By Jean Hastings Ardell
Just when I thought we could move on from rehashing the results of our recent national election, stuff happened. First off, my lifelong Republican husband has continued his rants about the awfulness of President Trump. Last summer, I finally requested a Trump-free conversation zone at our house, explaining that, while I agreed with him, I just didn’t want to listen to it. After Biden won, I figured we could move on to more appealing political topics given that we agree on so many issues. But no, my husband’s obsession with both Trump and what he considers the ethical and moral betrayals by the GOP continues.
He’s not alone. When I picked up Sunday’s New York Times review section, the headline to Op-ed writer Frank Bruni’s column ran, “Who Will We Be Without Donald Trump?” Bruni lamented, “He lost. Sometime soon, we’ll have to stop obsessing about him… And here I am writing about Trump – again. It’s a tic, not one I’m proud of…” And so on and on.
Seeking respite, I turned to last week’s edition of the Independent, only to be greeted with Michael Ray’s column. Ray began with a gracious line, “Congratulations to Democrats, with Biden you won a close one.” He then proceeded to walk back the congrats to lambast Democrats for our “[p]olitically correct, ‘woke,’ college-educated elitists … who go about telling you what is best for you.”
Ray’s comment strikes me as being about the battle over which party gets to occupy the high moral ground in our national debates. For years the GOP, abetted by the Religious Right and its arguable pro-life stance, and its claim as the party of true patriotism and law and order sought to hold the bully pulpit. Not the case. The Democrats’ advocacy of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 saw the segregationists of the South exit right to the Republican party. Nor does the GOP, to its shame, extend its “pro-life” stance to include the full spectrum of lifelong policies that support social and racial justice.
Ray goes on to string together a few terms to call out us Dems. Let’s look at them.
“Politically correct:” This term refers to the effort to avoid offending various sectors of society by using terms they find hurtful. They used to call it being polite. After all, if you find out, as I did growing up on the playgrounds of New York City, that my Italian friends didn’t like being called “guineas” and “wops,” the kind thing to do was to stop using them. You got a problem with that?
“Woke:” The Oxford English Dictionary definition reads, “Originally: well-informed, up-to-date. Now chiefly: alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.” What’s objectionable about that? Do we not have a moral obligation to respond in word and action once we learn of continuing inequities in our “liberty-and-justice-for-all” democracy?
“College-educated elitists:” I find it deeply troubling when “college-educated” is used as a pejorative. One of the great values of a college education is learning to think critically, an ability crucial to a functioning democracy. But this can also be learned at home, in high school, or even from a business mentor. Do some college grads act elitist? Yes, so do some self-educated entrepreneurs I’ve met. Elitists exist in both parties. Hillary Clinton came across as one; but the epitome of elitism was the late conservative spokesman William F. Buckley, whose regal mastery of the English language obfuscated his racism. Finally, the Cambridge English Dictionary defines elitism as “organized for the good of a few people who have special interests or abilities.” That accurately sums up the GOP’s policies of recent decades, from its failed “trickle-down” economic theory to its embrace of the oil and gas industry.
Let’s go local now and look at Ray’s complaint that “the proxy for the Democratic Party Is Village Laguna, which he says is “holier than thou and parades its stripes.” Is it holier to put the interests of our entire city above those of developers like those who fund Liberate Laguna? I think so, though I’d use a different term than “holier.” How about “for the greater good?” Besides, Village Laguna is entitled to parade its stripes because for decades it has done the grunt work to sustain the town’s heritage and architectural integrity. Do they always get it right? No, but they’ve earned those stripes and I applaud their efforts.
Finally, let’s remember that the local election was dirty on all sides. It’s okay to apologize, guys. And if he wants more civility on the council, Michael Ray would do well to offer more than a heh, heh nod — “I love you, Peter, but…” to Peter Blake’s Trumpian behavior. Now let’s wash our hands, get over our political obsessions, and get busy addressing the needs and concerns of this blessed town.
Jean is a Laguna Beach resident and member of the Third Street Writers.