We used to complain about our country being divided into two colors, red and blue. Boy, I miss those clear-cut times when we had a few personal liberties to fight about! Now we are a fucking Pollock's painting! Social, monetary, ideological, intellectual, and cultural (some even say micro-cultural) differences create a broad variety of political blends and affiliations. At this point, we have pretty much slid off the two-party platform; we are now swimming (or drowning) in a multi-faction cesspool.
It definitely looks to me like the 2016 primaries are far more divisive and tumultuous than the presidential election will be in November. Each candidate, on both sides of the partisan divide, represents a very distinct combination of views and positions that categorically separate him/her from others. Accordingly, the supporters are broken up into a multitude of tiny puddles, not two oceans.
This made Politics into a more dangerous and touchy subject than it has ever been. I always tried to uphold the propriety rules and stay clear of the political discussions in public, particularly with co-workers, business relations, perfunctory acquaintances, etc. But nowadays, I am literally left with only one place where I can express my opinions openly - my own home. Even in this blog I keep myself in check.
But there are people who will talk politics anywhere. They are usually either (i) very brave and willing to take a stand; (ii) too powerful or confident to care; or (iii) absolutely tactless and have no idea that they make others uncomfortable. The combination of (ii) and (iii) is also very typical. And, of course, I happened to work with one of those. It seems that this business owner believes the impossible - that everyone in the room shares his opinions on... everything.
When I end up in one of the awkward situations he creates (usually during business dinners), my choice of actions is simple: ignore (just get myself busy with food or something) or deflect (hopefully there are people with little kids at the table - trumps all other topics). Sometimes I find a reason to avoid going to an event with this dude altogether; which is what I did the other week during the company's Annual Sales Summit.
And dammit! He actually managed to instigate a rare political exposé: he asked everyone around the table (two other business owners and five sales directors) to declare their choices of Presidential Candidates! I cannot tell you at what level of intoxication these people agreed to basically reveal their political stands ("No judgement!" was guaranteed, by the way); nor can I warranty the truthfulness of the disclosures. However, I can testify to the fact that everyone was surprised and/or traumatized by their own unusual candor: one by one, all eight participants came to my office the next day to confide their bewilderment and share the results of this bizarre poll. And now I am sharing them with you, my readers (in the order they came through my door):
Business Owner (the instigator himself), 60: A liberal Upper West Side exterior, rotten chauvinist interior (just imagine late Nora Ephron writing a really obnoxious character); born and raised in Westchester County, he'd spent 30 years of his life running his own business in Pacific Asia before returning to Central Park West - Hillary Clinton;
Business Owner, 46: The company's founder and CEO; a remarkable woman who remade herself from a basic Chinese wife into an extremely independent and self-reliant woman - Michael Bloomberg;
Sales Director, 48 : A Midwestern gentlemen with deep roots in 250 years of family traditions; a trained chemical engineer, he spent most of his life in business development and sales; an avid hunter and a boater - Jeb Bush;
Sales Director, 41: A Texan of Korean descent; another engineer who actually has spent most of his career in chemical manufacturing; someone capable of setting up a production line from A to Z; a tech savvy guy with unbearably weak handshake and darting eyes - Jeb Bush;
Sales Director, 45: A third-generation raw-materials distribution professional; born, raised, and still residing near the New Jersey Shore; recently divorced with one daughter whom he loves more than anything; after three beers will bust out pretty credible vocal quotes from Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac (beats 'n all), if you ask nicely - Donald Trump;
Sales Director, 33: An ambitious Korean boy born in Southern California; trained within LG system for the Latin American markets, he possesses the valuable assets of fluent Korean and Spanish; while making a low 6-figure annual income, he still lives with his mom so that he can support her - No one; he stated that no candidate represents his political, economic, or life concerns;
Business Owner, 49: A descendant of an old aristocratic Shanghainese family persecuted by the Mao regime, whose parents forced him into piano playing and lounge singing as possible means of self-support; yet, after coming to America at age 16, he chose engineering and business as his areas of interest; he was making a remarkable progress climbing a career ladder of one of the largest plastics producers in the US, when the company's founder (see above) offered him the partnership - Ted Cruz;
Sales Director, 65: An old-school career salesman, he was originally responsible for building the core of the company's distribution structure, bringing with him dozens of his customers; a Vietnam War veteran with the combat experience and hot-blooded Italian ancestry, he is known for smashing desk phones against the walls; yet his wife, with whom he lives in Upstate New York, has been able to calm him down for nearly 40 years - Bernie Sanders.
So, here you go, ladies and gentlemen! By most statistical parameters this group is not even all that diverse! Yet, the results are all over the place; with some totally surprising picks (Ted Cruz? Really?!). I mean, some respondents have named people who are not running at all or are out of the running already. Moreover, the leading Republic and Democratic candidates only got one vote each. It's remarkable how uncertain and confused our political landscape is!
But I have to say: that last one actually broke my heart a little. It is unfathomable to me that someone who fought North Vietnamese commies in hand-to-hand combat; who saw with his own eyes the devastation and poverty of the people under socialist regime; who enjoyed the benefits of booming American capitalism during some of our country's most prosperous periods would vote for a socialist. What veteran would support a senatorial failure that is Bernie Sanders? And why? If I had to guess, it's because his daughter and son-in-law are not doing all that great financially up there in Vermont, but they had two kids nevertheless. The man is afraid that he will be the one paying for his granddaughters' college tuition.
And isn't this typical? A demagogue promises people something free (without even laying down the actual plan of actions) and everyone's principles go out of the window. History repeats itself.