My Republican Co-worker

It is no secret that the demographic of the bay area is very “blue” (versus “red”*). Every voter in my office is a democrat, or an independent if being a democrat is too conservative for some, except one. This one person happens to be a very smart architect that I respect. He was also the one hired me five years ago. So I’ve been very puzzled by his stubborn republican heart.

The first time when he revealed his true color I was so shocked that I refused to acknowledged the fact that he actually voted for the Gropenator. “You must be joking!” I was dumbfounded. But he seemed rather nonchalant. “I trust a business man, a successful one at that, a lot more than any politician!” he claimed.

As the election draws near, people at work start talking politics more and more often. Last Friday, the only Republican and a couple of us Democrats had a frank talk. For the first time, I didn’t cut him short on his reasoning and heard him out. Surprisingly, I found myself agreeing with him in a lot of areas.

His main concern with Democarte’s platform is that too good a social service would send the wrong message to the people, which is that they don’t have to be responsible for their actions. If one made the wrong choice or one didn’t work hard, then one must be responsible for that decision and take full responsibility for oneself, instead of expecting the society (read, successful people) to take care of him/her.

It echoed a program I heard on the radio one morning, when one of the third party candidates was advocating an almost socialist style healthcare program, one listener said to her, “Look at Denmark, they have one of the best healthcare/social system in the world, yet, their unemployment is the highest in the developed world. How do you prevent a society from becoming stagnate once you provide the incentive for people not to work hard, not to thrive to be the best?” The candidate didn’t have any concrete answer to that question, of course. But it did catch my attention.

Being an immigrant from Asia, most of my co-workers(me included) grew up in a culture that stresses on almost absolute self-reliance. But I also see the fact that a society is judged by how it is treating its weakest member. As immigrants without much means, we tend to think that if we could start from zero and make something out our lives, why can’t the native, who has no language barrier or culture barrier? Another side of the coin that tend to be overlooked is the fact that the new immigrants from Asian tend to have the richest asset in terms of strong family support and a solid value system. Some are not born so lucky.

But where do you draw the line? Do people tend to give up easily if the society has promised to take care of them regardless? Do successful people tend to stop trying to be over-achievers if majority of their income go to support the failures?

Another point of view that my Republican co-worker made me see was to apply the eventual equilibrium of a market-economy to social issues. He tended to believe that society will take care of itself the best when there is least amount of government intervention, it is similar to how the economy taking care of itself. It is part of nature, and nature often has a better solution to problems than arrogant humans do. He found Democrat’s social platform too intrusive.

I can see his perspective, but I also pointed out to him that the Republican seemed more intrusive in the social issues to me, because of their position on abortion right, gay marriage, and stem-cell research. He agreed with me on that, pointing out to me that his position was “conservative in economic issues, and liberal in social issues.” So in the end, he is a moderate.

One last surprise was that he thought Democrats tend to have this attitude of “holier than though,” while I thought Republicans are “arrogant”.

Our discussion ended in mutual understanding that neither of us is likely to change our mind about both parties. But I feel good to learn his perspective. They were food for thought.

Just now, I saw him in the hallway and asked whether he had watched “Bowling for Columbine.” He laughed, shaking his head decisively, “Of course not! I don’t like Moore.” I made a weak attempt, “It is good. Why not see it before dismiss it?” “No way! I don’t like that guy, period.”

I nodded an “Okay.” I completely understand him, because I can’t change mind about the election for exactly the same reason, I don’t like that guy, period.

On a similar note.
We are less than 24 hours away from the election day of 2004, everyone is so wrapped up in bin Ladin’s video, and 300 tons of missing explosive has been forgotten. I suddenly remembered the controversy surrounding Sinclair’s Documentary. It has caused such an outcry a few weeks ago. What had come of it now?

I found this on Reuter: Sinclair’s Kerry Documentary Does So-So in Ratings.

The best part? Sinclair’s stock took a beating on the stock market. I think my co-worker is right. Society is built on a “trade” relationship. When idealism isn’t enough to convince people, stock market usually is.