S2EP12 - ELLEN, SARAH, & ANNE - CATCHING UP WITH THE WOMEN OF SEASON 1
Samia: This is Make America Relate Again, presented by Better Angels Media. I’m Samia Mounts.
I can’t believe we’re at the end of Season 2! It has not been easy producing a US political podcast from Seoul, Korea, but I’m thrilled with how this season came together, and I hope you are, too.
For this final episode, I’m bringing you a few update conversations with some of the women I spoke to in Season 1. If you haven’t yet listened to Season 1, check out Episode 1 with Ellen, Episode 7 with Anne, and Episode 8 with Sarah, to hear our original conversations before listening to these updates.
Before we get into all that, though, I got something to say about what this show is all about - and what it’s not.
In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten emails and messages from both liberals and conservatives who weren’t very happy with how I handled some of the conversations on the show. And the complaints from both sides are wildly different. Liberal listeners regularly tell me they wish I would call out my conservative guests more when they say things that seem to dodge the facts - they say I’m being too soft, too easy on my conservative guests - while conservative listeners tell me that I’m being too harsh on the conservatives on the show. These conflicting complaints are something I’ve been fielding on a regular basis, and I feel like I need to address them.
For my liberal listeners, this show isn’t about calling people out when we think they’re wrong. It’s about listening to their thoughts, sharing our own, and paving the way for an actual relationship to be built. So yeah, I’m not going to call out every conservative for having ideas or information that doesn’t jive with what I know or think to be true. I’m not going to take every opportunity to cut someone down. I let a lot of things go for a reason - because this show is about connecting, not combatting.
For my conservative listeners, I’m so sorry that some of you have felt at times that I was too harsh on my conservative guests, but I want you to know that I’ve been able to keep in positive contact with nearly every conservative I’ve interviewed on the show. We’re friends on Facebook. We exchange messages now and then, and we comment on each other’s posts. An exchange of ideas is continuing to happen long past the initial conversation! Relationships were built here on Make America Relate Again, and as much as my opinions may frustrate you, know that I’ve tried my best to be kind, compassionate, and fair with every single person who has appeared on the show, while never compromising or downplaying my own beliefs and values. That’s a tough balance to strike, and I’m sorry if I didn’t do it exactly right every time.
All we can do is try, right?
And that’s what this is about. Trying to put our differences aside, trying to find common ground, trying to love each other as human beings and fellow Americans as best we can. Producing this show has made me calmer, kinder, less quick to judge or criticize, and far more able to maintain a clear focus on a person’s humanity, by not equating their moral character with their political opinions.
I hope it’s helped you to do the same, and if I’ve failed you in any way, I humbly apologize and hope that you can find another path toward healing the political divide in your personal life.
Okay, on to the update convos! We’re going to start with Ellen, my very first interview in Season 1, Episode 1. Ellen is a 70-something retiree who asked to remain anonymous, but I can tell you she’s from Detroit and she’s grown more and more conservative as her life has progressed. Let’s see what Ellen thinks about what’s gone down in politics since we last spoke in January 2017.
Samia: Hey, Ellen. It's Samia. How are you?
Ellen: I am doing well, and you are right on time. Okay. I'm glad you alerted me that it might be a random phone call, because it came through as restricted.
Ellen: At first I thought - are you in New York now? Now where are you?
Samia: No, I'm in Seoul, Korea. I relocated here this year.
Samia: I needed a break from New York, and I have a lot of friends back here and business contacts. So I was able to come back and just pick up where I left off when I left here 10 years ago, which has been really great.
Ellen: Oh! How long do you intend to be there? Or don't you know?
Samia: Probably for a couple years, and then I'll be moving to Los Angeles, where the weather is much nicer than in New York or Seoul.
Ellen: Oh, right. Yeah. What's the time in Seoul now?
Samia: It's midnight on Sunday night or early Monday morning.
Ellen: Oh, okay. All right. Well, that's not too bad. Okay. That works out well.
Samia: Yeah, it's great. So I want to really thank you for agreeing to this call. I am so excited, because we haven't really talked much since we originally talked, which was over a year and a half ago now.
Ellen: Yeah. I was trying to figure that out. When was that?
Samia: It was January 2017.
Ellen: Oh, okay. Then yeah. I was thinking, I didn't think it was ... I knew it was during the winter season because I was in Florida, but I didn't think it was 2018. But I didn't think it was as long ago as 2017. So okay, so there we go.
Ellen: Okay. All right. Well, why don't you start with the questions and I'll try and give you the answers?
Samia: Sure. I just have a few for you. To start, a lot has happened. When we first talked, it was, I believe, just after the inauguration. Everything with having Donald Trump as our president was brand new. A lot of hopes were high, especially in conservative circles. And liberals were fresh off feeling traumatized. So a lot’s happened since then. So I wanted to see in general, how have you been feeling about how the Trump administration is doing? Are you happy with the job? Are you not happy, or is it a mix? What's your feelings on everything?
Ellen: I'm thrilled. Okay. I'm thrilled with Donald Trump.
Samia: Oh, great.
Ellen: Not his behavior, okay? But what he's done for the country. I’m very, very pleased with how things are going. I really like his patriotism. I'm feeling like, you know, his support for the military, his actions in the Middle East - I'm very happy. I mean, I think sometimes his manners are very questionable, but very honestly, I don't care about his manners if the country is doing well by my estimation.
Samia: Yeah. The economy has been doing well. Jobs have been doing pretty well. That's all definitely true. Have you been following the news very closely where it comes to the Russia investigation or any of the scandals surrounding women that were paid off and things like that? Have you been following that stuff?
Ellen: I've been following it reasonably well. And then I think, you know… And wait a second! What about Clinton the White House? Could we have actually had a bigger scandal than what Clinton did in the White House? I told you, I don't really care about this man's personal life. And the Russian thing is getting so old. It's like, "Wait a second. Who’s on first with the Russians?" I mean, there was this thing with Hillary that's not being investigated. There's a lot of unanswered questions. Frankly, I think they will never really be answered, because they will be shifted and so forth. This is not something that keeps me up at night, okay?
Samia: Yeah. It sounds like your opinions have really maintained and stayed stable since we last spoke.
Ellen: They have really, I think. My only issues are very honestly... Because I think that what we talked about at that point if I remember correctly somewhat was that, you know, trying to be more civil toward each other because of all the anger over the election. Trying to come to common ground, type of thing. Do I remember that correctly at all?
Samia: That's definitely the premise of this show, but we discussed a lot of issues in our first conversation. It was my first interview. I was so nervous.
Ellen: That was my take all these years later. I don't think there's any common ground. If anything, I'm furious over the behavior of some of the people who continue to act, to my mind, just childish. Like, "I didn't win so I'm going to just destroy the government." Spending all kinds of time and effort protesting anything and everything, often being paid protestors, which really disgusts me.
Samia: Where are you getting this information? I don't know what you're talking about. Can you get a little bit more specific? Because I haven't heard about anything like this.
Ellen: Periodically, I just pick up things from a newspaper or from the internet about, you know, particularly involving certain protests where people, you know, they’re not really - it's a job. They get paid to go someplace and protest. I just find that protests as a whole are enough already. I’ve had it. I read a quote recently somewhere from someone. A woman, a journalist named Pearson. I honestly don't know who she is. This was probably on the internet, but her quote was somewhat modified, but the quote was, "He ran. He won. And some people will never get over it." And that's just how I feel. I'm sick of all of these things that are... Even Obama. I've never heard of a former president trashing a sitting president viciously. A vicious attack on a sitting president. I've heard him talk about bad behavior. I mean that's just-
Samia: What vicious attack did Obama lodge at Trump that you're referring to? When was the vicious attack from Obama to Trump?
Ellen: Well, there was something actually on Facebook, actually. I probably could even find it again possibly. Recently, he talked about how he was... Just trashing him. Just really just saying vicious, negative things.
Samia: Oh, if you could find that and send it to me-
Ellen: The whole midterms thing is getting very vicious. This is a very hot item. Obama has been traipsing around trying to, obviously, get support, pushing for a Democratic majority, as Trump is also running around the country, pushing for a Republican majority. Often midterm elections are just a lame thing, but this year they seemed to have taken on a whole new stature.
Samia: Yeah, definitely. That's a great segue, because I actually wanted to ask you about the midterms. The most recent polls that have been done are showing Trump's approval rating has been staying steady for a long time. Around 40%. And recent polls are showing that his disapproval, his strong disapproval rating, has gone up to a clear majority of the country. It's around 60%. Also, in polls about the midterms specifically, the predictions that are being made from the polls are looking very strong for the Democrats. The margins of people saying they're definitely voting Democrat versus Republican are even wider than they were in 2012, when the Republicans took control of Congress. So it is definitely right now looking like it could be a Democratic takeover. What are your feelings on that?
Ellen: If there was a Democratic takeover of sanity and civility, maybe. But for the Democratic takeover of the kind of behavior that I've been seeing with the Kavanaugh sessions-
Samia: With the who?
Ellen: With the sessions for Brett Kavanaugh.
Samia: Oh, right. Yeah, the Supreme Court hearings.
Ellen: Just uncivil. Just coming and disrupting and so forth. That would very much upset me, and I am afraid that that's their goal. I really feel that that's their goal, is to destroy the government. That would upset me. Honestly, I don't listen to the polls anymore. Look at the polls from November '16. I mean, you know. I think that the polls are very inaccurate.
Samia: Absolutely, you make a good point there. That's interesting. I think there is common ground, though. Earlier you said, "I don't think there's any common ground," but I definitely think there is. I think the common ground works in a couple of ways. We've got common ground as far as the basic things that everybody really wants. Happiness, shelter, good healthcare, being able to take care of their families, opportunities to get good jobs. We can definitely agree on those things, I think, you and I, personally.
Samia: But then there's also common ground in how we see each other in the negative light. And this is liberals and conservatives generally. Because you just said, "These liberals. They just seem like they want to destroy the government." And that rings so many bells for me.
Ellen: Okay. Not all. I’m talking about a very, almost, vicious segment, which I think don't even represent a lot of traditional Democratic voters.
Samia: Yeah, I hear you. It made me think about, though, when Trump was running and when he still had Steve Bannon working with him closely. And Steve Bannon used to say and still does says, "My goal is to destroy the government." That got a lot of Democrats and liberals really with their panties in a knot, because it just sounded so…yeah, just destructive and scary.
Ellen: Yes, I agree. There's a lot of loose cannons out there. I don't know. Basically, I don't know who's on first half the time, because one day they're on one team. Then the next day, they're on another team. The next day, they're resigning. It's like a revolving door. But—
Samia: That has been a problem with the Trump White House, for sure. That's something you've been following.
Ellen: Yes. Okay, but to tell you the truth, in other administrations, there wasn't this kind of action. People sat in their positions for four or eight years. It doesn't mean they were doing a good job. It doesn't mean that everything was good just because they weren't leaving or being fired. It doesn't mean that everything was right. If we were to pull out five cabinet members from, I don't know, from the Bush administration, from the Obama administration, who were cabinet members for the entire time, and we started looking at their history, we would probably find a lot of things that would be questionable.
Samia: So the turnover in the Trump White House isn't really bothering you, necessarily.
Ellen: No. I find it interesting, but not really enough that I would say, "Oh, this really indicates that things are wrong." I just think that there’s a lot of thing… The more that happens that is covered by the media extensively, the more we think of. But you know, years ago, there were lots of things happening, but they weren't covered. Now people pull out history and say, "Oh, look at what was happening during the Eisenhower administration." Blah, blah, blah. It was all happening, but we just didn't know it. Now it's right out there in your face.
Samia: We do have this new realm of news and social media and the internet that is really pretty new. And we're dealing with that now. I agree with you. There's a lot that comes to the surface these days that wouldn't have in the past. I have something to ask you about. Since we were talking about the White House turnover and how many people seem to drop like flies in this particular administration, did you see this anonymous op-ed that the New York Times published from a senior Trump administration official?
Ellen: I didn't read the letter, okay? I just read all the articles about it. Trying to figure out who it was.
Samia: So you heard about it then?
Ellen: Yes. You want to know what I think about it?
Ellen: Yes, I did hear about it.
Samia: I want to know what you think about it.
Ellen: I followed some of the comments and so forth. Yeah.
Samia: All right. Yeah. What did you think about that? Did that make you take pause or—?
Ellen: I thought very honestly that the New York Times should be sued. That was so inappropriate for them to publish and so slanted for them to publish without... An anonymous letter.
Samia: Oh, no. The New York Times knows who wrote the letter. They know who wrote the letter.
Ellen: Oh, I didn't know that.
Samia: There's a few people in the New York Times who know, but the person was like, "It's really..." The person actually reached out to the New York Times, submitted this op-ed, and it was accepted after they verified that the person was actually who they said they were. But they needed to be anonymous for obvious reasons. So it's a for real letter.
Ellen: Okay. Well, I feel that that’s — but they're presenting it to the public as an anonymous thing. So I feel that New York Times is really complicit in — which they are, for sure, in Trump-bashing. I mean, this was clearly — if they supported Trump, they wouldn't have published it. Obviously this was just one more, you know…
Samia: Well, let me read a little bit of it to you. In the letter near the top, the official says that, “…many of the senior officials of Trump's own administration are working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda, and his worst inclinations. I would know. I'm one of them. To be clear," and this is the part I wanted to read you, "ours is not the popular resistance of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous, but we believe our first duty is to this country, and the President continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic." So it was pretty clearly a letter written by somebody who's not against the Trump administration, not against Trump, but was trying to tell the American people, "Look. We know why you're scared. We know why 60% of you disapprove of this president. There are people here who get it and are working on it, but we still think that a lot of his agenda is good for America, and we're working on those things too."
Ellen: Well, that's not the way it really came across in the newspaper articles and the things that I read on the internet.
Samia: Yeah. That's why you've got to read the actual thing.
Ellen: Right. Yeah. That's true, but that's not the way it was interpreted, okay? So that for the general public, myself included, that's not the message they got.
Samia: Yeah. Media takes things and expounds upon it and comments on it. And then you lose track. It's like a big game of telephone.
Ellen: I read a lot of articles [inaudible] and I don't watch television, but I do read things. Pick up news on the internet. And I did not get that message at all.
Samia: The writer continues on saying that the root... This is a quote: "The root of the problem is the president's amorality. Anyone who works with him knows he is not moored to any discernible first principles that guide his decision-making." And this goes back to what you were talking about before. You said at the top of this conversation, "I don't care what he's like in his personal life. I just care what he's doing for his country." So would you stand by that? Yeah, in light of a senior Trump official saying, "The president is amoral." That’s a pretty strong statement.
Ellen: Yeah. Yes, I stand by that completely. Amoral is basically, you know, amoral by whose standards? By Victorian standards? By Christian standards? If you look at many politicians, high-ranking, and many high-ranking business people, you will find the same types of immorality. Trump committed these immoral things as a businessman, not as a politician. He was really never a politician until he became president.
Samia: Right. I have one more question for you.
Ellen: I can’t even think of the name…
Samia: Oh, I'm sorry.
Ellen: The governor of Virginia or whoever it was. I mean, you know, it’s just like, nfortunately, common behavior in many cases.
Samia: Yeah, I hear you. I don't want to take up too much more of your time, but I wanted to ask you one more question.
Samia: One of the things we talked about a lot was immigration. You and I talked a lot about particularly Muslim immigration, but I actually wanted to ask you about one of the biggest news stories of this summer, which got a lot of people, especially people with kids, very upset. And that was the situation on the southern border, where for a while, they were separating children from their families when people were crossing the border. I wanted to know if you followed that story and what your thoughts were on it.
Ellen: Okay. About the separation of families or about the illegal immigration or what?
Samia: The separation of families. I think we can all agree illegal immigration is a problem that needs to be tackled, but the separation of families was new.
Ellen: Okay. I think that illegal immigration is illegal. Even if they're lovely immigrants who are trying to get a better life and all that, it's still illegal. Many years ago in the early part of the last century, people, you know, all the immigrants that came to our country, what you're saying built our country stronger, were legal immigrants. Those who couldn't come in often went to Australia and Canada and other places than the U.S. They were all legal immigrants. Okay. That being said, my understanding, and I did not follow it that closely, was that this was part of the previous documentation of how to handle illegal immigrants, that they had to be [inaudible] their families. Now we don't even know that those people were the parents. That's a whole other thing. There's a lot of very questionable actions there, okay? I don't think it was a good thing. I don't think it was wrong. If parents are coming to the country illegally and knowing that they might be separated, maybe they feel that that's still better for them and their families. Maybe that's still a risk they want to take. So I am sure that, yes, they have been separated, but I'm sure these children were not mistreated. Okay? They were way better off than the kids in Syria, who are being bombed all over the place.
Samia: I hate to break it to you, but there were-
Ellen: I [inaudible] the administration on that, okay?
Samia: Yeah. There were a lot of reports of children being mistreated. Not in every detainment facility, but in quite a few that got reported on in several different states, where there were eyewitness accounts of children being fed psychotropic drugs to get them to calm down, children being locked literally in solitary confinement, like in closets. Not getting adequate food or any kind of loving care. There was a lot. There were a lot of reports of that, but it doesn't sound like you saw any of them.
Ellen: Okay. There was a law that allowed this to happen, okay? There was documentation.
Samia: Yes, there was a law that allowed this to happen.
Ellen: Okay. So that's my take. They were within the law. It may have not been a good law. It may have been enacted when things were different, but I still support what — because they followed the law, I support what they did. Yes, it's a sad situation. The whole immigration thing is a sad situation. When people are fleeing from their countries to come here while all these people are protesting, they should go to the other countries. I think there should be maybe more immigrants and get rid of some of the people who hate America. Maybe we could just do a flip. Yes, it was a complicated situation. It is a complicated situation. It will continue to be. I don't know what the answer is. I certainly don't know the answer, but because it was within the letter of the law, I support it.
Samia: All right. I'm going to let you go, but I want to give you a chance if you have any final thoughts, maybe what you'd like to see going forward or anything else that you might want to share with the listeners.
Ellen: The one thing I would like is the America that I grew up in, where people were proud to be Americans, respected the government, respected the law and life was much simpler. There wasn't so much time and energy put into protesting everything. I would like to see that. I don't think it's realistic, but I would like to see the America of my teen years. As a matter of fact, I just got an email from, apparently, when I was in the 11th grade in high school, they administrated a test around the country called Project Talent, wondering about what your goals were and so forth. I just got a catch-up on that from 50 years ago.
Ellen: And they asked, "Have you reached your goal? What do you feel?" That was the same answer I wrote. "I would like to be living in the country of my teenage years." It was just a much happier…
Samia: What decade was your teenage years?
Ellen: This test was administered in 1960.
Samia: Oh, okay. Yeah. So the ‘50s. The Golden Age. Post-World War II.
Samia: The time that people talk about when they say, "Make America great again."
Ellen: Right. Yes. That's exactly it. Yeah, it was just... People really respected the police. They respected the government. And it was much simpler. There was always political parties who had supposedly somewhat diverse interests, but there was not this clear antagonism that I see now, which I find so unhappy. I find it an unhappy country rather than a happy country.
Samia: Shame that it took a world war to get Americans to feel united, the last time we really did.
Ellen: Well, they were really united.
Samia: Yeah. And then the 60s came along and all the Vietnam War protests started. And it was all downhill from there.
Ellen: That was the first time I think that there were really serious protests, and that was a… Let's not even go to Vietnam, because I still find the fact that the draft dodgers were pardoned and came back with no consequences was wrong. I felt that if they left the country and fled to Canada, they should have stayed there.
Samia: Well, Ellen-
Ellen: That’s not such a bad thing, I mean, Canada is not such a bad place to live.
Samia: No, it's great. It's a great place to live.
Samia: Ellen, I want to thank you so much for coming back on. There's still a wealth of things we disagree on, but I know—
Ellen: Right. And I haven't changed, okay?
Samia: My views haven't changed much either, but I still hear your good heart through everything you say. I'm going to send you that op-ed from The New York Times and a couple other things that I might think of in your email that we just talked about. And if you want to send me anything-
Ellen: The Gmail account is a secondary one.
Samia: Oh, yeah. I'll send it to the good one.
Ellen: I don't look at it all that often. I do use it, I do check it periodically, but not regularly.
Samia: Yeah. If you want to send me anything to read-
Ellen: [inaudible] I guess, isn't it?
Samia: I'm sorry. I didn't catch that. I was saying if you want to send me anything to read, I'd be happy to.
Ellen: Okay. I think it's time for you to go to bed in Korea, right?
Samia: Oh, it's definitely time. And I'm going to let you get to your Sunday. Thank you, Ellen. Have a fantastic rest of your day.
Ellen: Okay. Thanks, Samia. Okay. Bye.
Samia: I can hear all my liberal listeners screaming, “Whyyyyy would you want to take America back to the time of Jim Crow, pre-Civil Rights, pre-gay rights, pre-a lot of WOMEN’s rights?” I hear you, guys, I do. As Ricky and Bradley suggested in Episode 9 of this season, I choose to give Ellen and all who think like her the benefit of the doubt, and assume they don’t mean they want to go back to those things. They just miss the image of America as the “good guys,” a feeling that Americans were united. I’m so grateful to Ellen for being willing to talk with me again for this episode.
Okay, let’s hear from Sarah Ito of Greenwich, CT, who originally appeared in Season 1, Episode 8. She had an entire career in finance before transitioning to a second career as a writer and actor. She’s also a radical feminist who was involved in the Second Wave Feminism movement of the 1970s, and she’s a lesbian. A woman like that voting for Donald Trump seemed like a total anomaly to me, but Sarah had solid reasons for why she voted as she did. Let’s see how she’s feeling now.
Samia: Hey, Sarah.
Sarah: Hey, Samia.
Samia: How you doin'?
Sarah: I'm doing great. How about you?
Samia: I'm well, thank you. It's been a while since we last talked. It's been about a year. Am I right?
Sarah: That is correct.
Samia: So a lot has happened in the last year. And we had an update conversation about six months after our original one, at which point you had already changed your mind about quite a bit having to do with Trump and his administration. I wanted to catch up with you once more just to see how things have evolved in the last year for you. How are you feeling about things now?
Sarah: Well Samia, I think, like so many other people in the country, I'm extremely distressed. I have to say all the initial doubts I had about Trump and voting for him anyway, primarily because of his economic plan, which he then proceeded to shoot in the foot with his tariffs, and then with all the other personal issues that have evolved, especially relating to his poor judgment and his mental health status, I'm really quite concerned and upset. And I've been following the latest that's on all three major networks here, as far as the anonymous letter that just made its way out of the White House. So yes, I'm waiting with bated breath, as they say, to see what happens next.
Samia: Yeah. You're talking about the anonymous op-ed The New York Times published from someone who claims to be a high-level official in the White House. Why don't you break down for anyone who hasn't seen that what was in that op-ed?
Sarah: The op-ed that appeared in The New York Times several days ago purportedly is from a senior-level aid or official in the Trump White House, who is speaking on behalf of what they are calling themselves to be the inside resistance to President Trump. Not to the Republican agenda or his agenda per se, but to his agenda, and specifically speaking to his very erratic and dangerous behavior. So the op-ed just details several instances, which I think were fairly well-known to the public, anyway, of Trump's erratic behavior and poor decision-making, and what the people closest to him are trying to do to countermand it, such as taking papers off his desk, so that he can't access sensitive information. And the fallout from this today has been quite interesting, especially in wake of former President Obama's most excellent speech, I thought, in which he says that people who are protecting Trump for the sake of the nation really are doing more harm than good. And let's just bring this to a head and deal with it, and just step up and identify yourselves, and let's get this problem solved.
Samia: Now aside from the economy, you were also, you said originally you had voted for Trump because of his views on immigration. Have there been any things in that realm where he has not disappointed you or have you been equally disappointed there?
Sarah: Well, I'm horrified, actually. In this post 9/11 world, I support humane and compassionate immigration reform. And I do think we have a responsibility to know who's coming into this country and under what circumstances. That doesn't give the Trump administration a license to be inhumane, cruel, in fact barbaric in this business of separating children from families and then having children just disappear within the borders of this country is just intolerable. I do understand that the previous two administrations deported very significant numbers of people. We didn't hear much about it, I am assuming because they did so according to law. And I was trying to do some research as far as why children are being separated from their parents when they come to the border seeking asylum, or when they cross illegally and are picked up. And the original intent, which I think started on the Obama administration, but I can't swear to that, was because of child trafficking and children whose parents could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that these were their kids, either through DNA or birth certificates. They did have the children separated from them while investigations were undertaken. I think this is humane and appropriate. Then Trump came along, and ICE was empowered with these, I hesitate to use the word, but I'm going to use it anyway, almost Nazi-like powers to basically do what they do at will with very little oversight that I can see. Now we have this absolutely intolerable situation, and it’s just not something I would ever have thought would occur in this country. We can certainly have humane and reasoned immigration laws that don't harm people in this heavy-handed, ham-handed barbaric manner. I almost don't have a word to describe, Samia, how I feel about this situation.
Samia: I think I'm right there with you. That particular incidence of what I thought was just almost a blind adherence to a law that is just needlessly cruel. Their whole idea was they were going to have a zero-tolerance policy for border crossers and prosecute them as criminals, which technically, legally, they can do, but we've never done that before because we've never considered border crossers the same way we considered dangerous criminals. And since that all went down, of course, it's been reversed by the courts, thank goodness, but there's still a lot of kids out there who are waiting to be reunited. So I'm right there with you on it. Going forward, looking forward, how do you feel about the upcoming midterms? Are you planning on using your vote in a way that might be different from how you would have a year or a year and a half ago?
Sarah: Yes. I do plan on using my vote in a manner in which I wouldn't have before. Right now, I am not looking at specific issues amongst Democrats, Republicans and Independents. I have rolled so far from my previous position to the point where I will vote for a Democrat almost without exception just to send a message to the Republican Party that you're no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln.
Samia: Wow. So do you still consider yourself a conservative?
Sarah: In some ways. I believe in fiscal responsibility, smaller government and compassion, humane immigration reform. I'm not sure if that really makes me a conservative, an independent, a Republican, a Democrat at this point. I think I'm back to where I was many years ago with basically just being an independent. There's not a whole heck of a lot on the conservative side or the Republican side that I ever see myself supporting again in my lifetime. And hopefully I'm wrong, but I just don't see that happening.
Samia: So for you, the emergence of Trump onto the scene has really shifted things in a monumental way, it sounds like.
Sarah: Well, it has for me. If you go back and you look at the rise of Hitler in the early ‘30s, when he first started to take hold in Germany, and you see what's happening here, it's truly horrifying. And I think it's even more horrifying here in that so many people, even within his own party, don't support this man. And yet the process for getting a newly elected president out of office is a cumbersome one. And I do understand and appreciate the reasons why, but I'm just hoping in light of what we're exposing in the anonymous letter that came from the White House this week, and also the truly sincere opposition to this man Kavanaugh's appointment to the Supreme Court, or potential appointment, might just grease the wheels and get out lawmakers going in the right direction. I also am one of those people that think the reaction to the death of Senator McCain has propelled things forward to start dislodging Trump from office, too. And to take it a step further, I do think that there is a lot to suggest that there is some early-onset dementia within Mr. Trump. Even if you look at videos from him from years ago and compare them with his appearance and his speech patterns today, the difference is shocking. These things typically occur as a result of something organic. Even today just watching him on TV and being unable to pronounce the word 'anonymous' several times was, you know… On the one hand, yes, it's laughable, even though it's not funny, but I also think it just suggests a deeper problem.
Samia: You're talking like a liberal at this point. I mean, wow. This is such a turnaround, Sarah.
Sarah: Well, I reserve the right to change my mind on anything.
Sarah: I will say, Samia, that I don't change my mind on a whim or because one or two incidents. But almost from the time that this man was elected, I started to see things that were deeply troubling. And I have to admit, I'm really shocked that I could be so wrong. I just never saw this coming. And I have to stand by some things that I've said in the past, which is that, although certainly there are people who voted for him that are racist, sexist and all of that, many people voted for him because they were left behind by the economy and by the Democratic Party swinging a little too far to the left for their comfort. And these are the people that I think have been most betrayed, because there are some of us who put our trust in him, rightly or wrongly. And in my case, I'm going to say wrongly. And I personally feel very betrayed, but I'm also upset with myself that I wasn't better able to project and see this coming. I thought a lot of what I was seeing during the campaign was just a schtick to get people's attention. Well, he's got our attention now doesn't he?
Samia: Yeah. He sure does and he's had it for a while. I have another question for you. In your social circles, do you have mostly liberals or do you have some conservatives?
Sarah: I have very few friends that are conservatives. Some of my veteran friends are. But, my friends, regardless of whether they're in the acting and writing circles in the city or out here on the UConn campus, for the most part, I would say that they are more liberal Democrats. I wouldn't say that they're very far to the left, like a Nancy Pelosi type of thinking. But, I would say, for the most part, my circle of friends is quite liberal.
Samia: Well, among the few conservative friends you have, have their feelings on things kind of been mirroring yours, or are people feeling a different way in your world?
Sarah: Amongst my conservative friends, they feel that the Republican Party isn't what it is. And a lot of them are sharing the opinion that the last time we had a compassionate conservative Republican president was during the Reagan administration. And I kind of second that. My more conservative friends don't think that Donald Trump has anything to do with the Republican Party, or even with anything that's decent and good and supports American values. He's just like an island unto himself.
Samia: Do you think that the Republican Party could come back from this, at least for you, seeing the damage that's it done of your opinion of them? Is there a path that they could win you back? And what would that look like?
Sarah: Well, I think the Republican Party certainly can come back. I think the damage that's been done is gonna take a long time to repair. I think if the Democratic Party takes over the White House, and over the years becomes too far to the left, it'll create a path for another Republican to succeed them, which may or may not be a good thing. But I do think that there is a potential, for me at least, to support a Republican some time in the future. But it's a very remote possibility. I've just taken such a step back, and perhaps unfairly, but I have taken a huge step back from the Republican Party in general. Because the more I look at it, Samia, the more I'm seeing a party of very angry, and I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but very angry, very privileged, white males. And then, the other side of that, is I see a lot of people who identify as Republican, but they're very conflicted, because they're not people of means. They might not have higher education, as we would define it. But they're good people and they feel very conflicted by what they see. As a lot of older people tend to do, they have trouble sometimes accepting what they're seeing. But they recognize that Trump is not a good man, let alone someone who should be leading this country.
Samia: So, last question for you. There's a lot of uncertainty around our political future right now, with the midterms coming up, these rumbles about how a Democratic-controlled Congress might move quickly to try to impeach President Trump, the Mueller investigation carrying on, and things generally looking very shaky. For you, what do you see happening going forward? What would you like to see happening going forward, and if it's different, what do you think is going to happen?
Sarah: Well, what I would like to see happen, Samia, is for the Democrats to take control of the House and Senate. I would like to see the, I believe it's the 25th amendment, invoked to lawfully remove the President on the basis of mental incompetency. And I do see that happening if the Democrats take the House, and I'm okay with that. Worst-case scenario is that they don't. And the Mueller investigation may or may not show something that would help to remove Trump from office. I think that's still an open question. But if he remains in office, due to the Democrats not taking the House, I'm just going to hope that there is some other mechanism to get him out. ‘Cause one thing is a given: he will never say, "For the good of the nation, I'm going to step down." We know that's not gonna happen. So I think it's going to be incumbent upon we the people to do something. And I certainly don't want to see that come about as a result of violence-raising of that nature. Don't get me wrong, but we have to do something I think. So hopefully our lawmakers will step up, as I think they're trying to do on both sides of the aisle, and really push to get this guy out, before more damage is done.
Samia: Would you be comfortable with a President Mike Pence?
Sarah: It wouldn't be my ideal situation, but I am gonna say, for the short term to fill out Trump's term, I do think that Pence is competent to govern. I don't think he would inflame the entire world. And I think he would be in a position where he would have to set aside his rather extreme religious beliefs for the short term. Where I would be uncomfortable is if he ran for president succeeding Trump and was elected. That's where I would have my issues. But, to be specific to your question, in the short term, I would be fine with him.
Samia: Sarah, thank you so much for joining me for this little update. Before we wrap, I wanna give the opportunity, if you've got any final thoughts, to share with the listeners.
Sarah: Yes. I think that as a nation, we will get through this, because we have had difficulties in the past, and we've challenged ourselves and gotten through our difficulties, and we'll get through this too.
Samia: I love it. Close it out with a message of hope. Thank you so much, Sarah.
Sarah: Thanks Samia.
Samia: A complete 180 for Sarah! We actually had our first update conversation in August 2017, about five months after the initial one, and she had already started feeling this way by that point. Now, it sounds like the Democrats have won a new voter.
Last but certainly not least, here’s an update with Anne from Seguin, Texas, who we originally heard in Season 1, Episode 7. Anne also asked to remain anonymous. Our original conversation centered largely around gun control. For this one, I just wanted to see how she felt about how politics is going these days. Let’s see what she had to say.
Samia: Hey Anne, it's Samia. How are you?
Anne: I'm good. How are you doing?
Samia: I'm good. Thank you for agreeing to come back on Make America Relate Again for a little catch-up.
Anne: No problem.
Samia: So I guess we'll jump right in. It's been a little over a year since we last talked. And in our conversation, we talked a lot about gun control, a little about health care. And I remember I just loved talking to you cuz you're just very easy to get along with. But I wanted to ask you over the last year and change, a lot has happened in Washington, in our country, and with the Trump administration. So I wanted to see how you were feeling about everything at this point.
Anne: It's still, with the government, it's the changes happening and not everybody likes the change. And so he's doing something more than past presidents have.
Samia: Yeah. Tell me a little bit more. Get a little specific about that. What kinds of changes are you seeing that you're liking?
Anne: I've just seen more on when he's doing what he's saying he's gonna do. And he's acting on the stuff he had said he was gonna do when he was elected president.
Samia: So which stuff for you is the most important?
Anne: I guess it's to make sure we can all provide for our families, and not have to depend on assistance or — keeping jobs here in America. Making more jobs here for American products and not foreign.
Samia: Cool. Yeah. So are you referring to some of the things he's been doing with tariffs on other country's goods and things like that?
Samia: And the NATO thing, which made a lot of people angry, I know, on my side, on the liberal side, we feel like Trump is sort of sucking up to some of our enemies, like Russia, a lot. And then causing fights with some of our allies, like the countries in NATO. And I don't know if anybody on the liberal side is sure what's going on with China and this trade war. So it's certainly distressing to us.
Anne: I don't think anybody knows what's going on with China.
Samia: But yeah. So that's all stuff that you've been supporting and happy with, it sounds like.
Samia: So I wanted to ask you specifically — we never talked that much about immigration last time. But you're living in Texas, and recently, this summer we had the whole situation on the Mexican border, where the Justice Department decided to start prosecuting illegal border crossers as criminals for the first time ever. We haven't really done that. And so, as a part of that zero-tolerance prosecution policy, they started separating children from their parents at the southern border. Did you follow that story and did you have any opinions on that? I know you have kids.
Anne: I think — I don't agree separating the children from their parents. If they all broke the law, then keep them together and do it as a family unit. Not separating mothers and fathers from their kids in a strange country. Cuz I don't — we wouldn't want that done to us if it was reversed.
Samia: Right. So that was something where you weren't totally happen with this administration?
Anne: Correct. Correct.
Samia: And was there anything else? Any other things that you were specifically happy about or specifically disappointed with?
Anne: Happy about? I guess it’s he's more outspoken than most presidents in my lifetime, that I can remember. I do think that he needs to stay off Twitter. But other than that, he's more of [inaudible]
Samia: Oh, I missed that last thing you said. You kind of broke up.
Anne: [inaudible] family.
Samia: Yeah, say that again. I'm sorry. You kind of broke up.
Anne: Saying if he's more — saying if you attack his family or him personally, he turns around and goes back at it, like how most people are.
Samia: Is that your baby?
Samia: Aww! Hi! What a cute voice. Aww.
Anne: Thank you.
Anne: Hold on [inaudible].
Samia: So it sounds like most of your opinions have stayed the same since we last spoke.
Anne: Yes ma'am.
Samia: Yeah. So did you have any other particular areas that you wanted to discuss, for you? Any specific things that you've been happy with or sad about or any new questions for a liberal?
Anne: Well, what would make them like Trump again? Or what would make them be happy with what Trump's doing? That's what I really want to know.
Samia: Well, I can't speak for all liberals, but I'll tell you that, for me, I just don't see his behavior, his speech, the things that he gets overly concerned about and rants about on Twitter, as being things that anybody leading our country should be worried about. It would take a personality change. Did you see — recently, the New York Times published an anonymous op-ed from a senior White House official, who was essentially saying that there are people in the administration who are working on getting parts of Trump's agenda through. But parts of it, the parts that they think are ill-advised, they're working to resist and to frustrate. And he wrote that — or, he or she wrote that they think the President lacks morality. For me and a lot of liberals, that's a big deal, ‘cause we don't see him as having good character. Do you have an opinion on Trump's character? The last woman I caught up with was saying, "I know his character isn't great, but I don't care about that. I care about what he does for the country." What's your take on it?
Anne: I kind of agree with her. His character is just who he is, but as long as he keeps doing a good job and it’s on and relevant. ‘Cause there's some stuff that all of us do that may not be for everybody. But I just — as long as he keeps on moving and trying to turn our economy around, then [inaudible] be pleased.
Samia: Say that last thing one more time. I didn't quite hear it.
Anne: I said that, as long as he keeps doing what he's doing, I've been pleased. Like his character is just who he is. We all have character flaws and just [inaudible] speaking too much on Twitter.
Samia: Yeah. I would definitely say it's a little bit more than that. But you know, we're here to agree to disagree. Am I right?
Anne: Yes, ma'am.
Samia: Yeah. Well I don't want to take too much of your time, ‘cause it sounds like you've got a full house. But if you've got anything else that you'd like to say to the listeners. Anything else you'd like to update me on. Final thoughts. I'd love to hear them.
Anne: Final thoughts is take lots of pictures, love one another, ‘cause tomorrow's never promised.
Samia: Aw baby. Thank you so much for that. It's been so nice to catch up with you a little bit, Anne.
Anne: You too.
Samia: Have a wonderful day. Have a blessed day. I'll talk to you soon.
Anne: You too.
Samia: Alright. Bye-bye.
Anne: Okay. Bye.
Samia: I gotta say, in spite of all the things we disagree on, Anne is probably the former guest I’ve kept in closest touch with. I can’t say enough about her sweetness of character, how hard she works to provide for her family, and how generous and kind she’s been with me. And I never would have found this lovely friend if I hadn’t been willing to expand my horizons outside of my liberal bubble.
Listeners, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming on this journey with me. This will be the final season of Make America Relate Again that I’ll be producing and hosting. It’s been an incredibly uplifting, albeit often trying, experience, and the benefits I’ve gained will last me a lifetime. I’m forever changed thanks to this project, and I only hope that it’s done something helpful for you as well.
If I could ask all my listeners for one thing, it would be this: go out and find people who aren’t like you, who don’t think like you, maybe even who don’t look like you, and talk meaningfully with them. Practice seeing the humanity in others first. Practice reserving judgement - all judgement! Exchange ideas, and be compassionate and respectful in the way you communicate, both in person and online - oh man, especially online. Humanity, love, respect, kindness, compassion - put these things FIRST in your interpersonal relationships. Your world will instantly expand.
You might find that people are more willing to listen to your ideas, even when they disagree. You might find a friend. You might find yourself questioning some of your own opinions. And all of this will benefit you and the person you’re interacting with in myriad ways you can’t even imagine.
If you’ve enjoyed the show, make sure to follow me for my next podcast project, coming up in Spring 2019. My new podcast, Future Love, is going to explore nontraditional relationship styles like polyamory, ethical nonmonogamy, and non-hierarchical relationships, by featuring real people telling true stories from their own love lives. From tearjerker stories of true love to raunchy tales of sex scandals, we’re going to cover it all on Future Love. Society tells us there’s only one acceptable way to have relationships, but I know from experience that there are a million ways, and finding what works best for you and your partner - or partners - can liberate you to live your fullest, happiest, most deliciously sexy and joyful life. Look for Future Love on all podcast apps in early spring 2019, and if you want a reminder, follow me on Twitter or Instagram at @samiaxi. That’s S-A-M-I-A-X-I.
A million thanks to Better Angels for partnering with me to create this season, and sending me so many fantastic guests. If you want to get involved in the work of depolarizing America, go check them out at better-angels.org. They provide a wealth of wonderful opportunities for anyone who wants to beat political malaise by focusing on our common humanity first. Again, find out more at better-angels.org.
Thanks to Dani Valdizan for creating the theme music for the show - which is the instrumental track for my song, “Change The World,” available for streaming or purchase at www.samiaxi.com - and of course, to Christopher Gilroy for mixing and editing every episode so beautifully. And I also want to personally thank John Wood, Jr., Director of Media Development at Better Angels Media, for bringing me and my little show into the Better Angels family. John, you really are my favorite Republican.
It’s been real, guys. Thank you again, listeners, for all of your support.
This has been Make America Relate Again. I’m Samia Mounts, signing off.