Over the past week, we have heard about the “red wave” that did not quite materialize as well as the (expected by many) announcement by former President Trump that he is running in 2024. These things (particularly the Trump announcement) have heightened the division between “red” and “blue,” the two colors that many identify themselves as politically; the two colors that often pigeonhole people and that cause others to think – whether right or wrong – that that person must believe something because they are Republican Red or Democrat Blue.
There will always be division. In fact, our political system was set up to be adversarial, but being adversarial while still showing respect for those who disagreed with you used to be the norm (one great example that I often talk about is the relationship between President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Tip O’Neill).
This is not the case today.
Today, too many people have the “my way or the highway” attitude or try to silence their critics by bullying them into submission via social media comments, protesting, or other vocal ways. Or people participate in character assassination and “cancelation” of those who they disagree with. One that we have heard alot of recently is people calling their opponents RINO (Republican In Name Only) for Republicans that don’t vote or hold beliefs Republicans are supposed to and DINO (Democrat In Name Only) for Democrats (although it seems like I’ve heard a lot more people referred to as RINOs).
Far too often people believe that one takes a certain position because they are associated with a certain political party. For example, it is commonly believed that Republicans are for “big business” and ignore the “little guy.” It is also often believed that Democrats want everyone to receive financial aid from the government whether or not there is true need. While these things may be true with some, it is not true with all. (We can pigeonhole pretty much anybody according to their associations, but in doing so often miss the truth and the opportunity to learn from the person).
It is possible to associate – or actually be friends with – people of different political parties. Even in the political world, having close ties with people of opposing parties is beneficial. What I find sad is that today, instead of people simply looking for solutions, we have political tribalism. People would rather “die on the mountain” of their party rather than admit that someone from another party could have a good idea. Why? Shouldn’t we be trying to solve problems? When we truly try to solve problems we take ideas from other people, including those of different parties, and come up with solutions. The ideas may work or they may not. But getting ideas from everyone is a good thing. Those who hold public office love to tout how bipartisan they are, especially when running for re-election. But are they? What solutions have they come up with by working with the “other side?” As my mom says, “the proof is in the pudding.” People want solutions, not talking points. In fact, the Independent Voter Project found that 41.27 percent of the registered voters in New Hampshire were unaffiliated or third-party. This number trumps both Democrats, (28.16 percent), and Republicans, (30.46 percent).
I learned this firsthand while running for state rep back in 2020. I ran as a Republican because most of my beliefs are right of center and because the process involved in running as an independent – or as someone who identifies as any “alternative party” – for state-level office is something that I didn’t want to deal with. I purposely made all my graphics purple in an attempt to indicate that I was “in the middle” and was thoughtful when making decisions, (I actually said this on several occasions as well). But it didn’t matter because I was not a Democrat to some voters and therefore held certain beliefs (even though these people never engaged me). I wasn’t accepted as “true Republican” by some either because I was endorsed by a police organization. (To them, this meant that I wasn’t “liberty enough” to be a Republican, something that people became vocal about days before the election…again without engaging me). So I learned that some people are more loyal to their party and the perceived beliefs of the candidates than to people or issues. (For the record, I like the “nonpartisan” elections in Manchester. While I do not think that we can truly be nonpartisan, having elections that do not focus on party is good).
People who I talk to say that they believe that a lot of candidates in this past election (particularly Republicans) lost because they were more concerned about telling people what is wrong with America and our state and working off of talking points rather than really focusing on telling the voters how they will work to solve those “kitchen table issues” The other reason often said is that some candidates (particularly state-level candidates such as those running for state rep) did not work for it. They just put out signs and maybe sent pamphlets and had billboards, but they did not walk around and talk to people…retail politics. They seemingly depended on their party base and acted like “paper candidates” by running in order to siphon votes from “the other side.”
In closing, I want to say that we need to pay attention to how a candidate will work to solve the issues that are important to us. It is not about party…it’s about people. And the sooner we acknowledge that, the sooner that quality candidates who actually want to solve problems will be elected. I pray that this happens.