Politics & Policy

Friends of Ronnie

The Right way to signal.

After more than two months of intense mourning, Hollywood has begun to recover from President Bush’s reelection. The flag outside the Kaballah Center in Beverly Hills no longer flies at half-mast. People here are still talking about going to Canada, but now it’s just for six weeks of exterior shooting. And hardly anybody refers to the results of our last national election as “the tragic events of November the second” anymore.

Still, some bitterness remains. I was pondering this recently at the body shop where I spend most Saturdays of late having the key scratches around the spittle-covered “Bush-Cheney 2004″ decal I foolishly attached to the rear bumper of my car repainted. Yes, it’s true: I am a member of that most endangered of species, the Hollywood Republican.

Don’t be alarmed: I’m not one of those crazed Republicans who goes to church or believes in monogamy or anything like that. I’m just convinced that there’s no such thing as a bad tax cut, that voters should have more power over their lives than judges, and that terrorists are more afraid of howitzers than they are of summits. Hence, Republican.

And like the other dozen or so conservatives in the business, I am all too familiar with the sense of being closeted. Of living a double life, hating myself for fake laughing after each “Bush is stupid” bon mot I overhear at Starbuck’s. Of being unable to reveal my ideological orientation for fear of being socially or professionally (like there’s a difference in this town) ostracized. Indeed, the most common response I get after informing a non-industry conservative of my political views is, “So, are you out yet?” No kidding–people have actually said that to me without a trace of irony.

Like anyone else condemned to living a lie, I find myself furtively seeking out my own kind in a pathetic search for validation. Sometimes even a single stray word can alert me that I might be in the presence of another whose love for country dare not speak its name. Once my political antennae–or as I call it, my “G.O.P.-dar”–has been sufficiently aroused the sad, familiar dance is soon under way.

“So, in other words,” a typical opening gambit of mine with a promising-sounding stranger at a party might begin, “the profits made from stocks and bonds are known as ‘capital gains,’ and these can be taxed at various rates? How interesting.” After which I ever-so-casually ladle up some bean dip with a blue-corn tortilla and–resisting with every fiber of my being the urge to make eye contact–await their reply.

Most of these exchanges turn out to be false alarms, either due to simple misunderstandings (“…oh, you mean Arianna now….”) or to the proverbial cold feet. Maybe they’ve got a pitch meeting at Dreamworks next week and they don’t want to mess it up. Hey, I’ve been there. O.K., maybe not to Dreamworks, but I’ve been to lots of other places in this town.

It occurs to me that we Hollywood Republicans could save ourselves a lot of trouble by agreeing on some term with which to discreetly identify ourselves in public, much the same way gay men describe themselves as “Friends of Dorothy,” or AA members call themselves “Friends of Bill W.” I hereby propose that closeted conservatives, whether in Los Angeles or elsewhere, agree to refer to one another whenever discretion is necessary as “Friends of Ronnie,” in honor of our 40th president.

Imagine the wasted time and bad bean dip we could spare ourselves with a simple “Friend of Ronnie?” in place of the usual 45-minute dance around the buffet table trying to work “Milton Friedman” or “trust, but verify” into a remark about the weather. Not to mention the countless looks of horror from those who take our political beliefs to be not simply misguided, but actual evidence that we’re evil. You know, the tolerant crowd.

Like many of you, I dream of a time when a man will be judged by the content of his character, not the color of his state. I may not live to see the day that conservatives are granted the same rights and privileges of full citizenship everyone else is. But if it catches on maybe this “Friends of Ronnie” device will help make a few of us feel not quite so alone.

In the meantime, you progressive folks enjoy your cultural hegemony while you still can. Because, as the recent, tragic events of November the second have made abundantly clear to all but the most deeply in denial, there are a lot more of us out here than you think.

Ned Rice is a staff writer on the new and improved CBS talk show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

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