Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Politics and Poker Don't Mix in the Age of Trump

The monthly poker game was at my house Tuesday night. Unlike a scene in the Tony award winning musical Fiorello!, which ran for 795 performances on Broadway beginning in November 1959, we did not talk politics while cards shuffled around the table. 

In case you’re not familiar with the song “Politics and Poker,” here’s a link to the original cast rendition ( For those not interested in musical diversion, here are the appropriate smart and jaunty chorus lyrics that encase deliberations of New York City Republican machine politicians grappling with the difficulty of finding a candidate to run for Congress in a district thought to be unwinnable): 

Politics and poker, politics and poker 
Shuffle up the cards and find the joker 
Neither game's for children; either game is rough 
Decisions, decisions, like 
Who to pick, how to play, what to bet, when to call a bluff 

Politics and poker, politics and poker 
Playing for a pot that's mediocre 
Politics and poker, running neck and neck 
If politics seems more predictable 
That's because usually you can stack the deck! 

Politics and poker, politics and poker 
Makes the average guy a heavy a smoker 
Bless the nominee and give him our regards 
And watch while he learns that in poker and politics 
Brother, you've gotta have that slippery haphazardous commodity 
You've gotta have the cards!

My poker buddies don’t smoke. We didn’t talk politics because, frankly, it’s too depressing. To my knowledge they all share my progressive leanings. 

Not that I am not friends with Trumpsters, few though they may be among my acquaintances and relatives. It’s just becoming a lot less taxing to simply avoid them or set ground rules for discussion topics.

Trump is not unique in dividing allegiances among the populace. Think back to the tenures of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. But with Trump the divide seems to be deeper, more extreme, more personal. 

Perhaps it’s a Forseter gene, but my sister Lee feels the same way. She has permitted me to share an exchange we had the other day after it became known that Trump waged a global war against breast feeding in favor of corporate America’s infant formula empire.

“The worse it gets the angrier I get at people I know that still support him,” wrote Lee.

“Or as they say, ‘we agree to disagree’. I’m about to tell them that their reckless silence or support of his behavior is so disgusting to me that I can no longer value them as friends and until they realize how hurtful he is and what a threat he is to democracy I do not wish to associate with them.

“Endorsing his hateful attacks on minorities and children and weaker nations is bigger than any friendship I feel for his supporters, regardless of how long I have known them. I feel I then become complicit in supporting him by not rejecting my friends.”  

“I informed David (her husband) that there will be no Fox News allowed in our home anymore. Certain radio stations are also banned. Emails are also off limits if they support him. Our home will be purged of all conservative venues.
“As for my friends, I am still confused and struggling with what to do. But the worse it gets the harder it is to remain connected to those who advocate and support him.”

When I first read those words I felt the real pain engulfing Lee, a retired early elementary school teacher in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles, and still a semi-practicing psychiatric social worker. I identified with it. 

A year ago in late May I wrote about the Trump fatigue factor (“The fatigue factor is setting in. Donald Trump and his gang that couldn’t shoot straight is overwhelming me. There’s too much to write. If I miss a day the accumulated copy weighs me down.”)

I am not as depressed by Trump’s actions as I am by the reaction of too, too many of my fellow Americans. As Maureen Dowd observed in The New York Times the other day, “On the occasion of America’s 242nd birthday, we must ask who we are, if we can see accounts of infants snatched from their parents and returned covered in lice, and not worry about our country’s soul.”

Could be a timing coincidence, but I was intrigued by an article, “The Power of Positive People,” currently among the most popular on The Times Web site. Teased with the question, “Are your friendships giving you a boost or bringing you down?,” the article opines, “Friends can exert a measurable and ongoing influence on your health behaviors in a way that a diet never can,” according to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic fellow and author, later adding, “I argue that the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network” (

Sounds like a no-brainer, but keeping the Trump Fatigue Effect from infecting my personal relationships could become a full-time job. Not something I would relish in my retirement.

By the way, in case you’re interested, I won $10 Tuesday night, not enough to cover the expense of hosting the game, but better than losing at poker. For the short term, at least, national politics is a lost cause.