Last night, I was out for a co-worker’s birthday party, and I got to talking with an acquaintance I’ll call Nate. Thanks to the bar TVs playing CNN instead of the Bulls and a handful of beers, we somehow started talking politics.
I grew up in a progressive town in the Boston suburbs, then I went to a top ten liberal arts university, and now I work at a super casual, hipster heavy tech company where the average employee age is 25. I have not had a whole lot of occasions to meet Republicans. So when Nate and I started talking and he looked at me sideways and declared, “Well, I am a Republican…,” I thought he was kidding.
He wasn’t. For the next hour, we (vaguely drunkenly) talked about the evolution of the Republican party, the upcoming election, and the balance in his mind and mine between social and fiscal issues. Instead of being a battle over wedge issues, we agreed on a lot of fundamentals. It was… reassuring.
This Republican primary cycle is all about pushing out the moderates and moving the party (and the country) further towards an evangelical, patronizing father-knows-best kind of politics that makes me want to vomit on the regular. It’s easy to forget that many Republicans are also sickened by the tone of this conversation, and are looking for a candidate who reflects their fiscal priorities without stomping all over the rights of their gay, female, and secular friends.
When the conversation shifted to Backstreet vs. NSYNC with the arrival of new members of the group, I was a little sad. It’s so rare that I get to have an intelligent, civil, honest conversation about American values with someone on the other side that doesn’t boil down to a Bible vs. non-Bible impasse. We who are on the ground and not on the campaign trails or pundit panels are so much closer to each other than the media would let us believe. What looks in campaign data like polar opposites is actually a spectrum and people like Nate and I are significantly closer to each other than to the respective extremes of our parties.
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