June 29, 2018

TITLE: The difference between liberals and conservatives

One of Ronald Reagan's favorite jokes went something like this: Two hikers are surprised when a bear jumps out of a bush and starts chasing them. They have a pretty good head start until one of the hikers suddenly stops, takes off his boots, and begins putting on a pair of running shoes. The other hiker shouts, "What do you think you're doing? You can't outrun a bear!" To which the other hiker replies, "Oh, I don't have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you!"

Actually, that's a pretty funny joke, but hearing it again reminded me of a similar but darker sentiment I overheard between two attendees at a GOP conference when one quipped to the other, "Hey, all I want is what's mine (wink) and as much of the next guy's as I can get away with."

Both stories reveal a lot about conservatives' view of their place in society: success is often the direct result of another person's misfortune, ignorance, or naiveté -- often enabled by legislation and policies specifically designed to create wealth opportunities for the more shameless among us (e.g., the gutting of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the elimination of requirements that financial advisers disclose ethical conflicts to their clients, the crippling of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act).

Conservatives love to cite the old proverb, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." Commendable, but they get into trouble when it is discovered that what they really want to do is to lease the man the fishing pole at a 29.5% APR amortized over 30 years with a drop-dead balloon payment and an extended warranty that has a toll-free support line that connects to nothing and no one.

The Dem version of Reagan's joke would not be a laugh riot. The punch line would go something like: "I'm putting on my running shoes so that I don't trip carrying you on my back, assuming of course that I have correctly calculated the likelihood that the bear is in a declining nutrient procurement cycle." So boring; overly complicated. But it's a complicated world out there that requires a little nuance and thought. Ask righties themselves. Remember those hidden camera comments made a few months ago by the sleazeballs at Cambridge Analytica during the Facebook brouhaha?: "The Republicans asked three questions. Five minutes, done," said the company's CEO. "The Democrats asked two hours of questions."

Liberals ask our fellow people to move out of their comfort zones; conservatives tell people that they do best when they do as they're told -- ala George Bush during the Iraq War telling the American public, "And I encourage you all to go shopping more." In other words: We got this. Trust us. Pretend nothing is wrong... and pick up some awesome mall bargains in the process. Then, of course, they didn't "got this." A few months later we went over the cliff into the Great Republican Recession (GRR!).

At a Congressman Duncan Hunter (CA-50) town hall meeting last summer, a man standing in line commented, "These conservatives. All they want is money, money, money." Everyone initially agreed, then another lib noted, "Yeah, but wait a minute. I make plenty of money and don't apologize for it. This is America, that's our system. The difference is that, when I have more than I need, I start looking around to see what I can do to help others. These rich people we've got now, they want to keep every penny and only spend it on themselves or to create laws that help them make and keep even
more."

Yes, it's true that we Dems occasionally get a little ahead of our skis when it comes to communicating our ideals about social responsibility to fellow citizens. We can leave them scratching their heads, saying, "I really want to help, but I'm barely hanging on by my fingernails here. What are you going to do for me and mine?" The way forward for Dems is in showing this determinative voting bloc that there truly is a path to their own personal success that is also mindful of the rights of others and the environment. Some extremely rich people and corporations will simply have to take a bigger role in the society from which they so immensely benefit.

Let's see how we do when we retake the House (and perhaps even the Senate) come November.

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Multiple award-winning author Charles Carr writes and edits for many well-known publications. Carr is also a noted playwright whose next show is in pre-production at the California Center for the Arts. Contact him at charlescarr.com.