I have no idea how many of you there are anymore, “well-meaning” voters, both D’s and R’s, but let me throw some descriptions out to you and see if the shoe fits.
I have a very good friend from the YMCA, Singh. Like me, he visits almost very day, and is about my age. He is a retired engineer from a major corporation. He’s Indian, from Mumbai, when it was still called Bombay. He came to the United States on a student visa in the mid-60s, and has done very well for himself, a shrewd investor and world traveler.
Singh and I belong to a close knit fraternity, many of whom are a decade or more older then we are. By age, we are only in the middle. Almost none of this group ever went to college, and almost none of us know the others’ last name. At least not until one of us dies, then we all sit around in the shower room, wearing towels and hold a little wake. We lose one or two a year.
But we never talk politics. Here is why.
Singh is an engineer. I’m a lawyer. But almost no one knows. With the Indians, you assume they are professionals since bus drivers can’t get immigration visas to come here. But everyone just assumes I crawled out from under a rock like they did. We have several black men who are retired factory workers who are part of our circle. Another was a farmer. One retired truck driver. Ex-teamster. Knowing what the “C” stands for in YMCA, almost no one cusses beyond a shucky-dern or occasional “hell-fire!”. Just good manners.
In eight years of Obama not a single retired black man ever mentioned him. Had I walked up to any of those black men and just asked what he thought of Obama that would have soured the whole relationship. And I can think of a dozen reasons why none of them would bring the subject of Obama up, for even in white homes politics was a subject restricted to the living room, and the innermost circles of a family. Just like religion.
Besides, for old people there were aches, pains and old war wounds to talk about.
So we never talked politics. Still, because almost all those old $10/hour factory workers sent their children through college, and who now have good jobs themselves (some had been on Caribbean cruises thanks to their children), and in just listening to the general theory they have about education, work, family, church, and raising kids, it’s easy to get the sense they gave none of the credit to the Democrats. Or Obama.
Now, that doesn’t mean they voted for Obama, or would have voted for Trump once the chance arose, but I suspect they had been paying attention all those years. 6 O’clock News. Pollsters were never able to know what they were thinking, and had always believed, since LBJ, that 95% of them voted Democrat. Even in the best to times they missed it by about 15% (my guess).
This has been my circle of friends for close to 18 years, and served as my basis for telling you in 2015-2016 that there were millions of people just like these men and women, almost totally outside the government sector, who 1) love and are proud of being American, and 2) raised their children to be the same, and 3) can tell a horse from a mule.
In 2016 I called them Trump’s “secret army”, and suspect they counted around 4 million then. There were more African-Americans (or “blacks” as they like to call themselves) in our group than the national average, so my analysis may be a little skewed.
Being 10 years younger than they were, they generally talked down to me, as a wise old Indian sage would to a young buck. I was “only” 70. It wasn’t like you see on Twitter, but just a kindly gentle reminder that they’d been around the block at least ten more times than I had. They were teaching me stuff even if I already knew it, out of deference to rank, I was suppose to just shut up and listen. I’m 72 and smart, but when older people talk, I listen.
I’ve been very lucky on this account.
So, I’m asking self-identifying Democrats and Republicans of good will and genuine good intentions: has Trump’s style and rhetoric affected how you’ll vote on Tuesday?
Only this week I had to reluctantly ask Singh this question.
You see, unlike our older friends at the Y, Singh’s roots are not so deeply tapped.
Singh is the most honest, even-tempered man I have ever known. A true gentleman. And a “professing” (vs “professional”) Christian, which is important to know. A more congenial man you could never want to know.
But we had more private conversations because we shared other interests, especially business and history. I’d even given him a couple of books. It was only recently that he knew I was a retired lawyer, after at least 15 years. And still doesn’t know that I had taught college history and government. The subject just never came up. He only knew I paid attention to current events and liked history.
Singh reminded me of Sam Jaffe as Gunga Din in the 1939 film by the same name. (No, I swear.)
Short, squat and barrel chested, he strutted when he walked. Aside from a couple of Indian doctors, who were myopic in their conversation, Singh was the most broadly educated of the lot and loved to talk about many things other than cleaning the gutters or the neighbor’s dog.
But he didn’t like Donald Trump, the personality, who is antithetical to Indian politicians. He would not have had this type of politician in Bombay.
This was true for a lot of other guys older than myself. My father in law, dead since 1990, was politically a Republican in every way, national defense, anti-communism, the economy, taxes, but lived and died a lifelong Democrat, and voted the D more than half the time, national and statewide, simply based on how the candidate comported himself. I think he even voted against Reagan, whose tax cuts made him a millionaire. I only regretted he didn’t get to live to cast a vote for-or-against Bill Clinton.
For some people style is everything, especially if in a world when the politics are perceived as never-changing. And the Democrats in this election must convey that sense to their D-voters.
To this sort of subliminal approach, Singh, having only lived here since the 60s, is no more grounded in American history than Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, so is susceptible.
We never talked about Trump’s substantive accomplishments, although I do recall him crowing about some of his investments. But Indians are comfortable with socialist institutions, imported by the English, and didn’t come here “yearning to breathe free” but rather be paid what they are worth, as no such positions exist for them in India, where, much like Britain, it’s not what you know, but who you know, to find a position.
Only this past week did Singh explode. He waited until we were in the shower, as if being naked disarmed me, and then launched into a rage about Trump, speaking so fast it was hard to understand his diction. It was about Trump saying the “press is the enemy of the people”, which he didn’t say exactly, then bolstering his argument that Stalin had said the same thing.
At this I took umbrage because the one fact I did know was there had not been a free press in the USSR for many years prior to Stalin. If he said such a thing, he was speaking of France, or someplace, suggesting that getting rid of the free press would be a good thing, not bad.
So, who told Singh this? Jeff Flake. Ten months ago.
Flake lied and Singh swallowed it.
So, I asked him to check his facts, explaining that the only press in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s time was owned and operated by, well, Stalin
As we toweled off, I asked Singh, “Trump is not on the ballot this year. Two Republicans and two Democrats are. Will Donald Trump make your choice for you?”
What do you know of this Spanberger woman or our current representative, Dave Brat? What about Corey Stewart or Tim Kaine, the current senator from Virginia? I hear the ads, and Spanberger says she will support the President. But about what? Do you know no Democrat in Congress has been allowed to vote outside the Party line in over 20 years? Did you watch the Kavanaugh hearings? The attempted destruction of a man and his family based on trumped of facts? And not a whisper of an apology from the people who did this to him.
Is your dislike for Donald Trump enough to validate this sort of behavior in the lesser men and women you send to Congress?
My father-in-law’s was. I can’t speak for Singh.