November 28, 2004

Can we move on now?

By: Rich Trzupek

Those of you who voted otherwise are no doubt still dismayed by the results of this last election. The range of emotions among John Kerry’s supporters runs from dismay, over how stupid they perceive the American people to be, to outright anger, because the GOP — in their view — stole another one.

As one of 58 million voters who cast their ballots in support of George Bush, that’s troubling. It’s troubling because we’re not as different as the political and media spin-masters, of either side, would like us to believe.

Yes we have our whackos on the right, as they do on the left. But the vast majority of people that I’ve met of any political persuasion are pretty much the same underneath: good, caring people who want the best for the world, for their children and for themselves.

So I’d like to address this article to you, my disaffected, disappointed, Democratic cousins. No satire, I promise. It just occurs to me that you really don’t understand how much we have in common. Can we have a fresh start? I’d like to introduce myself to you: I’m a Republican voter.

First of all, I’m not rich. In fact, I’m so middle-class it hurts. My parents weren’t rich either. Money was something other people had. Growing up I saw that a lot of the rich people happened to be politicians, or close friends of politicians. Growing up in Chicago, they also happened to be Democrats.

So I grew up distrusting money and power as much as you do. Later, I realized that Republicans could play the same game as well, as they do out here in the suburbs that I now call home. And I concluded that professional politicians, as a class, aren’t to be trusted until they proved otherwise.

But I did see a difference. The rich guys in one party, the Republicans, got a lot of attention for their money. They were known as “the party of the rich” and their every move was closely examined in that context.

The other party seemed to get a free pass despite their leaders’ wealth. As long as they redistributed enough money, they could claim to be the party of the common man, no matter how ineffectual a particular policy might be or how much their big tunas benefited from it. And that made me suspicious. Who, I wondered, is the real underdog here?

I believe in God, but I’m not a Bible thumper. Sad to say, I’m not even a regular church-goer. Yes, I know that fundamentalists and fanatics vote with me, but that fringe no more defines what I expect of my party than your fringe defines yours.

The vast majority of us believe in a Higher Power and it’s not all that important how we perceive that Power. Knowing there is something out there bigger than our personal ambitions is quite enough.

I’m very, very offended when you call me a racist or a sexist. I’m proud to be color-blind and gender-blind and to judge every person strictly on their merits, as every person deserves.

It’s unfortunate that my parents and many of their generation couldn’t make the same claim. But you know what? It was a different generation, one that accomplished an awful lot, and we’ve grown up since then.

Yes we still have some growing up to do, but I’d like my government to get out of our way and let us do that, with faith in the basic goodness of humanity to see us through. I know that you think we need more help, and I respect that, but we still have the same goal and I wish you could believe that.

I don’t like war. I don’t find any joy in it and I don’t have any ambitions for America to rule the world.

Like you, I pray for a peaceful, prosperous world in which every unassuming individual is free to make the most of their life in their own way.

Unfortunately, there are misguided, angry and downright evil people out there who will settle for nothing less than their own version of perfection and are more than willing to destroy in order to achieve it. That frightens me. It makes me weep for those who fall victim to such fanaticism. I know it bothers you too.

You seem to believe that the best way to cure these ills is for America to stay out of the way, or to act only as the rest of the world would have us act. I can respect that too, for I know our goal is the same, but I disagree. I think our vision is special — unique — unselfish, and I think history bears that out.

Sometimes we must sacrifice, and that is not all that pleasant. But I wouldn’t dare to suggest that we pay such a price if I didn’t believe that we’d all pay a much greater price by not acting so.

But you know what? There’s many Republicans who agree with you on this issue — the Libertarian wing. We welcome them and the only difference that I can see is that they don’t accuse the rest of us being demigods or Rambo wanna-be’s.

We can have a respectful, useful discussion on a vitally important issue with the Libertarian wing. But, with all of the rancor you and I seem to have forced upon us, we do nothing but scream at each other.

There’s more we can discuss and that I would like to discuss, but right now it seems almost impossible to do so. I’ll take some responsibility for that, for the PR masters in my party like to whip us into a frenzy, and I hope that you can accept a little of that responsibility too.

But I hope that we can get past it, if not now then someday. We happened to win this election. We won’t win them all, nor will you. If ultimately our country and the world is to win, we will eventually have to do what we’ve always done when times are tough: get past the hype and down to what really matters.

When we do that, I’ve no doubt that we’ll see we have much more common ground than either of us now believes, at least in terms of who we’d like to be, if not in terms of how to get there.

It would be a start.

Rich Trzupek is a recepient of the 2004 Phillips Foundation Fellowship and is currently working on a project examining the effect of environmental regulations on small to mid-sized businesses.

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