Among journalists outside The Wall Street Journal, I am the rare conservative. But truth be told, I often think like my liberal colleagues.
Which is to say that I don’t think President Obama is trying to take away our guns, though I suspect he’s no fan of the Second Amendment. Also, I would be inclined to accept Syrian refugees rather than turn them away, and I think this country should make its immigration policy more welcoming, not more restrictive. And I’m not ashamed to say I’m OK with gay marriage, and honestly, I don’t think anyone in this country is waging war on Christianity, though I wonder why everyone in this country other than Christians has the right to be offended.
But unlike some of my liberal friends, I neither dismiss nor disrespect my fellow conservatives whose views differ from my own. I do not take to Facebook to make fun of Christians critical of Starbucks for dropping holiday symbols from its coffee cups. I do not deride people who applauded when Donald Trump called for a suspension of Muslim travel to the United States. I do not condemn magistrates who decline to perform gay marriages. I do not dismiss those Americans who are worried that immigrants are taking their jobs, hogging their tax dollars and threatening their safety.
For the record, neither am I dismissive of the worries of my liberal friends. I think a $15 minimum wage would do more harm than good, especially to teens looking for jobs, but I can’t argue with the ideal of a living wage. I think the federal government had as much to do with the financial crisis as the banks, but I’m not opposed to breaking up banks that are supposedly too big to fail. I don’t think the federal government needs to raise taxes, but I’m all for ending loopholes that allow corporations and individuals to escape their tax burden. I don’t think any gun-control measure will keep weapons out of the hands of people who want to behave badly, but neither do I oppose thorough background checks.
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The problem is, whether liberal or conservative, we tend to think people who disagree with us are ignorant. But here’s the thing, I think people in America today are more anxious than ignorant. Yes, the jobless rate is down, but that’s mostly because so many Americans have left the workforce, giving people little confidence in the economy. And in any event, wages are stagnant. Yes, most people who come to this country, legally or not, just want to pursue the American Dream. But people who were born in this country reasonably expect to have first dibs on that dream, and with terrorist attacks at home and abroad, they are worried about their safety and the safety of the families. The list of anxieties goes on: Yes, more Americans than ever have access to health insurance, but premiums are rising fast. Yes, interest rates remain near historic lows, but banks, stung by their own bad habits and the tepid economic recovery, are reluctant lenders. Yes, the United States has a nuclear deal with Iran, but the Middle East remains a far from stable place.
Unfortunately, our politicians don’t speak to these anxieties; they pander to them. That is especially true, I think, of Donald Trump. But I think it’s true too that he’s popular in large part because voters think he’s listening to them.
What I want is a politician who truly hears the anxieties of Americans and offers policy prescriptions that will calm those fears. I’d vote for that candidate in November.