I have just completed my first personal foray into the political process and did so as a Democrat in Coeur d’Alene. It was an eye-opening experience in some ways, most particularly in how very isolating it can be to be known as Democrat in North Idaho. This is troubling to me because it isn’t good for us as a community to be so divided. The nature of this division is that once the walls are up, we don’t talk to one another, which perpetuates the problem.
So please, my Republican friends, hear me out.
First consider the results of the recent election. Look at the vote spread in your district, and really understand what it means about the people around you.
In LD4, essentially the city of Coeur d’Alene, that spread is about 40 percent to 60 percent. So that means 2 out of every 5 people around you are likely Democrat voters. When you go to the library, parent meetings at the schools, community organizations, the movies, on and on, consider that 2 out of 5 people you encounter will be Democrat voters.
And then, please consider all the wonderful things going on in our community, pleasant encounters we have with one another casually, good working relationships on the job and school, on committees and boards. All that good that is happening all around us is with individuals who differ in political leanings. We already live in community and in harmony with one another! Some seem to think this is because we all think alike. Not so! I contend it is because we live in a healthy balance. We Democrats KNOW that we are outnumbered, and we know that we work with Republicans every day. But it seems to us that you don’t know we are right here as your neighbors, friends and co-workers.
When I was out knocking doors, I met many, many Democrats who expressed feeling isolated, and spoke of a fear of expressing their political opinions. We have all had experiences in those places where we meet in community, and the talk turns to politics and the conversation goes on with the assumption that everyone agrees with Republican politics. And those 2 out of 5 just keep quiet out of fear.
Fear? Yes, and I will tell you why, based on my experience. It wasn’t the debate on ideas that is troubling. I actually found that most people agree on the big issues facing us, like the need for improvement in our schools, health care system, jobs and wages. We had some healthy discussion about our differences in how to approach those problems, but we agreed on what the problems are. I found these conversations mostly respectful and honest.
What was not helpful were the personal attacks. I realize that once I ran for office I was putting myself up as a target, but these are the same things that cause those 2 out of 5 to keep quiet. It is comments like “Go back to California” (without consideration of fact) and “Democrats have no place in Idaho” (despite our rich history right here) and being called a “libertard.” At times I was rejected personally because of statements or bad behaviors of other Democrats past or present, holding me personally responsible for that behavior.
Please think about that and think about those groups of people you interact with regularly. Please consider if you would hurl such statements at them. Remember, 2 out of 5 are probably Democrat voters. Please ask yourself if you are responsible for the bad behaviors of all Republicans past and present.
And please understand that like you, your Democrat friends are just people trying to find our best course in this complex world.