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VOL. 44 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 3, 2020

Getting by with a little help from political 'friends'

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In this awkward and isolating time, we should be especially thankful for those people in our lives who make an effort to maintain a personal connection. For me of late, this has included my friends Vaughn, Mona, Jill and Sen. Mitch McConnell.

Normally I wouldn’t have thought there was a link of any sort between the senator and me, since I consider his politics about as toxic as the coronavirus. The single-best argument for living in Kentucky is the chance it would offer to vote against him.

But it’s clear that he thinks more highly of me than I do of him, because he calls me a friend. Constantly. In light of that familiarity on his part, I’ll refer to him as “Mitch.”

“I was going through our list of pro-Trump conservatives and noticed that your name wasn’t on the list, Friend,” Mitch wrote in an email recently.

“Can President Trump and I can count on your support this November, Friend?” he asked a couple of days later.

No, would be my answer, preceded by a colorful word to emphasize just how negative I mean to be. Except that I never respond to Mitch.

He is not in the least deterred by my silence. If anything, he seems encouraged. In a surprisingly candid baring of his political soul, he has related to me his fears about his party losing the four-seat lead it has in the Senate.

“I won’t sugarcoat it, friend,” he confided. “We’re in real danger of losing these 4 seats and turning our Republican-controlled Senate over to Chuck Schumer and his liberal cronies.”

Mitch seems oblivious to the fact that, except for the fact that I’m not in the Senate, I am in spirit one of Chuck’s liberal cronies. To quote the great Bugs Bunny: “He don’t know me very well, do he?”

But Mitch is not alone in his effort to cultivate – fabricate? – a relationship. Team Mitch, the campaign committee dedicated to his reelection, has been similarly persistent in its pursuit.

“Pelosi and Schumer’s ploy to trick the American people failed, friend,” Team Mitch wrote recently. “Americans saw right through their lies, deceit, and partisan games, and the American people will remember this at the ballot box.”

Team Mitch don’t know me very well, either.

In truth, I’ve sort of lost distinction between Mitch and Team Mitch, since much of what they send me seems to be duplicated. And I’m also getting much of the same stuff from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which focuses on electing or reelecting Republicans to the House, and the National Republican Senate Committee.

Did I mention America First Action, which bills itself as the Official Pro-Trump Super PAC?

“We warned you that the Liberal Elites were starting to line up behind Sleepy Joe,” America First advised recently, which left me wondering: Do I qualify for Liberal Elite status, or am I merely Liberal Riff-Raff?

And, of course, DonaldJTrump.com, aka the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, has come a’ wooing:

“He has always said that this entire campaign has never been about him, it’s always been about YOU.”

That seems unlikely. If it truly were about ME, Trump would drop out immediately. So I suspect a fair amount of posturing is involved in the statement.

Aside from the contrived intimacy, what all my correspondents on the right share is a desire for me to contribute money to their cause. Money that they suggest can somehow magically be multiplied to boost my wallop:

Like this: “For the next 24 hours we’ve unlocked EMERGENCY TRIPLE MATCHING to help defend our Republican Majority.”

Or this: “Additionally, for these next 24 hours ONLY, we’re going to be 4X matching the donations of all pro-Trump conservatives.”

Or this: “ALL donations to help President Trump and House Conservatives defeat Pelosi will be 5X MATCHED.”

I can’t help wondering how that matching provision works, and wishing that it could instead be applied to what I’d consider more worthwhile purposes. Like my income tax payments. Social Security benefits.

In any event, it’s clear that Republicans see our friendship in purely transactional terms, though not entirely one-sided. There’s something in it for me, as well: For one thing, a limited-edition Trump Train Mug. Only eight left, I’m told.

And the ultimate prize for cultists: “President Trump hand-signed one of our Keep America Great Hats and he wants YOU to have it.”

An old saying comes to mind: With friends like these …

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

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