When I tell people that my father is a staunch Republican, I’m usually met with a lot of shock. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen Jim. He dresses well, lives in a blue state and heavily blue city, is compassionate, and supports and loves his two daughters whole-heartedly. Outwardly, he doesn’t seem like someone who would support a man like Trump. That’s why most people then ask the follow-up question, “But he doesn’t support Trump, right?”. Because how can someone with the above traits support someone like Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, my response isn’t one a lot of my friends, or really even I, want to hear.
For as long as I can remember my father has been a Republican. This fact was always kind of a family joke since my mother’s family is very, very Democratic. My uncle even ran for State Representative back when I was in high school (didn’t win sadly!). The running joke in my immediate family was that our family was really Neutral because my parent’s votes canceled each other out.
I honestly don’t really remember much political turmoil in our household growing up because my father was really a moderate Republican. Sure, there were things he really didn’t like about my mother’s families Democratic presidents or policies but nothing that made the table erupt into uproar.
The only time it really became an issue was during the 2018 election. My father supported Kasich. My sister and I, both Democrats, were open to really anyone who wasn’t Trump. Then Trump won the nomination and I feel like I lost my moderate father to someone who had to fully support the Republican nominee because he had to tow the Republican line. The minute I knew I wouldn’t be able to reason with him and maybe it was best to not discuss politics, or otherwise destroy our relationship, was when the Billy Bush/Trump conversation tape was released and my father responded with the line of, “it was just locker room talk”. My father isn’t someone who participates in such talk. He actually has more female friends than male. He has two daughters. This literally made no sense to me.
Since then, we’ve tried to have conversations about other topics and really we usually avoid politics. We know that we won’t agree so why try. This past weekend though, my sister, father and I were all hanging out and I mentioned that I didn’t like how Kavanaugh reacted to the questions he was being asked and did I really want someone that quick to anger to be a Supreme Court Justice in my country. I said it in passing to my sister, not my father, and it quickly turned into a screaming match between myself and my dad.
At the end of our screaming, I thought to myself, “OMG, he literally just seems to be repeating things he heard on FOX News or in conservative media.” I was livid, raging. Couldn’t understand how he could think this woman was lying. And then I realized a lot of what I had said was being repeated from what was said in liberal media. We had literally been divided.
We had succumbed to what Trump wanted to do: divide a country in order to win the country’s vote.
The scariest part of this realization is that what is happening in just our tiny family of three has happened across this nation.
I told a friend what I had realized this weekend and she agreed, mentioning that her husband is a moderate and doesn’t feel like any message out there today is one he agrees with. There’s no one speaking out on behalf of those who see both sides. What we need is more meeting in the middle. Have those hard conversations without fighting each other into corners where we are afraid to even talk about the issues anymore.
Last night, I went to a Chicago Ideas week presentation on what leadership looks like in 2018 and beyond and the former mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, said one of the greatest things he learned in politics was that we needed to learn how to say the hard things in a soft way so people come to you, not away from you.
I think this is honestly the best advice you could get heading into the holiday season to realize yelling will get us nowhere but honest conversations can no matter what your political affiliation.