As part of the Post-Election Rebuilding Social Interest Group, members Jason Conn, a Trump supporter, and Lisa Patrick, a Clinton supporter, have agreed to collaborate on a series of articles discussing their views of politics in an effort to bring together their opposing viewpoints. In this first edition, Jason and Lisa introduce themselves and address the question “How did we get here, politically?”
We have been here for a long time as a country and we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Now it’s time to get along with each other. I have a couple of observations.
In this brief introduction piece, I will seek to introduce myself, provide a little background that helps to illuminate my experience, and explain where I come from as it pertains politics. I take the time to do this in hopes that it will help to invite interaction by others, and in so much as it is possible, to help others to understand where I derive some of my positions.
Who am I?
My name is Jason, I am a 45-year-old recent university graduate. I am a husband who married “up” a little more than 18 years ago to a woman who is amazing. We own a salon and a handmade jewelry company, which are both solely the work of my talented wife’s hands. We have three amazing boys aged 29, 23, and 12. My oldest son joined me in returning to college a few years back and he is working toward a degree of his own. My middle son is a National Guardsman who spent 2015 in Afghanistan, returned to us in one piece, and adjusted well back into the civilian world. My youngest and only biological child shares much with me—from a tendency to action to similar means of execution—in many aspects of his makeup, and in that I am immensely proud and cognizant.
As a child, I was a terrible student who eventually failed out of the advanced program in the local middle school due to immense boredom and an absolute incapacity to sit still for any measurable period of time. I began gainful employment at 13 and have run businesses—in part or in whole—for many of the years since then. I’m deeply invested in my own learning and growth. I am immensely fortunate, and I have had most of the benefits of middle-class childhood and the benefit of a wonderful marriage.
I have spent the last few years as a house husband and a full-time college student trying to understand where we are, how we got here, and what we might do to improve our society in the future. In pursuit of this goal, I’ve attended Occupy demonstrations, Bernie Sanders rallies, been a member of the college debate team, and generally sought interaction with anybody who does not share my point of view, as I understand it implicitly. What I do know is that I still have much to learn. I do not get to stand in judgment of people outside of my experience and pronounce the solutions in their lives that will generally lead to good outcomes. I only get to know my piece of the picture and work towards the free and open exchange of ideas within the groups that are willing to interact with me.
In pursuit of full disclosure, I campaigned in Oregon to elect Donald Trump. I stood in driving rain holding an American flag and a Trump sign having things thrown at me and having many people curse at me while driving by. I also had many people giving the thumbs up and honking and supporting what we were doing as well.
How did we get here as a country?
As per custom, I’ll have to blame it on those that came before me. As I see it there are two primary drivers leading to where we find ourselves today. While it is an immense oversimplification to suggest there are but two, I’ll still choose to start from there. One of the drivers jeopardizes the status quo and the other maintains it.
The most prominent and problematic feature of where we are is that we no longer—and maybe never did—speak effectively to those who do not share our point of view. This lack of interaction leads to assumptions about what separates us and why. When we rely on these assumptions for insight, we inexorably make judgment calls that are inaccurate at best and corrosive to our shared social fabric at worst.
To find a recent contributing factor to this, one need look no further back than the end of World War II, a time which is famous for the rise of the nuclear family and one when front porches shrank and back yards grew. As a society many looked inward, we quit concerning ourselves with the condition, actions, and attitudes of our neighbors in pursuit of our own personal privacy and exclusion.
We decided that it was rude to talk about religion or politics in social gatherings. This isolation and the taboo nature that had grown up around talking politics lead to assumptions, which in turn lead to misunderstanding and distrust. Over time this has poisoned our shared political well and driven bad actors to the surface that might have otherwise been suppressed in a healthy political environment.
To this, we add the modern media environment where the news cycle is 24 hours and due to the way the profit motive is expressed in that medium, the ethos of “if it bleeds it leads” is in full command. It is a wonder that we actually don’t have more pronounced political issues; were it not for the benefits of our system of divided government, we might well have many more than we do.
The very nature of our divided government best explained by Polybius and his model of mixed government whereby we look not to a perfect government that lasts forever never being hindered by deviance, but toward a government that is expected to fail in predictable ways whereby there is a counterbalance built-in, in the form of three distinctly different power structures. And this is, of course, the stabilizing factor in our political system.
So what is essential is that we get past how the election has affected all of us and remember how to talk about tough subjects and how to do so in a caring way, a way in which we don’t assume how we will be received and simply do the hard work of figuring out how to work together for a better tomorrow for all of our children. We all need to counsel each other on how best to turn down the wick and cool it a bit as this election was quite charged rhetorically and emotionally for many among us.
I have been a registered Democrat my entire adult life, but I am not a “party-liner.” I had a civics teacher once tell me that I should never register Independent as it meant I could not vote in the primaries and that, if I preferred the other party’s candidate over my own, I should vote for whomever was most likely to lose to my preferred candidate. Seemed smart to me and that is what I have always done. I vote for the best candidate, regardless of party.
I have been called a “Dumbocrat” and a “Libtard” on social media. I’m sure Conservatives do see me as a Liberal, but I consider myself a Moderate.
How did we get here?
The above is exactly what is wrong with politics in our society—we only see two sides, either/or—and it seems the two ends of the spectrum become increasingly extreme. It seems like the middle keeps getting smaller.
For example, on the issue of abortion, always a hot topic for both Liberals and Conservatives, I am Pro-Choice. This does not mean I am in favor of abortion. I’m in favor of allowing women to make decisions about how, when, and under what circumstances they become mothers. This also means I’m in favor of providing low-cost and no-cost contraceptives and offering women a full range of information about their options if they should become pregnant.
This also does not mean I think there should be no restrictions on abortion. I am in favor of what I feel are reasonable limits on the point in fetal development after which an abortion cannot occur.
Meanwhile, it seems to me that either people want no restrictions on abortion or no abortion at all.
Yes, I voted for Hillary, proudly and without reservation. I did much research on her before I did, including reading a multitude of the leaked emails. I encouraged others to vote for her and to do their own research. I made phone calls, wrote emails, and signed petitions. This was the first time I was politically active beyond the simple act of voting. I believed, and still do, that she was the most qualified candidate in the race as well as the one who was most closely aligned with my personal values. She is a fighter, a diplomat, and possesses a wealth of varied experience.
And yes, I voted against Donald Trump, probably in equal measure. I believe he is an existential threat to Democracy, America, and very possibly the world as a whole. He is arrogant in the worst possible way—he has made clear he plans to act on his own opinions, without the benefit of research (“I don’t read much”) or anyone’s advice (“I know more than the Generals, believe me”). What disturbs me most about him is the way White Supremacists and Christian extremists have embraced him, and—rather than decrying them—he has hugged back. I fear for myself and my family, some of whom will most likely lose their access to healthcare. I fear for people of color, those who are not Christian, and those who are not cishet, some of whom will undoubtedly be the target of hate, deportation, or violence—some of whom already have.
I freely admit, I cannot understand how anyone could vote for Trump. That being said, I do believe three things:
- Regardless of how someone voted, the very act of voting means that a person has a vested interest in the good of our Country.
- Those who supported Trump and I certainly don’t agree on everything, but we do have some issues and concerns on which we will agree.
- If we are going to accomplish anything, we have to start by listening to each other.
If we can do these things, then perhaps we can forge a path forward.
We owe it to each other to try.
Photo credit: Pixabay