Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. – Anna Karenina

The GOP strikes me as a deeply unhappy family.  The impression one receives of the national GOP is like the movie War of the Roses.  Ostensibly about a disfunctional marriage, it becomes a black comedy about a deranged couple fighting over their house.  It is at once wildly funny and deeply disturbing, like the surviving group of robots, fanatics and craven lunatics that comprise/d the GOP Presidential candidates.  The corporatists and the creature they created in their lab have their hands around each other’s throats vying for dominance in a dying party.

Remember how the film ends?  Oliver (Michael Douglas) and his wife Barbara (Kathleen Turner) have just fallen two stories into the foyer of their home, mortally wounded.  With his dying breath, Oliver reaches out and touches Barbara’s shoulder.  Barbara uses the last bit of her strength to knock his hand away.  Is this how the story ends for the GOP?  Tragically?  Is it really that bad?  I decided to find out for myself.

Washington State has an open caucus.  It wasn’t always this way.  Traditionally the GOP employs a primary, while the Dems operate a caucus.  A couple of years ago, the Secretary of State decided to switch to a caucus instead to save money.  It is illegal to ask party affiliation in Washington, so as long as you are willing to sign a sheet that states that you consider yourself a Republican and that you won’t vote in another caucus, all voters are welcome.  With Obama safely installed as the incumbent, I figured I may not get another opportunity like this for another 8 years.

I felt excitement about the prospect of attending the GOP caucus.  My wife could not have been more disapproving.  When I asked who I should vote for, she just muttered; “I can’t believe you’d actually vote for one of these lunatics.  It  just better not be Romney (family complications) or Santorum (she loathes his attitudes toward women) or Paul (loathes his attitude towards humans)”.  That settled it.   Gingrich would be my man.

The location was an unassuming Middle School a few blocks from my house.  Parking was very difficult to find, which made me fear a  high turnout.  Maybe GOP voters are more motivated than they seem?

When I walked into the school, I got in line to check in and noticed that the average demographic of the attendees broke down this way: Late 50’s, male, most with spouse in tow, white.  I took my place behind three octogenarians to check in.  A TGIFridays-inspired Ron Paul supporter was working his way up and down the line asking if anyone wanted a Ron Paul sticker before they went in.  One of the elderly women in front of me shook her head and said: “No, he’s the wrong candidate”.

Paul Volunteer: “I  think he’s the perfect candidate.  We have 15 trillion in debt and its only getting bigger.  Ron Paul has a plan to slash 1 trillion in year 1”.

Woman: “But will he take care of people like me?  The elderly?”

Volunteer: “Of course.  Ron Paul has said that he will make sure that he fulfills his obligation to those already on Medicare and Social Security”.

(this is when I had to jump in)

Me: “How?  If he eliminates the income, cap gains, and estate tax, how is going to pay for that?”

Volunteer: “Cutting onerous regulations and refining the tax code is going to generate more than enough money to pay for critical programs”.

This could be harder than I thought.

Entering the gym, I eagerly sought out my lunch-table with my precinct table-tent.  Finding it, I sat down with two pleasant-looking gentlemen, who  it turns out, would be my only companions for the vote.  Bob* (not his real name) I found out was a Romney supporter and our table captain.  It was his first caucus and he was excited to participate.  Bob is a gastroenterologist.   Glenville* (not-his real name) was a retired, east coast transplant who was a declared undecided.  They both warmly welcomed me as we sat down to discuss weighty  matters.

Me: “Bob, why Romney?”

Bob: “Oh I don’t know, he just seems like the right guy for the job”

Glenville:  “Romney is gonna get crushed by Obama.  The guys got no spine.  He’s got no strong positions”

Bob: “Well that is a problem that Romney has for sure.  He would have some trouble in a debate…”

Glenville: “Trouble?  He’s gonna get killed!!”

Me: “That’s why I’m pulling for Gingrich.  He’s the only one that’s got a chance in a debate with Obama.  We need him”

And so began my morning of selling Gingrich.  Our conversations ranged far and wide.  Healthcare, taxes, defense, Iran, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  Glenville thought attacking Iraq was madness, and after losing a nephew in Afghanistan, Bob was in favor of leaving there.  I had decided before coming that while I was supporting Gingrich, I was also going to maintain some ethics during my time there.  Liminting myself to questions and observations would satisfy my curiousity.  As I trolled the other tables, eavsdropping on conversation the main theme I heard over and over was how tough Obama was going to be, and who was going to have the best option to beat him.  I heard no conversation at all about whether or not another candidate should jump in or whether there was to be a brokered convention.

Romney and Paul were the only candidates with volunteers.  The only campaigns with material for that matter.

A position paper was passed out to every table.  The State GOP was polling the caucus to determine what caucus-goers thought about various state and federal positions.  They ran out of copies, so our table only had one to share amongst all of us.  I offered to be secretary as we discussed each question and came to a consensus on what our answers would be.

What was fascinating is that by the time we were done, we had decided to keep Roe v. Wade, keep gay marriage, keep social security, keep gun laws unchanged, keep tax rates unchanged, start a state-wide uniform school curriculum, socialize medicine, build more mass transportation, and stay out of foreign entanglements.  Which, if I am not mistaken looks quite a bit like the current President’s track record.  I certainly don’t think I steered the conversation too much, but what was really interesting is that because we decided to come to a consensus, we had to discuss the pros and cons of each multiple choice option and come up with what we felt was the best answer.  By the time we finished, we ended up with what could be described as a centrist Dem platform.

I did also manage to win Glenville over Gingrich, which made the final tally Newt 2 Romney 1.  Take that Rom-bot!

I was very tempted to try move on as a potential delegate in the district and state elections.  How far could I take this?  All the way to Tampa???  In the end, I fought off my darker impulses.  We elected Bob to be our delegate to the district elections.  He was thrilled.

The last thing that we agreed on was that the President was a loser, in over his head, a failure, and had to be stopped.  We also agreed he was a good man, a good family man, meant well, was bright, articulate and trying to do his best.

The caucus over, I wished both of my precinct-chums a good day.  They were good company.  The conversation was spirited and respectful, all one can hope to get out of a political discussion with a neighbor.

To recap:  My precinct settled on a Democratic platform / Agreed that Obama was doing his best, was a good man and is a formidable candidate / And that he had to be stopped at all costs before he destroys the nation.

As I walked back to the car, I reflected on what I had experienced:

Maybe most of us outside of the evangelical knuckle-foamers aren’t all that far apart on basic policies

Maybe my district in my purple city in my blue state has more reasonable Republicans

Maybe the small sample size of my district yielded voters outside the GOP norm

Maybe I “poisoned the well” and unduly influenced the direction of the conversation and policy choices

Maybe a combination of all of the above.  Maybe what I really found is that conservatives aren’t that far away from where we are when you can talk to them face to face.  Maybe its the GOP and FOX that poison them.  Maybe they are good people that willingly make bad choices, like choosing to remain ignorant, like choosing to willingly and knowingly live in a parallel reality to the rest of us.  What does that make them?  Victims?  Culpable?  Tragic like Oliver and Barbara?

All I know is that it is gonna take more than a divorce to fix this family.

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foodchain
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foodchain

funk, that must have been fun. I live in a district of mostly moderate GOP, a few democrats (teachers and nurses mostly) a a little on each extreme. Most of our GOP are great people and may be just why our district went for Obama.

What’s interesting though, as you site FOX and right wing media in influencing GOP voters, is that YOU were able to get a moderate voter to move to a crazy candidate. That doesn’t make you a right wing nut like FOX and Limbaugh but what does it say about how easily this fellow was influenced? It must say something about your charm 🙂 Gosh, maybe we should try to take over the right by relating TO them instead of fighting them. What a hoot that would be. Dazzle them with our kindness? We need more infiltrators!

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Kalima
Admin

A wonderful read funk, I don’t think I would have lasted 10 minutes in the “enemy” camp. I think you deserve a medal for courage and perseverance, and so wish I had one to pin on you. Great story, and fascinating observations. Well done.

OBAMA-2012!!!!

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SallyT
Member

Well, there you go. 007 Funk! Brave man you are. I don’t think I could sit there and play along. When I was in business I always had a hard time not saying anything when surrounded by Republicans. Just said nothing and left with my tongue bleeding. Your brave efforts did get interesting information. “Just have to get Obama out of the White House before he destroys the nation.” Yet, they didn’t really say how they saw him destroying it. Like Choicelady said, the south would be different. But, don’t go there and find out!
Great article from your experience and you deserve a medal for your courage. I am glad you got out safe and that medal won’t be a Purple Heart! 😉

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kesmarn
Admin

Funk, I knew that you had planned to do this and I’m so glad you wrote up the account of your experience. I agree about the career in espionage, should you ever opt for a change in direction. You are good!

I’m relieved to hear that moderate Republicans still exist. That’s a comforting thought. And the fact that they are primarily worried about how powerful the President is and not so much about issues is encouraging, too. I guess the British phrase is that they are “on the back foot,” which I take to mean on the defensive. (Is that a phrase they use in fencing? I dunno.) I hope they stay on the back foot indefinitely.

I actually had no idea what took place in a caucus. We don’t have them, as far as I know, in Ohio. So that part was really interesting, too. When I went to vote in the primary here, I didn’t realize until the very last second that I could have asked for a Republican ballot. I could have bitten my tongue after I said “Democrat,” because of course the Prez was a shoo-in, I can no longer vote for Marcy Kaptur, and I missed my chance to vote for Newtie.

Like many, I am really okay with the long drawn out Repub primary. They’ve created a money sink and I savor the thought of every last dollar swirling down the drain! That’s one less they’ll have to spend in the general.

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KillgoreTrout
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Well done Funk. You are a far more patient man than I am. I would have been very uncomfortable in such a situation. I wouldn’t be able to control my anger toward such devout republicans. Just to think of who they are planning to vote for would rile me.
I think many people, vote along strict party lines, even if they really don’t care for the candidate that wins the nomination. They seem to believe that any GOPer is better than any Dem. And there are Dems who vote the same way, along strict party lines. AdLib’s analogy of basketball “teams,” really does fit. I wrote a comment yesterday about our screwed up 24/7 news outlets and how they have turned politics into a new “sport,” with Dems and Republicans being viewed as different sports teams. I just can’t figure out how seemingly well adjusted, intelligent people can support any of these whacko GOP candidates. It has to be because those GOP misanthropes are merely representing their “team.” They would never allow themselves to switch teams. I think they would consider that treasonous to their fellow GOPers. It’s a shame that there are like minded GOPers who refuse to even consider voting for the other “team.”

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Nirek
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Funk, I’m in Vermont . The opposite corner of America from you. Here we have an open primary and I could have voted R but sense I refuse to vote for any of this crop of GOPers I declared Democrat and voted for Obama.

Maybe if we had caucuses like your state I would have tried what you did (doubtful) but at least you got some insight from “Bob and Glen?” Conversation is very useful and you got them to admit that Obama is a good person and means well. That is a start.

I have a brother-in-law who is republican and is planning to vote for Obama a second time. Yes our conversations are spirited but I have won him over to the “correct” side.

Good piece and thanks for the thought provoking story.

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Carmen
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Carmen

Wow, Funk, that’s an impressive piece you’ve written! I admire your bravery in sallying forth into the lion’s den of the GOP caucus in your state. I couldn’t have done it, but then, I live in Texas. You were great, though. Have you ever considered a career in espionage?

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AdLib
Admin

An enlightening and entertaining article, Funk! Thanks so much for investing the time and effort in the caucus and this post.

What comes to mind after reading your adventures is the provincial nature of politics possibly being the true culprit.

That is, if you are a basketball fan in Los Angeles and in a room with other L.A. fans, you’re not on the defensive and can openly share your respect for other teams and other players but are committed to your team and only your team winning.

If you are an L.A. fan but in a room with Miami fans, you may share the same sensibilities on the game of basketball but you may see the others as adversaries and their team as permanently worse than your team, even if their team is clearly better.

People loyally glue themselves to a team and can’t be argued out of it (ask a Cubs fan). It’s one of the way they define themselves and is a core fact they rely on, that their team is the best.

Same thing is reflected in the American Exceptionalism concept. It doesn’t matter what we do or what difficulty we’re in, we’re better than every other country…just because we’re American.

For that reason, though your fellow caucus members may have similar sensibilities, the idea of voting Democratic because they’re most in sync with Dems on the issues would be a non-starter.

Whether their team is playing dirty or is acting to spite its supporters, to the “fans”, it’s still their team and they’re rooting for it.

It does make me think that a third party could have a chance to attract people from both parties since it wouldn’t have the prejudices baked in against it but I wonder if, no matter how unrepresentative the GOP is of its base when it comes to policies, if many of their fans would ever allow themselves to think of supporting another team.

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MurphTheSurf3
Editor

Funk….is the comment re. Obama being over his head really yours? More on this later.

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SueInCa
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Funk

Thanks for braving it into the dark side to find out they are not much different from us. I have always wanted to do the same but I pick things like a TeaParty demo that I know is gonna piss me off so I bite the hand that feeds me beforehand. To be honest I have friends and family who are Republican and are the best of the best despite that label. I believe it all comes down to the area you live, personal attitudes and experiences. I also still think of it demographically because you know if you did the same experiment in the south you would come out with a much different experience.

When do you start your “experiment” tour? Wouldn;t that make for a really great book after the election?

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choicelady
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That is an amazing story, funk! I’m so glad you went and had a chance to see “inside” the process.

I imagine in WA that you encountered more moderate GOP members. It’s the Dominionist (not all Evangelicals are Republican – ALL Dominionists are) influence to outright control that tends to bend people so far Right. That strikes me as less present in WA – though a trip around the area just south of the Canadian border showed the new building of LOTS of Dominionist churches in that area. But for the moment, they have less presence in WA.

Isn’t it interesting that the folks came to such moderate conclusions? Wonder how that will play out in the national party and if your new acquaintances will be drummed out by the extremists?

Now you’ve become a Newt supporter, you likely will be bombarded with his “visionary” statements, so please feel free to tell us all how he sees putting a space colony on the moon (or whatever it is) will make us all happy and properous? I’m still trying to figure that out. I figure for Newt “visionary” means paying absolutely no attention to problems here on earth but projecting wildly into the future with plans that would boggle the mind of H.G. Wells. In normal terms, we call that “avoidance”. So we will appreciate YOUR insights into his.

Thank you for this very interesting write up of an equally interesting experience. Please though – don’t go to Tampa.

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