A question from my wife prompted some reflection last week. It has been something that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time, the part of my mind I don’t often go to because it still has the power to make me sad. Even though we were on completely different sides of the political spectrum, my dad and I would often have lively discussions about the political theme of the day, mostly prompted by my parents near constant listening of Fox News Radio or my dad’s viewing of Fox News.
My father was a good, hardworking, card-carrying member of the Republican Party. He went caucused when appropriate. He met Orrin Hatch and got a fancy picture with him. He even briefly flirted with running for the statehouse prior to landing his job at the post office. Ronald Reagan was the man, the near saint that many Republicans of my father’s generation hold in high esteem. If their was a Republican policy point, my dad usually fell right in line, though during the George W. Bush years, he may have voted Libertarian on at least one occasion.
Democrats were always up to something, and while the eight years of Clinton were some of the best in his lifetime, more credit was given to Newt Gingrich and the “Contract with America” that fixed all the problems that Clinton was sure to inflict if his power was left unchecked. Barack Obama hadn’t done anything to garner much recognition, and his reelection in 2012 was not a pleasant experience for my dad. The echo chamber that is Fox News reinforced this, and my dad continued to fall in line with his party on nearly every issue.
My dad died in December 2014, so, fortunately for him, he hasn’t had to see his beloved Republican Party descend into madness and chaos.
The question that prompted this post was innocent enough, with my wife simply asking what my dad would have thought about the current primary process. The question was asked in the midst of Bernie Sanders’ speech here last Friday, a speech that reinforced why Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to truly care about the electorate. Every other candidate is beholden to special interests in one way or another. But Bernie Sanders is different, and it left me with a realization:
My father would have hated Bernie Sanders.
Per the Fox News narrative, my dad was against “government handouts,” which I always thought was kind of ironic in a way. There were times when I was a kid that we were on food stamps, and we all turned out okay. My dad was always a hard worker though, so he may have justified it because he wasn’t a freeloader and just sitting around waiting for the government check.
Nevertheless, Sanders’ brand of Democratic Socialism would not have been popular in the Eberhard household:
- Free, or highly-subsidized, college? “If you can’t afford to go to college, you shouldn’t go.”
- Single-payer health care? “Just another handout. Why should I cover the cost of others to go to the doctor?”
- Criminal justice reform, including decriminalization of marijuana? “We need to keep our streets safe. If someone committed a crime, they should do the time.” (Though I would like to think that his views on this may have softened a bit after spending the last few years of his life working with non-violent offenders.)
I could go on, but not liking a Democratic candidate would have been a given with my father. It’s when I take a look at the candidates for his beloved Republican Party that I truly miss him. I don’t think he would be terribly comfortable with any of the three remaining candidates. Trump is too much of a bully and has a personality that would probably rub my dad the wrong way. Ted Cruz would have probably been more palatable, but he too has some personality issues that would have probably turned my dad off of him. John Kasich would probably be his most likely choice, but my dad didn’t really like to support folks without a good chance of winning.
I’ll be voting for Bernie Sanders in out caucus tomorrow, and will probably vote Democrat again in November, though the thought of voting for Hillary Clinton might push me to finding a third-party option in my deeply Red state. It’s been a long time since I can remember my dad influencing my political choices, but it was also because of him that I read multiple Rush Limbaugh books as a teen trying to understand where he was coming from. All I know is that we could have had some lively discussions about the upcoming election and it would have been nice to have my political sounding board around.
I miss you, Dad.