David Post: Don't tell anybody, but …

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 30, 2012

By David Post

Can you keep a secret? I really like Jim Sides and Carl Ford. I lean toward Democratic policies and believe government is important, does good, and is critical to helping foster change to make tomorrow better than today. That makes me a liberal. In today’s world, I can’t be called much worse.
Jim and Carl are conservative Republicans who generally believe the best government is the least government and believe in more traditional values, that is, that yesterday was better than today.
The U.S. political axis shifted in the 1960s. We put a man on the moon, but also expanded the social safety net and waged a failed War on Poverty. Voters began shifting to conservatism. President Nixon exploited the politics of division, and when he declared that he was not a crook, government became the enemy, not the friend, of the people. Even though the government is us.
I’ve known Jim Sides for 40 years. If I were drowning, I bet he would be the first to dive in to save me.
I met Carl early this year on “A Week in Politics,” an Internet radio program hosted by Frederick Clarkson, the Vicar at St. Matthews Episcopal Church and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Cooleemee. Carl is a Republican talking voice. I’m a Democrat.
Others participate. Tony Hilton, a Republican councilman in Landis, says, “When I became a Republican, there were only three in Landis. Or maybe, in the entire county.” Attorney Jeff Morris, a Spencer alderman (and not a liberal), waves the Democrat flag.
We laugh way too much. We share humorous emails during the week.
We also agree, maybe too much. Every week, I find myself saying, “If anyone hears that I agree with Carl, it may ruin my reputation.”
Carl jokes likewise.
That’s not to say that Carl and I don’t disagree. We do. But we are never disagreeable or nasty toward each other. I genuinely miss Carl and Tony when they are not there. They make me laugh . . . and think.
One question last week was, “What is necessary to revitalize Rowan County’s economy?”
I said, “For decades, the county’s economy was dependent on textiles. Food Lion is no longer locally owned or controlled. Thousands of jobs are gone and are not coming back. Independent drug stores like mine are being crushed or swallowed by CVS, Walgreens and Walmart. The only answer, in my opinion, is to have a strong education system that produces a highly qualified workforce and strong leadership that aggressively chases smart businesses because we offer them a workforce and lifestyle no one else can. Amazon is opening 140 new warehouses around the country. Why not here?”
Carl talked about reducing regulations and the importance of widening I-85 in the southern part of the county. I interrupted, agreed, and reminded him that building highways was the government’s job. (Incidentally, Rowan Airport also needs a longer runway, which will require government involvement, to attract growing companies.)
I’m grateful that the Post has allowed me to write op-eds, well aware that, given the political makeup of Rowan County, more readers disagree with me than agree. Friends say, “Come on, David, give Republicans a break,” or “Can’t you take a conservative position once in a while?” (I have.)
Carl and Jim (and Tony and Jeff), however, are different than I am. They put their names, their ideas and their reputations on the ballot. My mother regularly reminded me, “Only the test of fire makes fine steel.” They face the heat of public opinion. I only write about it.
Certainly, I’ve disagreed with Jim and Carl and have said so to them publicly. But, if I ever ran and won — both extremely unlikely — I’m confident that we would get along, find a lot of common ground, and have some laughs along the way.
Last week, I met Joe Scarborough, now “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. He talked about how “vile” Washington has become because congressmen no longer know each other personally. He talked about his first term as Republican Congressman when he was hell bent against a Democrat who had proposed new legislation. One day, he picked his daughter up at kindergarten and learned that her best friend was the Democrat’s daughter and that their wives were friends. He thought, “OMG, he’s a nice guy. I can’t attack him.” He toned down his rhetoric. And worked out a compromise.
President Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill were on opposite sides of the political spectrum but famously shared drinks and laughter after dark. Washington must find a way to be pleasant to each other again. Only then will government work again.
See you next week, Carl.
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David Post lives in Salisbury. For more information about the “A Week in Politics” Internet radio show and to listen to past broadcasts, visit www.the-cbe.org. The show is also available on the Live 365 smart phone app.