If you have followed my column here, you know I have been managing cross-partisan relations fairly successfully in my home for some years, or at least seven Presidential elections. My skill in this arena goes back even further than that; my college roommate was (and is) a decided lefty while I was running around the Notre Dame campus canvassing for Bob Dole for the 1988 primary (that’s right, I really can’t pick a GOP primary winner). So I know a few things about smoothing down ruffled Republican feathers and being kind to the misguided left. Here are my tips for keeping the harmony this winter with your conservative pals.
First, don’t mention the President. Just don’t. Republicans have one of three opinions right now: angry disappointment over a loss for a leader they really care about; defensiveness over voting for a guy they don’t really like as a least bad option; or resentment that Trump and Biden were the best we could come up with in 2020. Like Fox News, we just don’t want to talk about Trump right now.
Want to tell me what a great idea single payer healthcare is? Too soon, liberal friends, too soon. Now is not the time to remind us how superior Democratic policies are, even if the Republican you are speaking with voted for Biden. In general, we will not agree with you. That’s why we haven’t registered to vote in your party. You see, the Senate is probably staying red, and the House lost more than a few Democratic seats. That’s because voters may have rejected Trump but didn’t go all in on the Democratic ticket. No one, D or R, exactly has a mandate right now.
And, oh my God, please don’t tell us that Trump is the natural result of the Reagan Administration. This is totally a trigger for me (It’s true! Republicans can be triggered!) First, Reagan liked immigrants. Remember when he gave amnesty to 3 million immigrants in 1986? Yeah, that happened. Second, he pretty much focused his entire foreign policy on breaking Russian (then Soviet) power, not cozying up to it. Oh, and he succeeded. A member of the NRA, after he left office, he actively lobbied for passage of the Brady Bill, which required background checks for handgun buyers, and for a ban on the sale on semiautomatic rifles (joined by Republican former president Gerald Ford). Clearly Reagan could never win a GOP presidential primary after 2004 with that record. So just stop right there blaming the Gipper for the mess we’re in now.
I’m kind of amused when very vocal and entrenched Democrats learn that I have concerns about things like poverty, healthcare and education. Lots of Republicans do. We’re even willing to talk about some areas where we could come together to fix things, like dumping tariffs and maybe the Space Force (or folding it into an existing military branch like a sensible person).
And local issues! Wow! Managing remote learning in the East Mountains with our awful broadband reach. How to jolt our economy, stagnant before the pandemic, into something on par with our neighboring states. Managing water ahead of what looks to be a lousy snowpack winter. We have plenty to discuss without having to drag the Great National Divide into it.
And maybe that is the start to reclaiming a dialogue. Start at the lowest level. While standing in line to enter one of the least crowded Walmarts in the state, or even better, to pick up takeout out one of our local cafés, let’s talk about what we share here: lousy cell service, the joys of haphazard propane delivery, all the cats and dogs and goats and horses, and of course our breathtaking views. That’s all a lot more interesting than the election, anyway.
Merritt Hamilton Allen is a PR executive and a former Navy officer. She lives amicably with her Democratic husband and Republican mother north of I-40 where they run two head of dog, and two of cat. She can be reached at email@example.com