On the Road to DC: Austin, Texas — Bob and Julie (by request, not their real names) are an attractive, successful, middle-aged couple living in Austin, Texas. My wife, who knew Bob in high school, suggested we meet. She thought as Trump supporters they’d be good at articulating the conservative viewpoint. They were.

What are your thoughts/feelings about the current political climate?

Bob: I’d have to answer that by backing up a little bit, and say that I had a lot of criticism about Obama’s America. Not about equality movements, or gay marriage, or any of that. I didn’t have any issues around that at all.

I had issues around Obama Care, mainly because I didn’t want the high taxation. I have aging parents, and I would really like to keep as much of my income as possible to care for my aging parents, as opposed to caring for…you know, having an added tax burden to pay healthcare for people I don’t know. I like to be more self-directed.

I [also] had problems with Obama’s America because he vilified people who experienced success in their life. If you were the so-called ‘one-percenters’ you were bad. You weren’t doing your part for America. You had not adequately paid your dues through the tax rolls. I didn’t agree with that…it says that people who succeed are naturally hard at heart.

I didn’t like being referred to as a source of revenue, as the Democrats referred to us as.

I didn’t like Obama’s lack of accountability. When you had Ferguson going on, when you had the police shootings in Dallas, when you had, you know, kinda the apex of ‘Black Lives Matter’, Obama didn’t stand up and say, ‘don’t shoot policemen.’ And that really bothered me, because he just didn’t speak with an accountability.

And then there was a sense that America needed to be marginalized for globalization to be successful. Ok, we all agree we’re in a global economy, but we don’t have to marginalize America and give America away to succeed on a global basis. Shipping jobs overseas, diminishing the American brand… I felt Obama did that.

Julie, are you on same page?

Julie: I definitely feel the same. One of the things that I think we both struggled with is the whole one-percent notion, that the one-percent are bad. People make a blanket judgment about others without knowing their story.

We both grew up without any money. My parents did not have money for groceries sometimes to feed my family. My grandmother would come by with a bag of groceries and that’s how we ate that night. Sometime when we knew it was really bad we’d have waffles for dinner because that was the only thing we had left.

I remember when I needed a pair of shoes and it cost $20. I couldn’t get them because that was too much money. And so I always worked from the time that I was young. I worked in high school, and I supported myself.

I couldn’t go to a fancy college because my parents didn’t have the money. So I went to a state school, and I paid my way. And I worked…I got a job, and I got my second job, and I had my own business, and I did consulting from the time I got married, and I made money.  I did it on my own and I saved it.

And when we bought our first house, we pinched our pennies, and the day that we had like $500 left in our checking account after we paid our bills, we were ecstatic! And we had Chinese food that night. You know?

And so, we kept working and we kept saving and the first check that we would write, after we paid our mortgage, was towards savings. And that’s what we did.

And then we had kids, and we very early said we don’t really have the money but we’re going to start putting money away for their college.

Bob: We never went out and bought that Porsche. We never bought that second home. We never did the big grand cruise.

Julie: No! And so for people to say you know, you’re a one-percenter, you’re bad…it’s offensive! It’s just offensive because they don’t know.

Bob: And we took calculated risks in our careers. Working for start-ups. Some succeeded, some failed. And we worked long hours. I worked for this one start up where I’d go in on a Saturday after our son was born, and I’d bring my son with me, and plop him down in his playpen, and I’d work for 6 hours on a Saturday to give Julie a break, because I was working long hours with the start-up.

Julie: And the other thing too is that we’ve had to spend a lot of money on our kids because our daughter has had some issues, and we had to send her to special schools, we had to find special doctors. So we’ve had to spend a tremendous amount of resources on our kids. And we were happy that we were able to do that. But it’s been tough.

And so, for us it’s like, wow, we planned, we sacrificed; we’ve done all of the right things and now we’re finally at a point in our life where we can take a breath and enjoy what we built. So why is that bad? And why do we now have to be responsible for everybody else? Because I thought we were responsible for our family. And for our parents.

Bob: And why should we feel guilty about where we are, which I felt under Obama—and Bernie Sanders, and Hillary and everybody else—we were made to feel because we had, as they termed it, ‘privilege.’

So, how do you feel about Trump?

Bob: When we went to go vote, Julie’s ahead of me in line, and she turned around and looked at me and said, ‘Are we really going to do this?” And I said, ‘Well what’s our option? It’s either Trump or Hillary. They’re both flawed. But we can’t go, personally, through four more years of Obama type policies, so yeah!’

So even after we voted, we’re walking out, just both feeling so feel about it. But…

Julie: There’s this really great thing on Facebook, the little sticker that says “I voted today,” it actually said “I threw up in my mouth a little bit today.” [laughs]. That’s kinda how I felt. It didn’t feel good, but…

Bob: But it wasn’t a vote for Trump the man. It was a vote for a fairer, more reasonable approach to economic policy and taxation policy, that is more representative across America, versus ‘one percent is bad, underprivileged is good, we’re going to increase entitlements, we’re going to take revenue out of your pocket and we’re going to redistribute it.’

And it was also a desire to not marginalize America. Now you can say Trump himself marginalizes America ’cause he’s you know, people don’t think so well of him, but you have to build that brand of American back. right?

What is the brand that you’re saying needs to be built back up?

Economic power, quality, military power, pride in the nation, accountability. You know the ‘make America great again.’ Wonderful! Wonderful catch phrase. Wonderful slogan. You know, let’s DO make American great again. On many, many different levels. On the things that America is founded upon, which you know is capitalism, is freedom of choice, is empowerment.

Julie, what would you add?

About what I think of Trump? It will be interesting to see what happens. I think what I’m more appalled by right now is the way people are treating each other.

I’ve never in my whole life been afraid to say publicly who I voted for.

People are categorizing people with a blanket statement that if you voted for this person, this is who you are, and that’s wrong…that’s not what our country stands for.

People are being nasty and mean and they’re so stuck in their way, and they think that it’s so clear-cut that this is guy is such an idiot, and if you voted for him, you’re an idiot. And it’s not that way.

There are so many different factors that go into it. I don’t love a lot of what the guys says, I don’t love what he said about women, you know. But everyone makes mistakes.

It’s just very frustrating to me that there’s not this level of respect, that people can’t just sit down and have a conversation and say, ‘this is how I believe and this is why, listen to me.’

I respect people who didn’t vote for him. I mean I’d love to see a female president. There’s nothing more I’d love to see. She just wasn’t the right one for me. And it doesn’t have anything to do with her being a woman…it just really frustrates me.

It’s the so-called “tolerant” people who are being intolerant, and it’s not right. And it’s really sad.

Bob: And it’s almost censorship by bullying.

Julie: It is…it is bullying. When people are afraid to say what they did or what they believe and why…it’s bullying. And it’s not ok.

What would it take to be able to have conversations that are respectful? How can we bridge the divide?

Bob: Some of my friends on social media, who I’ve known for a long time, keep saying the same thing. Trump supporters are racist. They’re this they’re that. Let’s move past that, you know? Let’s actually use some more constructive language about this. We’re not all racist, we’re not all deplorable. I’m actually a pretty good person raising a good family, doing good things, giving to charities.

Julie: Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I feel like, in order to have constructive conversations, we have to stop categorically labeling people. And look at people as people. That all people have value. And that all people have opinions and thoughts and beliefs and that they can be different and that’s okay. And that, if we want to be understood, we have to seek to understand where someone else is coming from.

We just have to have an inherent respect for people and realize that our way is not necessarily the right way. And really understand why someone feels the way that they do, and realize that they’re ok for that. And it’s ok not to agree.

Bob: But also stand back and recognize that there are three parts of government. So think what you may about Trump, but know that there’s going to be a Congress element to it, there’s a Supreme Court element to it. And know that they all kind of eventually balance themselves out, and we will probably end up making less progress, or less backsliding, depending on where you sit on the fence, than we imagine we will in this first week of the Trump administration.

And so it requires that we be patient, patient with people, patient with the process.

But a lot of what we’re experiencing, we’re experiencing because the political process itself only succeeds by being divisive, right? Democrats have to vilify republicans, and republicans have to vilify democrats. And no one in the middle sits back and recognizes that really what is being vilified is the extreme factions of the democrats and the extreme factions of the republicans.

I personally really dislike the conservative Christian coalition, because they give the Republican Party a bad name. I really dislike the really pro-left leanings of the Democratic Party because they give the democrats a bad label. We’re really, most of us, in the middle.

6 Comments

  1. i hear what Julie and Bob say, but they voted for a president who does exactly that–categorize people. Mexicans are rapists or bad hombres; immigrants are taking jobs from Americans; Muslims are terrorists, etc. But I do agree that the political process divides people. I have no problem with a Republican or Democratic president. I would just like to see somebody who genuinely strives for the good of ALL Americans. We don’t need a president who sets us back.

  2. I agree. I post these interviews without editorial, because in their raw form I feel they reveal much about the human condition, a condition we all share. It’s so hard to see things from a holistic perspective, to see the ways in which we manifest the very qualities we object to. I think that is a universal. If we understood that, we’d have more humility, and more basis for connection. We should be able to connect deeply around our human frailties and from there, recognize that we need each other to better understand what’s needed to move forward. (And btw, thanks for reading the post!)

  3. Kern, this is the couple you mentioned the other day. What stands out to me most is in the beginning when Bob is criticizing Obamacare, saying he wanted to use the money (admittedly, he’s been quite successful financially) he’s earned to take care of his parents instead of paying into healthcare for people he doesn’t know. Wow, what a statement, I’m surprised he’d be so transparent about only caring about his own family. 1) Shouldn’t we have a system in which everyone can afford healthcare and elderly people don’t have to rely on their kids to support ehm? 2) He has a lot of money – what about people who don’t have enough to pay their healthcare costs, let alone support their parents’ costs as well. Who should pay for that? Also, not buying a ‘porsche’ or a ‘second home’ or going on a fancy cruise only belies the very privilege he thinks he earned. No sense of the ‘common good’, just everyone for themselves – if they work hard enough, as if teachers and nurses and fire-fighters and social workers don’t work hard…. too bad they aren’t in the kinds of businesses he and his wife chose that resulted in significant wealth. The most vulnerable people were hardest hit by the financial and housing crises, from which many haven’t recovered – not a problem for these folks (or me, for the most part) – and Trump’s policies won’t do anything to support many of his voters who believed he had their best interests at heart. I totally see why this couple, albeit reluctantly, voted for Trump. Maybe the greatest divide is the growing wealth inequality that even conservative economists recognize makes for an unhealthy society, especially if the attitude Bob has is true of very wealthy people: they don’t want their money being spent on people they don’t know. What about public education? Oh well……!

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Gail, while I appreciate your viewpoint on our comments, I feel they need some clarification. There are a few issues with Obamacare that I always held and that I represented to the White House, my Senator, and Representative and even the House Majority Speaker. I viewed Obamacare as one step on the path of encroaching socialism and I viewed preferential taxation as a disingenuous way to push that agenda. While I do not argue with more affordable healthcare, I do not believe it is the responsibility of people in a certain income bracket and higher to fund nor did I see a taxation on capital gains, dividends, and the imposed medical device tax as a way of funding it. This is not a privileged vs. disadvantaged argument, rather it is a difference in direction and policy and a difference in opinion with the Democratic leadership that those who had gained a level of financial success needed to pay for the health care of others- and I did not like being viewed as a “revenue cow” for current and future entitlements. Look at Social Security – payment is made by workers, all workers, into the fund. Yes, it is preferential based on income level, but it is a shared burden. I felt that the Federal Government could look at other ways to fund Obamacare by achieving reductions in government and programs, implementing a VAT, adding a national sales tax – something other that placing the burden on the people of a certain income level and then vilifying them that they are not doing enough for the greater good. This is especially irritating when you consider the progressive income tax on a Federal and State level already places more taxation on upper brackets and deductions are disallowed by AMT. And yet, Pelosi, Reid, and others said the 1 percent was not paying their fair share. If you look at dividend taxes, you have to pay a tax on a dividend that remains in your investments even though you have not liquidated that dividend and instead reinvested it. As a fiscal conservative, I viewed that as unfair taxation since monies are taken out of the economy (e.g. investments and or payroll) to pay the tax and that hurts economic expansion…this is just an example. And yet, Democratic leadership continued to say that we were not paying our fair share of taxes and this message continued through the 2016 election cycle. So yes, I want to retain as much of my income as possible – which I think is normal – to be more self-directed in who I support, how I support them, and when they get my support, especially family, while the government finds an alternative way to fund healthcare and without vilifying those who worked hard, invested, and were prudent over time. We do not feel entitled or the privilege of entitlement, but instead prefer to allocate funds to people, causes, and events that we choose to support without sending it through the vastly inefficient bureaucracy of the Federal government…and we have given to families, communities, churches, nonprofits, hospitals, immigrants…often anonymously. We have given time, volunteered in the community, supported school home clubs, and coached countless sports and influence the lives of many young people because we liked to be involved and we wanted to contribute. Our approach has not been a “me first” or “me above everybody else” approach…but we had the good fortune and blessing to benefit from some strategic career moves that gave us more resources than we imagined when we stated out as a young couple. And then we found ourselves vilified by a Democratic party for 8 years that did not know us, did not know how we got to where we are, how and what we contributed, and they did not know our humble beginnings or level of hard work…and this lasted for 8 years and through the election cycle of 2016. The Porsche comment was meant to highlight that we were prudent and fiscally responsible, especially at a time when other people in Silicon Valley were extravagantly spending money by accumulating “things”. We instead chose not to be extravagant because of the lessons it would teach our kids and because…really at the end of the day…those things are not needed to make a better life, to add quality to our lives, or to provide happiness and joy. Regarding teachers, policemen, nurses, firemen, I wish they made more money and were recognized and rewarded better. They are so vital and have so much influence…and yet these jobs do not really pay what the people are worth. My career choices…and they were choices…were different and in a different industry. It is that simple. No disadvantage intended…just a different career choice. It’s like I tell my kids…choose to do something that makes you happy, something in which you feel rewarded, in which you make an impact, and something that rewards you sufficiently based on how happy you are doing it. They may elect to be teachers, firemen, nurses, policemen…and they will go into it knowing they made the decision and accepted the compensation based on their perceived happiness and rewards in that profession. And we all make choices. Life is a lot about choices and the ramification of those choices – and I can’t be accountable for all the choices people make – especially when it comes to tax policy. As a conservative, I do not embrace added taxes, I do not embrace an escalation in the size of government, and I do not support or embrace a proliferation of entitlements with a dampening of economic expansion – and I do not believe that Federal government knows better than I do how to raise my kids and conduct my life. SO when Federal government becomes intrusive with more regulation and progressive socialism, I want change. And if it starts with Obamacare and goes to free college education, where does it stop? Who pays for it? And why should the payments be preferentially based on taxation of certain income brackets because there is a belief that those income brackets are not doing their fair share? What is their fair share and how is that determined? It is always fun to spend other people’s money until it runs out…and then what? One thing Julie and I both told Kearn is that we came from humble beginnings. I spent a lot of my youth in the rural South in a very poor county. Some of the homes still had dirt floors and some had no running water and only had outhouses. Many people were on food stamps and my grandparents ran the general store for the community. Everyone was treated with respect. Everyone was treated with inclusion. Everyone was welcomed – there was just some families that did a little better than others – but they were a community. So, I have seen, lived with, befriended, and witnessed some of the poorest families you can imagine, and some of those included my relatives. So, we don’t feel privileged. We feel lucky and blessed and we share accordingly – in a very self-directed way. My beliefs around Obamacare are more shaped by the unfair representation by his Administration and the Democratic Party of what my giving, understanding, and contribution has been and continues to be – and that created a scenario where I could no longer support, and do not support, a continuation of those policies, beliefs, or assumptions. I hope this helps to clarify some of our comments. Thanks.

  4. [I made this comment on FB but have edited it and moved it here after reading Bob’s reply] I read this and I get it. I know someone who expresses her support in nearly the same terms. And parts of it make sense to me. I, too, have saved to take care of my own debts, my own family. I didn’t buy the Porsche or the big expensive house or vacationed annually in Hawaii when I might have. And I also truly resent that others who did so are now crying poor for tuition or retirement or bad debts. Why should I have to pay for their lack of discipline? And we have no company insurance coverage but didn’t qualify for a subsidy, so we are one of the (few) families who pay significantly more under ACA – essentially to cover others. But I was also fortunate. I was born healthy with intellectual gifts, grew up in a solid family with educated parents who made sure I was educated too. We weren’t rich and I wore plenty of hand-me-downs but career-wise I wound up in the right place at the right time. I worked hard too, but I was lucky.

    What makes me feel an “unfund government support” perspective is wrong is that wanting to judge what should and shouldn’t be given is still a view that comes from a place of privilege. You can grow up without much of anything and work hard, but still be coming from a place with opportunity, where working hard is all it takes. I’m fourth generation, my grandparents worked their way into owning the quintessential Chinese laundry. But there are people who start even farther down, and they are NOT in the same position. People of other races, particularly people of darker skin color, fight prejudices that are so subtle but so effective, it’s truly impossible to see from the outside. I can see why some people don’t believe it happens because it doesn’t happen to them, they don’t do it and they never see it occur, but it’s not simply a matter of ignoring it and moving on. We have to level the playing field — in providing work and living opportunities, as well as health and welfare. Some thoughtful caring people do the right thing, but in the overall, giving individuals — of either party — the choice of what to support typically doesn’t work out that way. A government has to equalize it and I’ll throw myself behind a party that over-supports rather than one that under-supports, regardless of how it impacts me and mine.

    If it’s hard to recognize the privilege of our own start line, then it makes sense to believe that others should just be able to work as hard to have the same success. I think that those of us who get a better start position in life not only have an obligation to take care of ourselves, we must care for the next rung down and not just our own. As Gail points out, Income inequality is at the core of the problem. But when the examples at the very top are almost universally “all about me” and “lifestyles of the rich and famous” and those people don’t do anything to help up strangers in the middle, it’s easy to see why the middle doesn’t feel an obligation to help up people they don’t know at the bottom.

  5. Thank you Roberta, and thank you Gail and ‘Bob’, for keeping the conversation going. The hope of this dialogue, for me, is that we all able to construct a fuller picture, to see/understand/consider something we had not seen/understood/considered before. The enemy of dialogue is thinking I am operating from a place of total, rather than partial, understanding.

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