The Republican-Hate-Machine folding-table is bare except for two single sheets torn from a notebook with “Sign-up Sheet” sloppily written at the top. The sheet with the pink pen has two names. The other one has over twice as many — almost eight names.
This “Join the SMC College Republicans” table sticks out like a gross zit on this sunny day at the Santa Monica College campus.
Manning the table is Edward Tang. He has grey sunglasses, a suggestion of a beard, and his soft-spoken demeanor contrasts his large frame. He is clearly not Donald Trump. I know this because Edward is of Chinese descent. (Journalist Note: I forgot to ask but his last name, accent, and references to China justify my assumption.). And Edward is also not a pathological lying racist-but-doesn’t-really-mean-it-cause-its-just-a-suggestion. At least, he didn’t immediately come across that way.
“I’m a libertarian conservative,” he reminded me. Edward decided to lead the SMC College Republicans group after splitting off from the Libertarian group. Apparently it was an amiable split because his Libertarian friend, Christian Cueva, was standing next to me at the table.
Edward doesn’t subscribe to much of the mainstream Republicanism we hear in the news. To Trumpism. Cruzists. Rubio-otics. Edward does believe religion has its place in the Republican party. “What’s our first amendment, really?” Edward asked rhetorically (Thank, God). “You can have any religion you want. It shouldn’t be just a Christian-based government. My parents are Christian and it’s the tradition of America.” But, he added, it shouldn’t be front and center where it feels as though its a prerequisite for joining. Rather…And then I kind of tuned him out here. I was recording the conversation so no bigs.
My mind wandered back to that last question. Why did he join a party that less accurately represents his values? And then I remember all those Bernie Sanders supporters. In particular, the ones that switched from Green Party to Democrat in order to vote for him. In even more particular, one such instance of a Green-turned-Democrat comes to mind.
This guy, a Sanders supporter, applies online to be a delegate candidate for Bernie. His application is denied. Why? Because this person, unbeknownst to him, is not actually a member of the Democratic party. He’s registered Green. And he forgot. Which makes sense as a Sanders supporter for two reasons. One, Sanders is way more Green than Democrat. Look it up. And, two, Sanders supporters are typically younger and have felt previously unrepresented in politics. So this guy switches his party affiliation to Dem, reapplies to be a delegate, ultimately gets it!, and oh yeah by the way its me. Hi. Dan Gordon here. Hashtag DNC Dan. #DNCDAN
Edward Tang is the Republican version of a Sanders supporter. Like many Sanders supporters, he’s fueled, inspired, and informed well enough to have a thoughtful conversation on the subject of his accumulative knowledge.
Listening to Edward was refreshing. He didn’t have all the answers. And he didn’t pretend to. “We need to stop talking in these extreme ways of it has to be right [or] it has to be wrong,” Edward said. “Then we can really agree with a lot of people.” He knows what’s important to him and he’s still figuring out the rest of it. It was a stark contrast to so many of the political discussions I’ve had recently.
More often than not, we’re all just listening to someone else, waiting for our turn to talk, for those hooks to pull the conversation back to our knowledge. Because saying “I don’t know” is no way to win. And we all want to win. We have to win. Because the alternative, the other side, is ridiculous and will likely cause the world to end.
“So,” Edward asked, “do you want to sign up for the SMC College Republicans group?” I’m excited for our first meeting. I asked him what book he’ll assign as required reading. He squinted his eyes and looked up, searching for the answer. He clearly hadn’t thought about this. Then he said, “I don’t know.”