It’s Thursday evening, and members of Republicans Anonymous have gathered on the overstuffed sofa and recliners in the living room of Ed’s home in Former Horse Farm Estates.
“My name is Brad, and I’ve voted Republican all my life,” says a middle-aged store manager. “It’s been four months since I last watched Fox News.”
“Hi, Brad,” everyone replies.
“My name is John, and I’ve always voted Republican,” a retired small business owner says. “I’ve been Limbaugh-free for six months. I’ve started listening to NPR instead, and my blood pressure is way down.”
After the others introduce themselves, discussion gets under way.
“The tax overhaul was the last straw for me,” says Joe, who owns a landscaping company. “They added $1 trillion to the deficit. And Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell was the main guy behind it.”
“I’m a fiscal conservative,” says Ed, a 60-year-old accountant. “That bill isn’t conservative; it’s just greedy. I guess they had to pay back their donors. We don’t count; we just vote for them.”
“Did you hear Mitch afterward?” John asks. “He claims economic growth will more than pay for the tax cuts. Ha! I used to think supply-side economics made some sense, but it has never worked. Never! Look at the mess in Kansas.”
“Like a lot of conservatives, I’ve never trusted Mitch,” Joe says. “But the one who really disappointed me was Rand Paul. He’s always yammering about the deficit. Then he votes to add $1 trillion to it.”
“You hear what else he said?” Brad says. “Rand claimed the tax cuts were mostly targeted toward the ‘lower middle class and working class.’ Does he think we’re stupid? Every honest analysis of that bill says just the opposite.”
“But at least we’ll get lower taxes, right?” asks Mary, a stay-at-home mother of two teenagers.
“Most of us will, but the cuts will be small and temporary,” Ed says. “The big, permanent tax cuts go to corporations and millionaires.”
“Next thing you know,” John says, “they’ll be cutting our Social Security and Medicare to pay for it.”
“Oh, they’re already talking about it,” says Susan, a retired public school teacher. “Of course, teachers don’t get Social Security. And if some Republicans in Frankfort get their way, they won’t have decent pensions, either.”
John and Ed jump in to defend Gov. Matt Bevin as being pro-business, but Susan isn’t having it.
“I’m just glad I got out when I did,” she says. “What smart person will want to be a teacher now? High stress. Low pay. After the last stock market crash, I knew people with 401(k)s who had to get jobs at Walmart.
“By the way, Joe,” Susan adds. “How’s your brother, the laid-off coal miner?”
“He believed Trump when he said he would put all the miners back to work,” Joe says. “Now he’s hoping to take classes at the community college to train for a new career, but the tuition is so high.”
Finally, talk turns to the elephant in the room.
“Does anyone still have a ‘Make America Great Again’ bumper sticker?” John asks.
All eyes turn to Mary.
“I made my husband peel it off last week,” she says. “After Trump attacked Matt Lauer for doing the same stuff more than a dozen women have accused him of, well, I just lost it. My pastor keeps saying we need to look the other way because Trump is against abortion and homosexuals and Muslims, but I just can’t do it anymore.
“I mean, all the lies! And the tweets. Does that man ever go to church?” she asks. “I wouldn’t let him near my daughter. And if my son ever acted like Trump, he would be grounded for life.
“I met a Muslim,” Susan says, trying to change the subject. “She and her husband and kids live down the street. They’re immigrants, but she seems nice. They’ve been here a couple of years, but I just met her because they’re always working.”
Time is up, and Ed brings the meeting to a close.
“See you next week,” he says. “And be careful what you say outside this room. Someone who watches Fox News might hear and call you a liberal.”