I was active online for the 2008 and the 2012 Presidential election and I pretty much cornered the market on the “You can still be friends with people who vote differently from you!” topic of content creation during both elections. During those campaign seasons it was one of my favorite things to talk about, how you can find common ground with people who voted for McCain or for Romney and you do not have to live in a blue bubble at the cost of your red friends and family.
And I still stand by that for those two elections. I had very successful relationships with friends and family who voted Republican in both elections. Often it was a different belief in economics which I never take too personally because the economy is complex and no one can really know for sure what is going to work and what isn’t. We find our favorite economists (Paul Krugman) and read what we can from the voices we trust and decide from there. Or maybe they were single issue Pro-Life voters who I tend to be still able to have relationships with because when we actually talk about things like sex education and contraception and fertility treatments we tend to still agree on a lot of stuff regarding reproductive rights, so I don’t think of us as opposite, I think of them just having a hard time voting for someone who is “Pro Choice” even if they agree with those candidates on a lot of different specific issues regarding women’s health.
And then something something happened between 2012 and 2016. As much as I like to say it was ALL TRUMP, it was not. There is something to be said about a lot of my McCain and Romney voting friends or family could not bring themselves to vote for Trump. He definitely changed the game in a lot of Republican’s lives. But it was also the election season as a WHOLE and hearing so many people reflect on Obama’s 8 years negatively, without recognizing progress made in LGBTQ issues or how we survived the great recession or how we such an increase in healthcare coverage…I really started questioning my premise of how you can separate a person from their vote to maintain relationships.
Knowing my kids can marry whomever they choose is a monumental Supreme Court decision, in part decided by Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan…two of Obama’s appointees. This is HUGE in my life. Hearing people dismiss him as ruining our country when my family saw a very specific huge IMPROVEMENT, was very hurtful. This is not something that I only think about on election day, I think about it EVERY day…that my kid could now marry if he someday choose. So anytime someone dismissed Obama’s presidency as 100% evil, I felt a pang in my heart. I never claimed Bush was 100% terrible, and he did a lot more on the “ruin our country” topic considering much of it revolved around a war we shouldn’t have started and he ended his Presidency with our country in economic collapse. AND YET – I still praise him often about his Housing First initiative in how he handled homelessness and I think it changed the way our country views the homeless on our streets. I thank him for that because it was very revolutionary.
AND YET! Early in Obama’s second term people started talking about how he ruined our country and I started noticing that many of the Trump supporters in my social circle could never and would never even call to mind ONE THING they supported in Obama. And that’s when I started noticing that maybe this “across the aisle” nonsense I had been spouting was only one-sided.
And then Trump supporters kept telling me that the LGBTQ communities would not see any fall out yet now the census won’t even take into consideration how many LGBT people live in our country meaning my kid’s needs might not be considered in any policies built from that data. This is an every day concern, not an election day concern. And it’s very heartbreaking.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as the dialog around politics becomes so toxic. People speak about this divisiveness in our country, how suddenly we’re not talking about how to fix certain problems, it’s all boiled down to AGAINST TRUMP or FOR TRUMP. And how do we work together on ANYTHING when we can’t get past that ONE issue. But I get it. It’s hard for me to think about any way my Republican representatives can help me when I can’t get it out of my head that THEY SUPPORT TRUMP. It pervades every thought I have, if you support him, how can I even begin to think you are going to help me at all? How can I call you to vote to ban the “Are you a felon?” box on state jobs when you support a Crime and Punishment touting President?
Every day I feel like I’m seeing more ways his presidency is affecting the quality of life of the already disadvantaged in our country. Experts have repeatedly established that housing discrimination has put communities of color at a huge disadvantage when trying to rise above poverty in this country. This is not news anymore. No one doubts the negative effects that redlining had on black Americans and how it created generational poverty in communities where housing was never an option. AND YET…this current HUD seems to be scaling back Obama’s efforts to try to rectify some of the damage done and in pursuing action against fair housing violations.
And while I’m doing much better at separating the parts of my day where I pay attention to the world news so that I’m not obsessing every waking moment, (I highly recommend the Crooked Media Newsletter if you’re looking for a way to be informed but don’t want to check the news more than once a day.) it is still something I think about daily. I’ve signed up for local watch groups so I know when to reach out to my representatives for issues I can have a voice in, I’m adding non-fiction reading material into my library to inform me more deeply on issues I care about, and I’m listening to voices of the disadvantaged so I know how I can use my power for good when certain issues arise. I don’t think about politics just when I’m voting, I think about the issues our country is facing every day and how they effect the lives of my family and the lives of people in my community.
And I keep going back to 2008 and 2012 Kim and thinking What is different? Why do I shield my heart from Trump supporters now? Why can I barely maintain surface level relationships? Why can’t my heart let go?
I think Linda Holmes actually put it best when she was criticizing the new Roseanne. “It basically treats politics as an emotional issue for white people, something that they need to work out with each other, but not as something that makes anyone’s lives better or worse. The idea that it doesn’t really *matter* is the basis of the reconciliation.”
And that feels like the difference now, politics is not just something that matters at the polling location on election day. It matters every day and it’s harder for me to resolve those differences when politics is woven around my every thought. Even seemingly mundane things like discussing my new favorite TV show: One Day At a Time (GO WATCH IT! NOW!) can not escape politics because I love the way they discuss social issues on that show.
Maybe the change was in me, maybe the change is in the world, but whatever the change…I can no longer be the role model for How To Maintain Relationships With People Who Vote Differently Than You Do. As a matter of fact, I’m probably the one you want to avoid if you are looking for advice. I’ve tried and failed. I’ve been blocked on Facebook even though I’ve tried to keep everything I ever post “issue based” and not “people based.” I’ve tried to avoid talking politics only to learn that so many things people say are political when they don’t realize it. I’ve stopped opening up social media daily so maybe I can just avoid seeing the politically charged posts of those I disagree with but have to interact with in the real world. Only it turns out, once I’ve seen one post from someone claiming Obama ruined our country, I can’t seem to forget it ever existed. I’ve tried to turn off the part of my brain that reminds me that Trump supporters think there was a time when American was Great and that time was when LGBTQ people were not accepted socially or given equal legal standing and no one was discussing systemic racism in public forums. But that part of my brain is evidently solar powered and can not be turned off until the sun is extinguished.
I don’t know the point here, other than confess that I can no longer tell anyone else how to do something I’ve 100% failed at doing. I want to be part of the force that protects the disadvantaged from harm from this administration, and I have given up how to do that AND preach about how to reach across the aisle. I still listen to conservative voices as long as I know they have some principals they’ll stand by even if their President doesn’t. I still read conservative journalists – especially in the wake of the new VA assignment. I really am against privatizing the VA, and I know a lot of conservatives feel the same way, so I’m following a lot of conservative voices in that area. I’m not living in 100% of a bubble, but I am conscious that the world outside my political bubble is insane and possible doing irreparable damage to our planet and so I am no longer a source of wisdom and much more often looking for someone who will commiserate with me about the heartbreak of seeing the people you love support a President you can’t.