“He won't actually DO that, but Hillary . . .”
It's taken me two weeks to pull myself together to write this. The reasons for the procrastination run the gamut from feeling disloyal to too much rum. I also tried to make sense of it, going over it and over it, thinking perhaps I had missed something that would explain it. That was time wasted. My attempt was in vain.
Sometime in 1972-73, I went to dinner at a close family member's house. I even remember that she made a roast beef cooked with peppercorns and cranberry juice that was wonderful. We talked about the weather, maybe a few other things, then somehow wound up at Richard Nixon and Watergate. Yeah. I know. She was and remains a New Jersey Republican, which as Chris Christie illustrates, is a breed unto itself. After listening wide eyed to my outrage over Cambodian bombing missions and other Nixonian horrors, she put her fork down and said, “I think it's a shame and a sin that we ever found out about Watergate.”
I was speechless. I stared at her, no doubt in horror, for a few beats as I felt my face getting hotter and probably redder. I was choking on obscenities. Instead of vomiting them up, I somehow calmly put down my fork and said, “I'm sorry. Dinner was great but I have to leave.” From then until now we have talked about current events only rarely and then only when there's no way around it.
During the primaries she told me she really liked Ted Cruz, which surprised me as she's not a Christian fundamentalist. She hated Jeb Bush, she might've seen her way clear to Huckabee, she saw nothing in Kasich, Trump was ok. She wasn't passionate about him. I think she really thought Cruz/Rubio would be the ticket. I should have asked her. Once the primaries were over and Trump won, she was a Trump person all the way. I avoided conversations with her for almost the entirety of the campaign. It was chickenshit and I knew it but the energy it would have taken to either avoid the topic or discuss it was more than I felt I had. Although actually that's probably a cop out. I knew I'd be hitting a wall and I didn't want the bruises.
A little background: This is a woman who is very very smart and not overtly mean, nor is she overtly racist. She didn't grow up wealthy but was comfortable. After her first marriage, she remarried, and she remarried up. At 82 she is fairly comfortable, still has her own house with some acreage and usually some pitiful little rescue dog as she's got a penchant for the most damaged canines out there. If no one else will take them, she will. She still drives, is cosmopolitan, has traveled across Europe and in her 50's lived for over a decade in Ireland. She belongs to a group of women who get together once a year in a retreat type atmosphere with distinct pagan/goddess/earth mother overtones celebrating the “We are all One” spirit. Widowed now, her retired single brother lives with her, she has some investments, private health insurance in addition to her Medicare and is in pretty good health. This is a woman who's pretty secure.
How does that woman vote for Trump. She fit none of the “Trump voter” profiles. I really wanted to know. I wanted to understand. I was an idiot.
After the election I knew I couldn't put off calling any longer. We mostly communicate via text or Skype. I always forget that while I can see her, she can also see me. I have caught sight of myself slack jawed and/or seething in the little box on the Skype screen. This one I should have recorded.
Weather. Check. Dogs. Check. Health. Check. Daughter. Check. Grandson. Check. Adjust her webcam. Check. Half and hour went by and then, I'm not sure which of us brought it up. Probably me. My curiousity bites me in the ass every time. While of course I knew she was a lifelong Republican I really thought perhaps she would see the Fanta Fuhrer and be appalled at his crassness, as she is unfailingly polite, or maybe in her pragmatism, decide that Trump's utter lack of experience was a negative and vote for Clinton if only because Hillary knew what governing was. She'd hate it but do it, I thought.
I was wrong.
She said yes she had voted for Trump and she thought he'd be great for the country. She said it in her perfectly modulated voice with no gloating, not even a sparkle in her eye. I asked her where she got the majority of her news: Fox News for broadcast, Drudge first thing every morning, another conservative website I can't remember. I asked about Breitbart and she said sometimes but that she'd really liked it when Breitbart was alive (she did NOT say she now hated it with Bannon and boys in charge). She used to love Glenn Beck but has soured on him recently. She reads the Wall Street Journal pretty much daily.
(Editor's Note: I started this piece on 12.2.2016. I kept coming back to it and back to it and couldn't make headway, mostly because the news was stranger and stranger each day. Time to finish it.)
So yeah. As the conversation progressed, I sounded more and more like that kid in '72. I was screaming, only this time some of the profanities actually exited my lips, much to my surprise. I asked her about the Muslim registry idea. Her response was, “Oh, he's not going to actually DO that!” When asked about mass deportations, her response was, “Oh he's not going to actually DO that! He didn't mean THAT!” When asked about his views of women and women's health, her response was, “Oh for heaven's sake! He's a man! What he said he said years ago. As for the rest, he doesn't mean it. He won't actually DO that! He said it to get elected.”
Catching a glimpse of my face in the lower corner of the laptop screen, my mouth was agape, eyes wide and my disembodied head was shaking back and forth, my hands just to the sides of my head in a gigantic HUH expression. Seeing it I composed myself to go on.
We moved on to the Wall, the great big glorious peso funded Wall. Her response was, “Well you know ISIS is coming into this country and between them and the illegals, we have to do something. We need borders, but I don't think they'll let him actually do that.” I asked who were the “they” she was referencing. “Oh all the do nothing Congressmen.” She sounded genuinely scared, like she half expected to find an ISIS fighter hiding behind the gate of her goat pen, and if not that then quite possibly a Mexican rapist.
We went three or four rounds, with me bringing up something he said and her responding with the “he won't actually DO that mantra” at which point I asked, “Well, if you don't think he'll actually do any of this, why on earth would you vote for him?” She looked very serious and said, “This country is in trouble and he's not perfect but HILLARY is a criminal.” This was said with absolute sincerity and conviction. “She should be put in jail. He's right about that. Besides we just had OBAMA.” That line she nearly spat.
I then asked exactly how she herself had been negatively impacted by Obama's presidency. She said a few things about light bulbs (told me she had bought enough “regular” light bulbs to last years), and laughed. Then she thought for a minute and said, “Interest rates.”
I was truly speechless—for a moment, then I sputtered, “The only way you personally have been impacted by all the horrors (in your view) of the Obama presidency is interest rates? That's what tipped you into a vote for an insane man?” She explained that when one is her age and there are investments, interest rates are a big deal. I told her that I could understand that but couldn't understand at all how she could overlook the misogyny and racism, the xenophobia and talk of nukes and still vote for him. “Well he'll deregulate everything and the interest rates will go up.” Before I could stop myself I heard my voice say, “So THAT you think he'll actually do but all the rest, all the terrifying other stuff, you're banking on him NOT doing?”
“Oh, he just said it to get elected. He's not perfect but Hillary . . .”, she said shaking her head. “That woman needs to be locked up!” I asked her what she felt Hillary had done to warrant that.
(Insert WTF Face emoji here-that's about what I looked like in the little screen square on the Skype screen. I'm still not sure if it was her answer or hearing myself yell bullshit at her that caused the face.)
We both calmed down. She told me an old friend of mine wasn't coming to the retreat this year, but she'll go. Amazingly she'll go and not see an iota of irony in her taking part in the We are all One rituals. I haven't had the courage to call her since then, much to my shame, although now I'm curious about what she thinks so far. Now that he is actually attempting to DO those things she said he'd never do, has she changed her mind? Does she think any of it cruel? Does she think he's unstable? Would she vote for him again? After all those Cold War years, does she feel any little shadow of concern over the Russian connections? Hell, even Nixon must be rolling in his grave at some of this.
And today, he talked of our country locking people out, booting people out, reprising torture and essentially tossing the UN to the curb. That's just today.
“He won't actually DO that! But Hillary . . .”