Fear takes a fast cab to the voting booth

Republican turnout is not a big mystery

In my twenties, I was not afraid to die.

This was not a courage thing. It was an overconfidence-stupidity thing.

You may be familiar. It’s a way young people often are. 

Most of the risks I took involved taxicab driving, which was what I was doing for a living, if you want to call it that. The cabs I drove had no barriers, bullet-proof or otherwise, between the drivers and the passengers.

Though I often worked at night, I picked up almost everybody who wanted to go somewhere. That was what the NAACP and ACLU were demanding at the time. I was the guy who actually did it.

The author’s chauffer license photo (Previous century)


My taxicab association's territory included an area of about two square miles known as the “Juneway Jungle” to those who were politically incorrect, which was a new thing then. There was a period in which this place, whatever you called it, was so scary that only three night shift drivers would service it.

It was me and two other guys. One of them was insane. We other two were just slow-witted.

I had a philosophy that guided my actions in this matter, however. It was tied to literacy: I read the requirements of my chauffeur license, which said I was supposed to pick up all humans, and take them where they wanted to go.

When I was 31, a couple of crackheads punched a two-inch slot in the top of my head. Not that big of a deal, health-wise, but it got my attention. All of a sudden, I was less carefree about the way I did business.

But I was committed to picking everybody up, so I still did that. It was not as much fun to go to work, however.

I was constantly reminded that I should do what I was doing anyway. There were always liberals who insisted that we cab drivers not discriminate on pickups. They were right.

But where were they? 

At 2 a.m, when cab drivers were driving under the influence of flop sweat, the only threat against their critics was sleep apnea.

And there’s the rub. Liberals like me are in the business of telling everybody to do the right thing, whether we have the intestinal fortitude to see it through or not. That was much on display during the recent election season. 

Ignore looting. Defund police. 

I don’t spend a lot of energy arguing about these basic concepts. But I keep in mind that they’ve largely been voiced by people of the same age I was when I was not smart enough to be afraid. 

And they are often the children of privilege. They’ve lived with an extra layer of protection, which makes it easier to be cavalier about how they want others to live in the world.

They are now amazed that over 70 million Americans voted for a would-be fascist dictator. I am not so shocked.

There are a lot of people in the world who get very nervous when they see things like looted businesses and burning buildings. Telling them that the biggest looters are really big-business capitalists does not compute.

They’re not ready.

For months, many of us have been telling people who are afraid that they are wrong to be afraid.

Tell me when that has ever worked.

Depending on exactly what “defund police” means to various proponents, we have also been saying that police should be fired or replaced or get less resources or be switched out with social workers.

We’re not ready. Obviously.

In Minneapolis, where everything started, the city council voted in June to put a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot to dismantle their police department and start all over with something better. It became instantly apparent that the machinery to create that better something was not at hand. Nobody ever voted on that referendum.

This sort of thing did not inspire confidence. 

Americans who voted for Donald Trump this month were always going to vote for Donald Trump if they voted for anyone. Their feeling, stoked by the great man, that Democrats were going to lay waste to law enforcement seems to have made getting out to vote a priority.

This is not a new or surprising concept. You may have noticed that many Republicans respond readily to reductions in the efficacy of law ‘n’ order, real or perceived. 

So do Libertarians. And Democrats. Basically, significant percentages of everyone alive.

Fifty years ago, there were a lot of cars and trucks rolling around America with this bumper sticker:

“If you don't like police, next time you need help, call a hippie.”

In 1972, Richard Nixon beat George McGovern in 49 states.