Navy at age seventeen.  My ship visited many ports and this allowed me to witness abject poverty.  I saw large families living in filthy huts.  They had no clean water.  No underground pipes to carry sewage away.  No refrigeration.  None of the things we might consider essential.  Forget about cars, vacations, fine dining, washers or dryers, air conditioning or new clothing.  Reality was a handful of rice and maybe a little meat.

One might think this would make me more of a liberal, but the opposite occurred.  I came to believe that poverty was not caused by a lack of resources, but by large overbearing government.  Those at every level in government accumulated all wealth with little actually going to those who produced it.  Governments have a voracious appetite and, if unchecked, can consume everything and everyone.  The people were driven down to a level in which poverty was the norm.  The worst part was that people also suffered a poverty of aspirations – they no longer believed they could help themselves.

I was an enlisted man in the Navy and, upon entering, saw that officers were treated royally and the rest of us not so much.  I observed that some of these officers were “knuckleheads” but they had a college degree and thus were able to be commissioned. I was determined, then and there, that come hell or high water, I would graduate from college.                                                              

While I was in college the State of California passed the Rumford Fair Housing Act that banned discrimination on the sale of homes.  This was a time of growing strife and the racial integration of neighborhoods was a hot subject.  “Block busting” was rampant in California as black families moved into white neighborhoods, much to the displeasure of the other homeowners.  In response, the white homeowners would scramble to sell, and the housing market became chaotic.  The Rumford Act was very controversial.  A successful repeal campaign was launched by the real estate association but the California Supreme Court finally ruled that the repeal efforts were unconstitutional.  The Rumford Act was upheld.

At the beginning of the controversy I argued that homeowners should have the right to sell a home to the persons of their choosing.  They paid for it and it should be up to them to dispose of it as they saw fit.  A very liberal professor managed to make me realize that I was wrong.  He countered that the Bill of Rights was a two edged sword.  On one hand the majority should rule but on the other, the rights of minorities had to be protected from the tyranny of the majority. No individual or group should ever be denied a right that is available to all others.                                        

I worked my way through college while providing for a wife and two children.  I received no government assistance.  After college I applied for, and was accepted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The FBI academy was tough as most of the members of my class were lawyers and accountants.  I knew little about federal law so it was difficult to keep up.  I managed to graduate and was commissioned as a special agent.  Looking back, I was impressed with the quality of the people I worked with.  With few exceptions they worked hard and maintained very high ethical and moral standards.

But after fifteen years with the FBI I decided to resign.  My career in law enforcement exposed me to some of the least worthy citizens of our country.  I discovered that my constant exposure to the worst among us was giving me a jaded view of humanity.  I was constantly exposed to people who had fallen through the cracks.  I saw what government was doing to attempt to help the least fortunate and how that effort was failing on a daily basis.

For example, I came in contact with very young mothers with multiple children fathered by multiple males.  These young women were practically kids themselves.  Some were totally illiterate and could hardly take care of themselves, much less their children.  They got by with help from their mothers and from government assistance.  But it wasn't working.  Each generation repeated the same mistakes and the government actually participated by ignoring the chance to act in a positive manner.

I am convinced that rather than simply supplying more cash each time another baby is brought into this world, we must tie welfare payments to mandatory education in job skills and literacy.  Even little ones need to be educated in infancy to learn that there is a good life to be had outside of the circle of poverty.  I learned this from my own family situation and know it’s true.  Our government cannot spend people out of poverty.  As a conservative I believe in the old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him to fish and you feed him for a

lifetime.”

I have seen billions of dollars spent to eradicate poverty, but it has, instead, institutionalized it as a way of life for some people.  They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result.  We've done the same thing for nearly fifty years.  Are we insane?

Several years ago we were introduced to the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.”  We were told that “If we like our doctor we could keep our doctor.  If we liked our health insurance we could keep our health insurance”.  Neither was true.  The promise was made that families would save twenty five hundred dollars per year.  Also not true.  Obamacare was enacted through trickery, lies and fraud.  Some members of Congress were completely ignorant of the details, because were told that they would have to pass the act before they could read it.  Apparently Nancy Pelosi knew that this monstrosity would never pass if her fellow Democrats knew that it belied all of the assurances that she and President Obama had promised.  Several Democrats were reluctant to sign on.  Several billions of dollars went to the renegade Democrats states in the form of government projects to “buy” their vote.  In the end all of the lying and conniving worked and the law narrowly passed.  No Republican voted for it.

The act is now in death throes as premiums and deductibles have gone through the roof.  The Republicans are perplexed as to how to replace it.  As a conservative I believe the government should get out of the health care business and provide block grant money to the states which are much more capable of determining how to take care of their own sick.  Liberals, on the other hand, are pushing for a total takeover of healthcare with a “single payer” system.

If you want a single payer system you have only to look at the way the government runs the Veterans Administration health care.  It is a shambles and a government takeover of all healthcare would be like the Veterans Administration system on steroids.  Liberals point out that we are the only industrialized nation without universal health benefits.  My neighbors are Canadians who reside here during the winter months.  They compare their system to the Veterans Administration program in that it is not unusual to wait for months or even year for non-emergency services.  They usually wind up paying for those services themselves.

Another unintended consequence of Obamacare is the loss of full time employment in small businesses.  The cost to employers to provide health care has become so unmanageable that many have resorted offering only part-time work. Employers do not have to provide health care to part-timers.  Many workers have to get two of these jobs just to make ends meet.  Obamacare mandates these people must buy individual coverage or pay large fines so they struggle even further to meet this cost.  In the end we have formed a very large group of people who are dependent on the government.  For the liberals this means “mission accomplished.”

Liberals always seem to want create divisions.  They use “identity politics” to split us up into racial, gender, age, and sexual groups and then pit each against the other.  They espouse the use of hateful names, charging that some people are racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, xenophobic, or Islamaphobic.  It is rare to hear a conservative use these terms but they are frequently found in the vocabulary of liberals.  A very small percentage of Americans, on either side of the political spectrum, deserve to wear these labels but, if we do not agree with the liberal viewpoint we get so named. 

Trump was criticized for making saying things in the campaign that were controversial, but Hillary made a few comments that really defined who she was, and what she thought about regular people. She said Trump supporters were “a basket of deplorables.” Trump responded by saying this showed her “true contempt for everyday Americans,” and it did. Without fully realizing it, Hillary Clinton showed her true self, and voters remembered it, I know I did.

Liberals have got to recognize that some people have different points of view in regard to LGBT practices.  It is not a matter of “hate” but of following their conscience.  Some churches preach against it from the pulpit.  In doing so they are exercising their right to freedom of religion, to assembly and free speech as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  These groups are regularly castigated by liberals.  Why are liberals so intolerant?

I am upset by other ways liberals trash the First Amendment.  Conservatives are not allowed to speak on many college campuses.  Some have even feared for their personal safety.  Colleges used to be bastions of free speech.  Once again, conservatism is not “hate” speech as it is labeled by liberals.  It is just another political point of view.  The free exchange of ideas fosters progress and unity.  There is nothing to fear from other ideas.  One of the first steps toward totalitarianism has been the suppression of free speech.   Fox News has been under constant attack.  Will conservative publications be next?  This repression could cause the very foundations of our democracy to crumble.

In 2016 we found that neither party seemed to be honest about how the federal government has spent us into a hole.  It was difficult to get excited by any of the presidential candidates.  In November it came down to just two choices: Trump or Hillary.  It was a choice between a bombastic, but successful businessman or a woman under investigation for destroying subpoenaed documents.  He promised a new approach and she more of the same.  Not much of a choice.

We are a divided nation.  From the halls of Congress to the chaos in our streets we have met the enemy and it is us.  Republicans cannot agree on anything and the Democrats watchword is “resist.”  There is no effort on either side to find common ground.  It was the same under the Obama administration.  He accepted little input from Republicans and now, likewise, the Republicans have all but shut out the Democrats.  What happened to statesmanship?

I fear for our country. 

* * *

The two people who wrote this article didn’t really know each other until shortly before writing these companion articles. Both of them were rather amazed that they could learn from each other. As the project developed they came to respect each other more and appreciate how the other person came to their beliefs.  Neither person tried to change the other because the focus was on trying to provide a fair hearing for both points of view. Each had the charge of telling their own story and trying to dig into their own psyche, but in the process each came to gain some insight into how and why other person believe as he does.

It crossed the minds of both that it might be well if more people tried to cross the bridge into the camp of the opposition. When all the accusing comments are swept away, we all have a common identity as citizens who want our system to succeed. These two people didn’t change each other’s minds, but they did become friends. They can actually talk about current affairs and not lose their tempers. That’s a big step in the right direction.

The one source of agreement for these two is a deep concern for what has happened to American politics. They both want liberals and conservatives to work together to govern this country. They accept the idea that democracy is messy – but that’s what politics is all about!