Having Conservative Friends in the Age of Trump

Recently I saw Jeanne Sager’s book “I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics” in the library and decided to check it out. I’m a liberal but I have conservative friends and family members. I love and care for them, but these past 3 years have been a struggle at times. Experience has taught me to talk politics with only my anti-Trump conservative friends. Attempts to try to talk politics with my pro-Trump conservative friends have always degenerated into an angry impasse.

Many progressives have criticized Joe Biden’s promise to bring a bipartisan approach to his administration as a pipe dream in this hyper-partisan times. I share many progressives skepticism, but I also share Biden’s hope that we could return to a bipartisan spirit. Biden came from a time when liberals and conservatives were still willing to find common ground and pass bipartisan bills.

Because I do political cartoons, my conservative friends are very aware of the political issues where we disagree. But as long as a person respects my right to disagree with them and have my own independent point of view, I’m willing to be your friend. So I have conservative friends, moderate friends, progressive friends, democratic socialist friends, even a few marxist friends. The biggest problems I’ve had in the past 3 decades have been with people who can’t handle differences of opinion and try to bully me into agreeing with them 100%. I’ve been in some crazy conflicts over the years, especially with conservative Christians. But I’ve also been blessed with good friends from across the political spectrum too.

I like to remind my conservative friends of the famous friendships of political opposites: Thomas Jefferson and John and Abigail Adams; George McGovern and Barry Goldwater; Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford; Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil; Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch; Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. I don’t have as many conservative friends as I had in my 20s, but the ones that have lasted is because they shown themselves to be true friends irregardless of their political labels.

Here is a video of Jeanne Safer talking to John J. Miller about her book “I Love You But I Hate Your Politics”.

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The Debate Between Progressives and Moderates is a Sign of a Healthy Democratic Party

Lately I’ve been reading some articles criticizing some of the Democratic presidential candidates for pushing for progressive policies for fear of losing moderate voters to Trump. This is really exasperating to me. Isn’t the whole point of the freedom of speech so that we could debate political ideas? Progressives should be allowed to press their case to try to convince moderates and the wider public of the strength of their policies, as centrists and conservatives are allowed to.

As someone who thinks the political center of this country is way too far to the Right, I’m glad that candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are pushing the political dialogue leftward. Allow them to debate more moderate candidates like Michael Bennett and John Hickenlooper so we can hear the strengths and weaknesses of both progressive and moderate proposals. The debate between progressives and moderates is the sign of a healthy Democratic Party. This is in sharp contrast to the cult of personality infecting the Republican Party, where Donald Trump levels personal attacks against any Republican who disagrees with him and any debate on ideas within the Republican Party is suppressed.

Here is a PBS News Hour video about the debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders over their differing health care plans. Biden wants to fix the flaws in Obamacare and add a public option while Sanders wants to eliminate private insurance and replace it with a Medicare-for-all system. Democrats get to hear the strengths and weaknesses of each approach in a vigorous debate of ideas. This is what a democracy should look like. The diversity of ideas and approaches among the Democratic candidates is a strength we should applaud.

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A Vigil Protesting Conditions in Migrant Detention Centers – July 12, 2019

On Friday, July 12, 2019, I went to a vigil in San Jose, California, to protest the terrible conditions in the detentions centers at the border and to protest the child separation policies of the Trump administration. A great diversity of people attended to voice their dissent against the Trump administration’s refugee policies.

One of the groups that made the most impression was a group of Japanese Americans who compared their experiences as internees during World War II and the experiences of today’s migrant families from Central America. A Japanese American woman spoke about the discrimination faced by the Japanese American community, how the federal government dehumanized the community as an excuse to intern them. The Trump administration is using the same scapegoating against immigrants and refugees.

Native Americans gave a special dance to commemorate their culture and show their solidarity with their Central American counterparts.

I was encouraged by the large number of people who attended the vigil. I was moved by many of the speeches.

Here are a series of videos by the Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) series “We Have Rights,” a national empowerment campaign to inform immigrant communities of what to do when interacting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

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Democrats and the Difference Between Democratic Socialism and American Liberalism

I generally enjoyed watching the 2 debates of the Democratic candidates last week. One of the few things that really annoyed me though was when Hickenlooper said that Democrats have to avoid the “socialist” label if they are to compete with Republicans in 2020. The moderator in response correctly said that of the 20 candidates, only Bernie Sanders calls himself a Democratic Socialist. The moderator asked Hickenlooper what specific proposals does he think is socialist.

I’ve been a liberal Democrat all my life, and conservatives have tried to smear liberals with the “socialist” label for a long time. During the 1930s, for instance, conservatives called Franklin Roosevelt a “communist” even thought FDR’s New Deal saved capitalism during the Great Depression. During the 1950s, Senator Joe McCarthy tried to smear anyone who was Left of Center as communists, which severely inhibited political debate and ruined many people’s lives.

The only proposal that is championed by many of the Democratic presidential candidates that would accurately be labeled as “socialist” would be Medicare-For-All. But if you look at history, the goal of universal health care has been championed by both Republicans and Democrats for a long time. Teddy Roosevelt, for instance, had universal health care as one of the platforms of his run for President in the Bull Moose Party in 1912. Harry S Truman, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton all pursued plans for universal health care during their presidencies. During that time, both Democrats and Republicans believed in a mixed economy, which combined free markets with government programs to protect vulnerable citizens from the worst aspects of the free market economy.

I think it’s important for a democratic republic to have a healthy debate of ideas between the Left, the Right and the Center. Liberals shouldn’t be silenced from proposing liberal solutions for our country’s problems. Instead, liberals, moderates and conservatives should be free to express their ideas and debate the strengths and weaknesses of each idea.

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Reading About Hamilton and Jefferson’s Differing Views of America

For the past 3 weeks I’ve been reading John Ferling’s book “Jefferson and Hamilton: the Rivalry That Forged A Nation”. It’s a great book about two Founding Fathers who had opposing visions of what this country should be like, but who are both important in the creation of our nation.

Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had deep disagreements about the direction the young United States should go to. Hamilton believed the nation needed a strong federal government to create a stable environment for security and economic growth. Hamilton saw an urban vision of America where entrepreneurs and financiers could take risks to fuel economic growth.

Jefferson believed the United States needed strong state and local governments and a weak federal government, except in foreign affairs. Jefferson had a rural vision of the United States where yeoman farmers would be able to protect their individual rights and practice enlightenment ideals.

Each men were right about some things, wrong about some things. Both made great contributions to make this a greater nation. Hamilton provided the stable foundation where speculators could invest in mills, factories and commercial activities that would underpin American growth. Jefferson worked to end primogeniture, establish the separation of Church and State, expand voting rights to more men, and expand public education to create a more informed citizenry. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was the foundation for American egalitarian ideals that would inspire future reformers to fight for their rights.

Both men opposed slavery. Hamilton was an early member of the New York Manumission Society, a group dedicated to ending slavery in the state of New York. Hamilton gave them legal advice during the 1780s and 1790s that helped formulate their political strategy to abolish slavery.

Jefferson tried various times in the 1770s and early 1780s to pass legislation in the Virginia and Federal legislature to abolish slavery and end the slave trade. On June 16, 1777, Jefferson proposed a law banning the importation of slaves from outside the country into Virginia that passed the Virginia legislature in 1778. On June 18, 1779, Jefferson introduced a bill to the Virginia General Assembly to free all slaves that did not pass the legislature. In 1783 Jefferson proposed a constitution for Virginia that called for the freedom of everyone born after 1800. In 1784, Jefferson submitted to the Continental Congress the Report on Government for Western Territory that proposed to ban slavery from all new states of the western territories. The proposal failed to pass by a single vote.

Though both men were against slavery, Hamilton had far more enlightened views on racial equality than Jefferson. Hamilton’s views on racial equality was far ahead of his time. He believed African Americans were equal to whites and believed it was possible for blacks to be integrated into American society with the full rights of citizenship. Jefferson, on the other hand, believed African American were intellectually inferior to white people, and he didn’t think that free blacks could integrate into American society and become full citizens. He thought that once slaves were free, they had to be deported from the U.S.

As Hamilton and Jefferson show, this democratic republic thrives with the debate of ideas of different parts of the political spectrum. Looking at U.S. history, our nation has benefitted from the debate of the Left and the Right, arguing the ideas of liberals, conservatives, moderates, socialists, libertarians, and such. No one group or political philosophy has a monopoly on truth.

One of the things that has annoyed me the past couple of days has been the hand-wringing of some commentators who worry that the ambitious liberal proposals of some of the Democratic candidates may scare off more moderate Americans. I don’t think liberals or progressives should be silenced from proposing more progressive solutions to our nation’s problems. Instead, we should be encouraging a debate between the more progressive and the more moderate Democratic candidates, so we could weigh the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. That’s the whole point of having a debate.

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Winning the Sigma Delta Chi Awards

On June 21, 2019, my wife and I went to the National Press Club to accept the Sigma Delta Chi Awards for editorial cartoons for newspapers with a circulation under 100,000. We both had a great time. We spent most of the time hanging out with Rob Rogers, the Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for newspapers over 100,000 readers circulation. He shared with us his experiences from last year in his previous newspaper, where he lost his job for continuing to create cartoons criticizing Trump. He talked about his life since he left the newspaper.

At our table we met a lady who told a story about her take on the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Next to Lisa and I were radio journalist Scott Burrell and his wife from Boston. He had won for a journalistic piece about a man who was wrongfully jailed for 38 years and his attempt to rebuild a life.

As we attended the awards dinner and heard about the various people who won the awards, I was inspired to try to live up to the award that I won. Journalists are doing important work to keep those in power accountable.

On Saturday, June 23, Lisa and I went to the Newseum to attend a talk by editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers. Rob talked about the history of editorial cartoons and his own experience as editorial cartoonist at his former newspaper. Last year, Rob was fired from the newspaper because he refused to stop criticizing President Trump’s policies. Right now Rogers is a freelance cartoonist who is syndicated nationwide.

After the talk, we took a brief tour of the Newseum and explored Washington D.C. We were both impressed by the museum’s championing of the journalist profession and its defense of a free press. Around the world, journalists are being harassed, jailed and killed for trying to report the truth about authoritarian governments, religious extremists and the worst of human nature. I was especially moved by a section that was a memorial to journalists killed in the year 2008.

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Frank Capra, Robert Riskin and “Meet John Doe” Attacks American Fascism

One of my favorite filmmakers is the 1930s and 1940s American director Frank Capra. When I first watched his movies, I initially assumed Capra was a liberal. Frank Capra, though, was actually a conservative Republican. But during the 1930s he was an open minded man who collaborated with many leftwing screenwriters to produce his many classic movies. Capra’s most fruitful collaboration was with the New Deal liberal Robert Riskin, the screenwriter of It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, You Can’t Take It With You and Meet John Doe. So Capra’s films were a mixture of both progressive and conservative values.

The conservative Capra and the liberal Riskin were both deeply concerned about how to uphold our American democratic values in the face of the Great Depression, a fascist threat in Europe and dangerous homegrown demagogues like Huey Long and Father Coughlin. When Frank Capra and Robert Riskin collaborated in the 1941 movie “Meet John Doe”, they used the movie to attack sympathy for fascism in the U.S. and to defend democratic institutions like the freedom of the press. Both men were horrified by a rally by American Nazis that took place on February 20, 1939, in Madison Square Garden that had 20,000 attendees. “Meet John Doe” also criticized our vulnerability to being seduced by demagogues who are able to exploit radio, a response to the popularity of Huey Long and Father Coughlin.

At a time when the Alt Right is influencing people to be more receptive to fascist thought, and when our free press is under attack, I think “Meet John Doe” is more relevant than ever. Here is a youtube video of the whole film.

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