Thursday, March 10, 2016

An Open Letter to Ruth McCambridge

Deja Vu all over again?
Ruth McCambridge, editor of Nonprofit Quarterly, gets a lot of hate mail, particularly since NPQ stopped talking about Donald Trump. She got this delightful missive the other day from a Trump supporter and shared it on her email newsletter today.
  • “Notice Ruth, the writer of this, is a JEW and we know they are rarely honest. They are mad cause they can’t buy or control Trump.”
Since many on the left think conservatives love Trump (and Ruth is unabashedly left-leaning, which I can respect), I decided to respond to her letter.  My own letter is appended below.

Dear Ruth,

I am not surprised that you have been targeted with racist hate-mail from Trump supporters. As a conservative, I find Donald Trump to be appalling, perhaps even more than I find Hillary Clinton's and Bernie Sanders' open socialism objectionable, I find Donald Trump to be even more of a threat to the American ideal of preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. As you have discovered, one of the groups Trump appeals most to are the xenophobes of both parties. He is gaining momentum by drawing from the angry fringe groups that drag down both conservatives and liberals. I think there needs to be a coming together among people with good hearts who want the best for America to oppose the extremists that are capturing what Rush Limbaugh calls the "uninformed voter". Limbaugh may make your eyes glaze over, but he does recognize the danger posed by those who refuse to engage in a debate of ideas and instead respond only viscerally without defining what they are angry about or what to do about it.

In Trump we have 1933 revisited. Hitler promised to make Germany great again.
Trump promises to make America great again. Hitler tapped into the socialist sentiment and the economic woes of 20s and 30s Germany with a bunch of vague promises to take care of the German people. Trump makes the same kind of vague promises to his own followers and attracts radical right-wingers and left-wingers who hear only the angry words they too would speak if they had his microphone. Most frighteningly, he appeals to the racist tendencies in those outlying groups that accept all kinds of conspiracy theories without critical thought. The far libertarian right has gone so far out there that they have circled the planet and bumped into the loony Marxist left and there Trump has set up camp.

It's no accident that you are getting anti-Semitic hate male. Trump's support comes from a segment of the American population that mirrors the segment of Germany that propelled Hitler to power in 33.  A man like Trump purposely makes his positions so vague and changeable from audience to audience that he gets people to embrace highly-charged emotional ideas that in their cooler moments they would disavow. His "pledge of allegiance to Trump" exercise in Orlando was particularly chilling, but only to someone who actually stayed awake in high school history class.  In college we watched Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Will". I have little doubt that, should Trump win, someone is going to produce a film called "Triumph of the Donald". God help us if that happens.

Ruth, we may have political views that are polar opposite, but we share the same country. It would not surprise me if we shared many common beliefs as well. I want smaller, less intrusive government with power divested to the local and state as much as possible and more opportunity for individuals to succeed on their own power. I think it's more effective that way. My friends on the left want larger, more "involved" federal government that provides a universal safety net and something of a utopia on Earth. While I may disagree that any human utopia will ever work (I believe in original sin, so that's part of my intellectual makeup), it is a discussion we can have, so long as we are willing to keep it rational.

As a former community organizer, I was able to create coalitions of liberals and conservatives by focusing our attention on the issues and how to solve them. We all had to agree to leave ideology at the doors. Republicans had to learn to speak Democrat and vice-versa. We were the only initiative to get what we wanted from the newly minted Republican majority in the Texas legislature that year. We got justice by presenting the issue and a solution that worked, not by chaining ourselves to light poles in front of the governor's mansion.

We can solve problems without burning down barns if we focus on what we want to do, rather than on some notion of ideological purity. If we want to help poor people without insurance, for instance, let's do that. That's the issue. Nobody wants poor people to die from neglect of their health. You may believe in universal healthcare as the only solution as part of your ideology, but a whole lot of folk have a problem with that and the results have been uncomfortably similar to what the opponents of nationalized healthcare predicted - higher rates, poorer service. I made an eye appointment to get my free Medicaid glasses - I have to wait a month. If I pay the $78 for my contact exam, I can get an appointment in three days. When my Medicaid was canceled because one month I made some extra money to pay my landlord the back rent I owed, the Washington State Health Exchange gave me the good news that I could get health insurance through them for a mere $1,156 per MONTH. I had been forced to go on Medicaid or pay a large fine to the IRS. Now I'm on their books and either have to stay poor enough to stay on Medicaid or the IRS will force me to buy health insurance that will cost me more than I make most months (I care for a wife who is on full disability and can't be left alone).

I think there's a better way to deal with the problem that is more elegant and doesn't involve supporting a bloated federal bureaucracy and paying bureaucrats to generate paper for each other and to find out more and more personal information about me.

We could be discussing those kinds of solutions and still agree that we should find a way to care for the less fortunate in our society. As one of the "less fortunate", I don't want anyone to carry me. I spent 40 years in the nonprofit sector, started 5 agencies from scratch and discovered that they don't call 'em nonprofits for nothing. I chose that path. At the end of my life I'm scratching to make a living and keep my beloved wife alive. I'd like to do it with some dignity. Let's talk about how we can do that.

Because we have not talked about solutions and because we have spent decades tossing invective and lies back and forth across the ideological aisle at each other, we've reached a tipping point in America. If those of us who are reasonable were to join forces, we might just tip the nation back from the brink of some new brand of national socialism. Replacing Obamacare with Trumpcare is not a solution the sensible folk on either the left or right would like to see.

There is a powerful positive feeling toward Jews and Israel over here on the conservative side of the aisle. Know that we will stand with you. This is not 1933 Germany and a whole lot of us managed to stay awake in history class. We are with you. Please know that these racists are not us and we aren't even a little comfortable with them in our midst. And these folk are in the midst of both schools of thought. Neither the conservatives nor the liberals are free from these snakes crawling around on our ideological home turf. 

God go with you, Ruth.


Tom King
Puyallup, Washington (late of East Texas)

© 2016

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