When I first moved to Pennsylvania from Texas, a lot of the people I met up here were surprised to find out that I was a Republican. Several of them told me that they were surprised because I was Hispanic and, in their experience, people of color were not Republicans. Although I tried to tell them that I was closer to a John McCain conservative than a Dick Cheney conservative (these were the Bush 43 years), they were still pretty stunned.
As the years progressed, my political leanings did too. Republicans were taken over by xenophobes who started blaming everything “wrong” with the country on immigrants (legal or illegal). Talking heads like Bill O’Reilly on Fox News and Rush Limbaugh on the radio started drifting away from sensible ideas like balanced budgets and a tax system that makes sense and moved toward “immigrants this” and “immigrants that.” Then they attacked science, and that was it for me.
I have not voted for a Republican candidate in the general elections in a while, and it’s probably going to stay that way given the sad state of affairs in American politics right now. The Republican party was all about fiscal responsibility, little government interference in our lives, and this when it came to immigration:
It’s not hard to fix the immigration problem from a technical point of view. I’ve told you this before. What is hard is to convince people that they will not lose something if others are allowed to gain something else. It’s human nature to think that more immigrants equals less available jobs. Or that giving some sort of benefit to an immigrant — no matter how small a benefit — will mean taking something away from an American.
This is not to say that I’m completely happy or satisfied with the Democratic Party, either. The quickness with which Democratic leaders jump on anything that Republicans offer is disappointing. Democratic members of Congress have become more and more obstructionist, and not in a “good” obstructionist (“Vive le resistance!”) kind of way, either. Both sides need to realize the same thing as I mentioned above: If one party wins, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the other loses.
What it boils down to is that voters are not a monolith. We are a country made up of 50 states and several territories. Within those states are thousands of counties (or their equivalents), and within those counties are towns and cities… And then there are neighborhoods within those. Many times, people from one house to another cannot agree on issues. Or they agree on most issues but are really divided on one. More often than not, we don’t have one big issue that would swing us either way, though there are plenty of people who do.
I’d like to think that my big issue is immigration because of my family’s history of being divided by a man-made political demarcation. But I also cringe when I see how much science is being worn down by politicians. There are also the many policies aimed at taking as much power from my wife (and women in general), like anti-abortion regulations or denying antenatal or postnatal health care coverage. Those things keep me away from the current batch of “conservatives.”
On the other hand, I believe that the federal budget is out of control, and that we’re going to be in financial trouble if this keeps up. We need a simplified tax system, albeit a progressive one. And the distribution of wealth needs to be done in a sensible way, maybe through more and better jobs available to everyone instead of handouts to otherwise healthy, able-bodied people. These things keep me away from the most leftist end of the Democratic Party.
Unfortunately, living in Pennsylvania, I need to be with one party or the other in order to participate in the primaries. So I might as well try and rescue the current batch of Republicans from their own stupidity.
So, yeah, the current president is a racist, misogynist xenophobe who likes to have white supremacists counsel him. But whoever ends up being the Democratic Party’s candidate in 2020 needs to not come at the country with one issue, especially if that one issue is “Trump Sucks.” Yeah, we know that, but we also want you to show us that you can take on all of the problems a president can fix or influence in fixing. They need to be a person who all Americans can see as president, and the pandering to only one issue or one segment of the population needs to stop.
Yes, racism is real and it’s a problem. Yes, poverty is real and it’s a problem. And so on and so forth. But there cannot be a hyperfocus on one issue and one issue alone. There needs to be a leader in the presidency who can show us that no task is too big nor too small, and that they are in that office in order to take care of everyone, not just the powerful few. Just like all laugh at the Orange One in office, there needs to be someone who also will not be laughed at by more than half of the population for other reasons.
Of course, I’m preaching to the choir, and it’s all easier said than done. But, hey, I can dream, can’t I?
René F. Najera, DrPH
I'm a Doctor of Public Health, having studied at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
All opinions are my own and in no way represent anyone else or any of the organizations for which I work.
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