The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Politics and Friendship

Posted on | August 26, 2022 | Comments Off on Politics and Friendship

If you squint very hard at this 1973 photo of the low-brass section of the Douglas County (Ga.) High School Marching Tiger Band, you can see a 14-year-old trombonist, squatting down in the center, who is now a professional journalist of some minor notoriety. Among his good friends in this photo, kneeling to the left, is Phil Underwood, son of the local Church of God pastor who, of course, grew up to become a pastor himself. But that was after Phil got kicked out of the band because, during a trip to Florida — where we performed at Walt Disney World — the future pastor went on an unauthorized dune-buggy ride with two girls.

Also pictured in this photo, standing at the rear just left of center, is a tuba player known by his nickname “Sasquatch,” who went on to tremendous renown as a member of the Spirit of Atlanta drum-and-bugle corps. The last time I saw him was at a Fourth of July at Lake Weiss in Alabama circa 2010, where I did the fireworks show and “Sasquatch” showed up to cook barbecue (which was fall-off-the-bone excellent).

Anyway, I learned this week that my old buddy “Sasquatch” had just rejoined Facebook after a four-year hiatus — a “self-imposed departure,” as he called it — due to political quarrels. This kind of thing happens, unfortunately, but I’ve never understood it. Perhaps I’ve developed advanced skills in ignoring anything that doesn’t interest me, e.g., “reality TV” personalities. There is a sort of media cottage industry devoted to covering the no-talent “celebrities” created by shows like Real Housewives and the Bachelor franchise, and I occasionally see references to these trashy people on my Google feed, but have never been tempted to click on any of those links, much less to waste my time watching those tacky travesties. There are apparently millions of Americans who can’t get enough of dreadful shows like The Bachelor, and yet — because of my prowess at ignoring things — I couldn’t tell you anything about “reality TV” shows, except that they’re all fake. But I digress . . .

Some people aren’t as good at ignoring things as I am, so they get upset about politics and actually lose friends over that nonsense:

“The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found 24 percent of Democrats distanced themselves from people on social media because of a political posting. Nine percent of both Republicans and independents reported doing the same to those in social media circles. Additionally, 28 percent of liberals surveyed said they removed someone from their social media circle because of the content that person posted, compared with 8 percent of conservatives.”

(Hat-tip: Ace of Spades.) Permit me to suggest that the real problem is a lack of healthy cynicism about politics. Having spent some time in the company of professional political operatives, I can assure you that, whatever their political ideals may be, at the end of the day, they’re mainly about getting paid. Like, during the 2012 cycle, I knew GOP operatives who went from working against Mitt Romney to working for Mitt Romney in a matter of weeks. As a journalist covering politics, I’ve seen enough of that kind of behavior that I take it for granted that more or less everybody’s a sell-out. The business of partisan politics is not a place for Boy Scouts, and I laugh at the pretensions of people like David French, who seems to think the rest of us are too stupid to understand he’s being paid to express a certain point of view, and that his vaunted “principles” are not exactly sturdy pillars of integrity.

So many of my Republican friends get wrathful over being sold down the river by Mitch McConnell, to which I reply, sic semper hoc. Before we were sold out by Mitch, we were sold out by Trent Lott (remember him?) and before Trent, it was Bob Dole. There is a long tradition of Senate Republicans pissing down our back and telling us it’s raining, and after you’ve watched this game a while, you lose your capacity for outrage.

Perhaps being routinely raped by leaders of our own party explains why Republicans are less likely to “unfriend” liberals on Facebook than vice-versa. Do I think the average Biden voter is an idiot? Of course, but I don’t hate them the way I hate the faithless swine in charge of the GOP.

Being an ex-Democrat myself, I’ve explained to friends that the most wonderful thing about becoming a conservative is that you don’t have to stop hating Republicans, you just hate them for different reasons. Apparently, most liberals can’t put themselves in our shoes and see how the Republican politicians they view as DANGEROUS RIGHT-WING EXTREMISTS are, in fact, a cowardly bunch of milquetoast pantywaists afraid of offending their Big Money donors. And the activist grassroots of the Democratic Party — the folks naïve enough to believe all that “progressive” chatter — seldom wise up to the nature of the grift by which people like Hillary Clinton get rich by pretending to stand up for “progressive” principles. Insufficient cynicism, you see.

The damned lying media (dishonest scoundrels whom I hate worse than most politicians of either party) devote a lot of effort to getting people emotionally worked up about politics, and if we don’t learn to tune out this noise, it will drive us crazy. My hunch is that this helps explain why my old friend Sasquatch took a break from Facebook. His politics are more or less diametrically opposed to mine, and I hope it wasn’t anything I put on my Facebook feed that stuck in his craw. But the one thing I don’t do on Facebook is argue about politics. I’ll post memes or articles, but I wouldn’t dream of wasting my time criticizing what someone else posts on their feed, because what could possibly be gained? If your aunt is a dyed-in-the-wool MSNBC-watching “progressive,” you’re not going to change her mind by arguing with her on Facebook (or at Thanksgiving dinner, for that matter). And the same goes for me: It’s not like I became a conservative on a whim, or that I am ignorant of the arguments made in favor of liberalism. No, there’s quite a bit of study behind my political beliefs, and if I don’t feel the need to engage in a point-by-point rebuttal of your argument, you shouldn’t imagine that this means a rebuttal is impossible. It’s just that I’ve concluded it’s a waste of time.

Arguing about politics is also undignified.

You’re basically insulting people, implying that there are no sound reasons for their political beliefs, that they are ignorant, and that you are so superior to them in intelligence and knowledge that they will change their minds merely by listening to your lecture. This is the pose that feminists habitually take toward men, by the way. Feminists seem to think they possess a monopoly of knowledge, and that men have an obligation to shut up and listen to them. God help the fellow who thinks there is something to be gained by attempting to have an actual conversation with a feminist. But again I digress . . .

When I was a young fool, I actually enjoyed arguing about politics, but was eventually cured of that bad habit because, when I worked at The Washington Times, my desk was directly across from Victor Morton, a pious Catholic who possessed a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. Victor had been a debate champion in high school, and his forensic skills were remarkable. Because I am, and always have been, a decidedly opinionated person, I’d invariably find myself arguing with Victor about some detail of policy, and he’d refuse to cede anything to me because, by God, he wasn’t going to let a damned redneck with a diploma from Jacksonville (Ala.) State University beat him!

Victor was and is a stout-hearted conservative, and we agreed on about 95% of everything, but we always argued about that other five percent, because this is just how argumentative people are. Arguing is a habit with some people, and they’ll try to provoke an argument just for the sport of it. Well, I used to enjoy that kind of amusement, but arguing with Victor — a dear friend, whom I hold in high esteem — eventually made me accept the futility of it. Apparently, I’m just not a persuasive sort of person, and I finally stopped trying to persuade people.

A couple of weeks ago on The Other Podcast, I informed my friends John Hoge and Dianna Deeley that there are two kinds of people in the world:

1. People who agree with me;
2. People who are wrong.

The certainty of my own correctness goes a long way to explaining why I avoid arguing about politics. If other people were as confident in my judgment as I am, there would be no need for argument: I’d say vote this way, and they’d do it. But some people — the ones who are wrong — wish to “think for themselves” rather than to act in accordance with my wisdom, and I am powerless to stop them from doing the wrong thing.

Which explains why Joe Biden is president, obviously. Eighty-one million people thought they were smarter than me, and this is the result.

By the way — and Sasquatch, if you’re reading this, read carefully — why don’t liberals blame Hillary for everything that’s gone wrong lately? Because really, it’s all her fault. In 2007, she was the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination and her main rival was John Edwards (remember him?) the vaguely Kennedyesque senator from North Carolina who eventually wrecked himself with some daffy bimbo named Rielle Hunter. By all reckoning, the 2008 nomination should have been Hillary’s for the asking, but she fumbled it away to Barack Obama. Undaunted by this failure, she tried again in 2016, only this time she had the DNC so tightly within her grasp that she was able to screw over Bernie Sanders with rigged caucuses and “superdelegates” and win the nomination. However much Democrats hate Trump, doesn’t the blame for the Trump presidency really belong to Hillary Clinton? What a combination of arrogance and incompetence it took for Hillary to lose the 2016 election! And she reacted to her self-inflicted defeat by ginning up the “RussiaGate” hoax, with consequences that haunt us to this day — but Democrats still act like Saint Hillary is some kind of martyr.

What’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander, and as a Republican, I have to view recent political history in terms of our own failures. Exactly who the hell thought nominating John McCain would be such a brilliant idea? Certainly not me — the reason this blog is The Other McCain is because I didn’t want to be associated with that damned fool. When somebody wins an election, somebody else loses, and a party that nominates losers ought to get its own house in order before getting so worked up about the winners. Which is to say that Republicans must accept some blame for the disaster of the Biden presidency; the only ones who can claim exemption are those serving time for the January 6 riot.

Maybe the kook in the Viking hat was smarter than all of us.

If you want to hear me rant about politics, I can go all day, but I don’t want to argue about politics. What’s the point of arguing? People who disagree with me don’t want to hear my arguments about why they’re wrong, and thus I’d be wasting my time. Whereas, by contrast, my rants are at least entertaining, even if they’re not persuasive — I could probably even get a laugh out of that humorless cadaver Chuck Schumer.

And of course, you’re always free to ignore me, which is basically what I’m saying to Sasquatch. Nobody’s ever accused me of excessive humility, but I perfectly understand that my innate arrogance can be annoying, even to people who agree with me, so just imagine how annoying I am to people who are wrong. My tendency toward sarcasm has led some critics to accuse me of being Not a Serious Person, however, I would contend that we suffer from a surfeit of Serious People, who are also generally boring people. But why bring up David French again?

My real point is that next Fourth of July, I’d very much like some of that excellent fall-off-the-bone barbecue, and hope that Sasquatch will ignore my politics long enough that we can arrange it. Because it would be terrible to ruin an old friendship, merely because of politics.



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