Russian community in the US is known for its right-leaning and at times even reactionary political views. A few days ago an old acquaintance, a Russian émigré, told me: “I don’t understand how you, after all you’ve been through, are not a Republican.”
It’s not that I haven’t thought about it before, but I never had a chance to put my thoughts in writing. Until now.
I guess my antipathy towards GOP originated during the Clinton years, when I was genuinely puzzled about the witch hunt that Republican Congress unleashed on Clinton. I couldn’t figure out what was the big deal, but the more I read about it and watched the news the more it became apparent to me that it’s not about the blowjob at all, and not even about him lying about it under oath. There was something sinister and vile about the whole investigation, the furtive desire to destroy Clinton and his entire Presidency, the malice, the glee with which they attacked him. I found it appalling. My Democratic foundation has been firmly planted by those events.
And yet, many can love Clinton and still consider themselves Republicans, like my acquaintance above. This is where I become confused: There’s a massive chasm between Clinton’s policies and the current state of the GOP and I find those who find parallels between the two being vastly, breathtakingly uninformed.
But first things first: How could I, someone who grew up during 70s and 80s in the Soviet Union, not despise the socialism, the planned economy, the all-consuming government bureaucracy?
Very simple: I’m not a believer in a slippery slope argument. Yes, planned economy sucks, but come on, people, let’s put things into perspective: Do you really expect Obama establishing a Ministry of Planning that will decide on the production of consumer goods? Do you expect them to limit take away your means of production, do you expect some clerk in the government office to decide your fate that only a bribe or personal connections can mitigate?
If you’re a sane person you would answer these questions with a genuine “no”. If you answered “yes”, you’re squarely in the tin-foil hat territory and you probably should stop reading because you already have all the answers.
US has a vast bureaucracy and plenty of nuisances, sure, but it’s nothing compared to the Soviet Union. Perspective, people, perspective!
Still, if we’re going to go the slippery slope argument that many right-wingers like to indulge themselves in, then I can, by the same token, engage in the same argument going the other way. Which will bring me to the point where US looks like Somalia, or, to be more realistic, modern-day Russia: Flat 13% tax, weak or indifferent government that does not defend its citizens, large privatized enterprises in a few hands, rule of mob rather than rule of law.
One can administer a simple test and come to his own conclusions: what social structure would you choose to be born into (without knowing the economic and social circumstances into which you would be born) – the one with vast oligarchy at the top and no social safety net at the bottom, or the one where the economic riches are more evenly distributed? I pick the latter. This is one of the reasons why I can’t support modern day Republicans. They do not care about those down on their luck. I think every civilized society has to take care, through the collection of taxes so there are no free riders, of its elderly, the infirm, the poor. Because I was there myself (I worked for minimum wage at some point), I can appreciate how hard it is to get out of poverty and the fact that I made it out is not a celebration of opportunity per se – a conjecture that my friend, undoubtedly, made in his mind about me – it is a celebration of my own will, my own discipline and my own circumstances that many simply do not possess. I was very driven in my youth and I had no external drags; that propelled me to do things that I know many simply can’t. I wasn’t disabled, I wasn’t a single mother, I wasn’t a factory worker fired after 30 years of service. I had certain qualities and I lacked certain burdens and many people simply do not find themselves in a position where they can take on risk, to change course, to move. Republicans seek to vilify people for lack of those qualities, they despise people who are weak and helpless; I recognize that we can’t expect everyone to jump start their own enterprise, to abandon their families during the pursuit of success, to have the aptitude to go to college, to be mobile and agile and ready to jump at the opportunity. Majority of people simply does not possess those qualities and a healthy society must be able to accommodate the average, the weak. If it takes a special, calculating, risk-taking, above average person to ascend to a middle-class life in any society, then there’s something wrong with that society. If one has to be a superman to access a middle-class life, the game is rigged. Republicans tend to praise supermen as beacons of a free and prosperous society; and they don’t see the price tag to the rest of the population. Do they expect a grandma, a child born with a Down syndrome, a meek civil servant fired after 30 years of service, or somebody who simply was born to be a firefighter or a police officer to open a startup in their garage? Give me a break! And yet, current GOP has nothing to say to those people.
This is even before I touched on current GOP’s prehistoric views on social and economic issues. Back in the day I could appreciate GOPs proclaimed fiscal conservatism, although I was liberated from this misconception during Bush’s years. They simply lost the desire to live in the real world, they are not realists – for me it’s the worst crime of all. They don’t notice, or more likely refuse to notice the social and economic shifts that will make them into a whites-only regional party. Let me dwell on this for a minute: Let’s imagine that Republicans keep their current platform: anti-abortion, overly religious, anti-regulations, etc. If these are positions dear to your constituents – fine, keep them. But now you have to play politics, you know, engage in battles you can win, make deals with enemies, do some schmoozing, some fancy moves – you know things that require some diplomacy, some skills, some sense of the game. GOP lost it all. They smash the delicate political chessboard with a hammer and expect us to give them any consideration. So while I do dislike them for their platform, I loathe them even more for their inability to play the game to their own detriment, not to mention the country’s. It’s this transgression, this short-sightedness, this childishness and temper tantrums that I, even if I were a pro-life, religious and anti-regulation zealot, would hold in contempt. Inability to play the game correctly, like in poker, is the most disqualifying offence that one can commit in the political arena, in my view. I do not want to associate with the party of children which modern-day GOP has become.
And then abortion. Men easily dismiss it as a non-issue or have only an abstract idea, sort of like me having an abstract idea of what it’s like being black. I can pay lip service to it, or dismiss it, or think that the black issues have been resolved, etc. simply because I’m not black myself. One has to be black to be able to understand the issue, to know what’s involved, to what it entails. Well, one has to have a uterus to become outraged at what these guys are doing.
Russian Republicans are mostly pro-choice, and they accept GOP’s anti-abortion stance as a mere harmless posturing that will never be addressed, simply a tool to keep the coalition together with the southern Jesus Freaks. I think that politically it’s not an unreasonable position of only this is what GOP’s position would be. But this is not a modern-day GOP: in the last few years their preoccupation with women’s body parts has grown exponentially: not a month passes by where the Congress doesn’t pass some draconian anti-abortion measure. They, of course, are fully aware that those bills have no chance of passing the Senate and ending up as a law, which, I guess, liberates them to introduce more and more outrageous and invasive bills. But as a woman, I get their message very clearly: I am a second class citizen that is unable to make sound decisions. And this message trumps all my previous ruminations on economics, game-playing and everything else. This alone is enough for me to never, ever become a Republican.