“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”
John F. Kennedy
My return to D.C. in 2011 was harder than I imagined.
The challenge, however, wasn’t the duties of the job I started (Communications Director for a Member of Congress) it was the us-versus-them mentality that seemingly dictated all aspects of life. The partisanship went deeper than I remembered during the earlier years of my career (when I was fresh out of college).
In my home state of Florida, I know and respect many top Democrats. I had friends in the Obama campaign whose expertise I only wish to have someday (here’s looking at you Steve Schale), I usually had friends working in both the House and Senate minority offices, at Progress Florida, with trial lawyers and just about any progressive group you can think.
I collected petitions to help get Alan Williams (a D in the Florida House) on the ballot, openly supported my friend Dave Aronberg for Attorney General (and wrote him a personal, albeit very small, check when R’s were running a candidate who wasn’t as qualified against him for his state Senate seat). The second time I played golf in my life was a Fla. Dem Senate fundraiser with my friend Nancy, whose resume mirrors mine, but flipped. Every cause I’ve ever been for, she was against.
I could go on, but you get the drift.
The point isn’t to highlight the number of Democrats I know and respect, it’s to say that politics is just a portion of who someone is; when you can see the other parts that make someone whole; their background, shared interests, character, hobbies, professional expertise, passion, parenting style, you can see that it’s more than who they voted for or what they think about immigration or another topic de jour.
It seems that everything on TV — from our network news to our sitcoms — has people broken down into a stereotype based on political affiliation. Life has become a game of “gotcha” politics, where your party is more important than you as a person.
The tie that binds seems to be intolerance for the idea that someone can believe (with all their heart) the opposite of what you believe and still be a good person. My Lord and my faith tell me it’s not for me to judge others and I’m grateful for a heart that allows me the ability to keep an open mind.
I remember like it was yesterday watching people at their wits end hustling down the halls of the House office buildings or the Capitol, juggling multiple phones, large cups of coffee and long to-do lists for the day. I didn’t wonder to myself if they’re an R or D before I say a prayer that their load gets a little lighter. Today, when I go back, I still don’t.
Call me naive, but when partisan gridlock dictates where you happy hour, when you do what’s right or kind, and how you feel about someone before they open their mouth, you should reconsider your perspective and what you’re doing in life.
We may disagree about how we go from Point A to Point B, but the fact is our nation is in a crisis.
Americans are scared and struggling just to get by. We should all come to the table and learn from one another.
As some of my dearest friends on the other side of the aisle have taught me — we all can share an experience or a belief that may impact or influence one another in a way we hadn’t considered before.
My hope is that more people look beyond the bumper stickers, the voting history, and the negativity to see the person on the other side of the issue — and the aisle.