Liberals don’t want to talk about politics anymore

Photo Credit: Bill Ebbesen -wikimedia.org

Stop me if this sounds familiar. You are a Republican voter by habit. Maybe you liked Trump in 2016, or maybe you just tolerated him, or maybe you just couldn’t bring yourself to, and voted for Gary Johnson. Regardless, your friends and acquaintances know your political orientation.

That period: from the moment the election ended in Nov 2016, until about a month after Biden was inaugurated, was filled with an endless and heated stream of invective poured out on you by your acquaintances. Full of pointed accusations: How could you! Do you renounce Trump? Do you? Are you a Russian sympathizer? What, is Putin your hero? Do you think THIS is ok (pointing at some Trump tweet, policy, statement or even a ridiculous accusation). How can you still be a Republican?

This continued through the interminable and illegitimate Mueller investigation, when even the mildest Trump supporters were taunted like a 2nd grader arriving at a new school in May: “Your hero is going to JAIL. What are you going to say then?”

Oh, wait, sorry, that never happened, did it. Like all of their claims of future denouncements, much was promised, so very little delivered. Even many Republicans enjoyed seeing Trump’s sleeze-bag New York lawyer break and cry like a little girl and end up in jail, though. Oh, Michael Cohen, how could you have. Taxi medallion fraud? In New York?!?

Of course some friends were more sly than others. They went for the subtle approach, not the blunt beat down. They slid little digs into unrelated conversations. One friend even played a particularly pathetic little game of “who, who?” when the subject of Orange Man came up, confiding: “I don’t even acknowledge the existence of Trump. He is a monster.”

I’m graced with a naturally mellow disposition. I have thick skin, and genuinely appreciate my friends, even if they hold different political opinions than I do. I traded factual statements back for insults, usually with a link. Increasingly a link to an approved leftist sources, like Vanity Fair, or the New York Times, having learned than anything even mildly right-of-center would be rejected out of hand as being “right wing, Fox News”.

My mild and thoughtful responses didn’t help cool the flames of liberal angst. They doubled down on their ranting and on the venomous Trump hatred. Sometimes, sadly, it got personal: I was told that I was mentally ill for my mild support for Trump, even when it was expressed as appreciation of some policy of his, such as trying to get the rest of NATO to pay their fair share, or keeping his campaign pledge to end the TransPacific Trade Partnership negotiations. Policies my crazed Trump-and-politics obsessed friends had themselves championed. Events were far too grave for mere consistency to be a consideration, apparently.

A few old friends, people I knew in real life and had enjoyed meals with, simply cut me off. “I can’t do this” one said before blocking me on Facebook, an odd experience where the blocker simply ceases to exist, even in conversations you might both be a part of.

Through out it all I did my best not to respond with harsh or unkind words, to not make it personal, even after they already had. So, I went into the 2020 election seeing this silver lining to the grey cloud of the Trump loss: well, at least I could get back to having interesting political discussions with my politics-loving lefty friends.

Only it didn’t work out that way.

First: one of the oldest, a friend I’ve known literally since junior high school, seemed restive at any mention of the new Biden administration and their actions. For a moment he was as excited as ever to flamboyantly denounce the Jan 6. “insurrectionists”, but after that titillation lost its thrill, he became increasingly reticent. No matter the topic, I’d bring up: “What do you think about the XL pipeline? Are you worried about higher gas prices?” “Hey, look at this problems with unaccompanied minors at the border?” I got virtually no response. This from a normally articulate and engaged friend.

My conversational openings were all routine stuff, much milder and without the fierce tone of accusation that I had been continually bludgeoned with by him for the last FOUR YEARS. But, still, it was too much. His extremely brief replies took an interesting turn “politics is broken” he’d say, “It’s stupid.” “I don’t see any point in even talking about it any more”.

At first, I thought it a strange idiosyncratic response. Maybe he was going through some life-change I was unaware of. This friend had always been a political junkie, comparing bets on PredictIt for House races as recently as Nov. 2020. But now, he was no longer willing to even casually discuss the events of the day. Odd. But as I soon found out, not at all unique.

A second friend and I, another fellow I’ve known for decades, who had always had interesting and hard-to-pigeonhole political ideas had, in the Trump era, had gone seriously anti-Trump. Again, I was hoping for a fresh start, back to normal. In the course of one of our frequent marathon “lets get caught up” calls that covered kids, siblings and spouses, as well as new music, books and hobbies the topic of politics in the era of Biden came up. “I can’t talk about politics. Once politics come up, we’re done.” Another one.

A third friend, this time one of the roving “drinks on Thursday after work” crowd that has a fluctuating attendance of 6 or 7 guys, and has been a fixture in some of our calendars since the last millennium. This guy had always been the good-natured lefty in the group, wearing his Bernie Sanders t-shirts and imploring us to “come on, guys, surely you have to admit that Trump is … etc.”

But this time he was studiously refusing to talk politics, or to even respond on any political issue, and instead sequestered himself in a two-hour marathon conversation on an esoteric hobby with another friend who was willing. Anything to avoid the dreaded topic: politics.

So, I’m left wondering what to make of this. What the hell is going on?

As best I can figure it out they must be suffering a deep buyer’s remorse. They are all smart and normally well informed fellows. It’s implausible that they don’t know. Nope, quite the opposite, I think. They are seeing the same things we all are. The horror stories from the border, the laughing response of European leaders to the elderly and clearly mentally impaired American President. The endless embarrassing “gaffs”. Even if you don’t watch the hilariously funny extended versions (the Aussie broadcasters seem to take particular joy in making Biden-failure video compilations) his weird demeanor is all-too-visible in his scripted teleprompter-guided appearances. Even those boycotting news entirely have to notice the $4.50 gas prices and other outrageously inflating prices.

They promoted a series of lies, they did so shamelessly. They did so knowing, in most cases, that what they were promoting were lies. Did any serious adult *really* believe that Trump’s phone call was an event worthy of impeachment? I think not. It was dramatic pantomime, political theater, designed to advance the cause of the eventual Democratic opponent. All was excused, though, as they told themselves: “it’s for a higher purpose”.

But now we see that what was delivered, after all the sweat, intimidation and accusations against old friends. What has been delivered is a completely useless, broken failure of an old man. A man whose son has been caught on video smoking crack with prostitutes, but somehow got a $1.5 billion “investment” from China. (Tell me about Trump/Russia again, Darb?)

It’s appalling, it’s inexcusable and unforgivable. And even the most shameless among them are all too aware of this. They can’t stand the prospect of being on the receiving end of even a small portion of the endless self-righteousness they dished out for those four long long years. In the simplest terms: they are cowards.

So, my liberal friends don’t want to talk about politics any more.
I get it.
I really do.

Hey, what about that new Bruce Springsteen album?


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