This holiday season, visiting with relatives and partying with friends, offers an extraordinary opportunity to ruin relationships when the conversation turns from sports and the grand kids to the inevitable “well, what do you think about Trump”, or the San Francisco version “How could anybody still be a Republican with Trump as the leader of the party?” Potential responses depend on a quick assessment of the person asking the question, and fall into three categories:

1. Provocateurs, particularly if they are relatives:

– Ask whether James Harden, Steph Curry, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, or Russell Westbrook should be the Most Valuable Player. If it drifts to why Colin Kaepernick isn’t employed this year, ask whether James Harden, Steph Curry, Lebron James, Kevin Durant, or Russell Westbrook should be the MVP. Don’t like sports? – asking for an explanation of  Bitcoin is always a handy alternative.  Either subject may require an investment of some time to be able to present an informed opinion, but that is a trick which you definitely need to have in your bag if you wish to retain visitation rights.

2. People who are really seeking understanding:

Answer: I am a Republican because I believe in liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility. A few talking points on each:

– Liberty. From the beginning, the American ethos has been based on the rights of the individual as opposed to the power of the state. This philosophy derives at least from the Magna Carta when British nobles established rights relative to the crown; it is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence which places primacy on the rights of the individual, and the Constitution which limits the powers of government; these Founding principles have been expanded to the abolition of slavery (mostly by Republicans) and equal rights for women (more by Democrats). One fundamental difference between the parties is that the Democrats are more inclined than the Republicans to give the government power over the individual – mandating activities (purchase of health insurance, for example); prohibiting activities (banning politically incorrect foods, for example); and taking property through taxation.

– Opportunity. Most American immigrants came to this country for economic opportunity. In very general terms, Democrats are interested in equality of outcomes, and would use the power of the state to take from the successful and provide for the less successful. Most Republicans believe that society prospers more  when there is equality of opportunity (as in public education), but that there remain incentives for hard work and risk taking.

– Personal Responsibility. The boundaries of the national discussion are reflected in Wisconsin’s successful efforts to require drug testing for welfare recipients and San Francisco’s policy of providing “safe space” for drug addicts to inject themselves. Republicans believe that sane adults are responsible for the outcome of their decisions. Both Democrats and Republicans show concern for the needy – the Democrats more through the public sector; the Republicans more through the private sector. (Doubters should read “Who Really Cares” by a Cornell professor who documents greater giving of time and money by conservatives.)

3. People who want a fight, and who you can do without if the discussion goes south:

– What good things have happened this year?:

The defeat of ISIS, with the end of wars in Iraq and Syria, and and an effective solution to the flow of refugees to Europe; appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court along with a record dozen conservative appellate court judges; movement of the Chinese, the Russians, and the United Nations to make serious efforts to compel  North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons program; acceleration of the economy from sub 2% to 3% GDP growth; record stock market levels (which help everybody’s pension plans and IRAs); tax reform (helping job creators and the middle class – hurting the richest people in the richest states, and increasing the national debt); establishing pragmatic working relationships with the leaders of Russia and China. Each is a discussion, subject to controversy.

– What bad things have not happened?:

Anything from the Mueller probe indicating collusion with Russia in the 2016 election; ineffective responses to the storms and fires (except, perhaps for Puerto Rico); a health catastrophe with the partial rollback of Obamacare; significant engagement of the American military in any new conflicts; riots in the streets.

– What is a work in progress?:

Regaining control of the borders despite opposition from a few federal judges and Congressional Democrats; renegotiation of trade agreements with Canada, Mexico, and China; repeal and replacement of Obamacare.

– And, what else could be on the agenda for 2018:

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid reform, if Paul Ryan is to have his way; other spending reductions, now that tax income has been reduced; war with North Korea; an epidemic of nervous breakdowns among the #Resist, the NeverTrumpers, and the Washington press corps.

If you are not sure which category fits your guests and dinner companions, it is always safe to revert to Number One. (This writer likes Lebron.) In any case, gloating is to be avoided if you are to have a very Merry Christmas.

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www.RightinSanFrancisco.com  – 12/22/17