Sunday, July 30, 2017

Is it possible to talk politics with our neighbors?

Do you know your neighbors' politics?

Probably not. They may know mine, as I haven't been shy about posting campaign signs for Democrats. We stuck an Obama sign in our front yard in 2008. All sorts of candidates for local and state offices. Democrats except for an occasional candidate for a non-partisan seat such as mayor or city council.

A few neighbors have asked about my signs. But most pretend they don't exist. They may actually see me and think, "there's our neighbor, Mike, out working in his yard." They may think that I don't pay enough attention to my yard, that I might do a better job of tending my lawn or cleaning snow from my sidewalks. They don't say so. As I convalesced at home from a heart attack during the winter of 2013, neighbors shoveled my walk, brought me soup, asked about my recovery. People can be so kind.

It was an odd feeling to take some time out this weekend, knock on doors, and ask people about their politics. It wasn't every neighbor, just a sampling printed out from the Vote Builder app. It included registered Democrats, those who had voted "D" in recent elections, people who had signed in at a Dem event. The Dems have decided it is crucial to talk to real live people if we have a ghost of a chance of displacing the Trump junta in 2018 and 2020. See, there's my partisan self shining through. I have concluded that you can't actually conduct a conversation with a diehard Trump supporter. Many Trump supporters have decided the exact same thing with diehard Democrats. We are balkanized like never before. Ask the people of the Balkans how it turned out when everyone started shooting their neighbors instead of talking with them. It was a messy 20th century.

Chris and I received a list from Taylor, our summer intern from Maine, and walked our precinct. Our intern is a dynamo and she is trying to get as much done as possible as her time in the West grows short. The future of our country is in her hands, and the hands of our children. I am retired and Chris is on the cusp of retirement. We have a slower pace. We've walked many neighborhoods during many campaigns. We take our time. And that's what people seem to want, time and attention. They are befuddled and distressed at the recent turn of events. They want to talk about it.

One woman who was about my age escaped from her barking dogs and sat with us on the porch. Yes, she voted for Democrats and would be interested in volunteering for the local party. She filled out one of our response cards, which updated her contact info. Our cards feature a blue Dem bison. The bison looks friendly. Some conservatives see Dems as dangerous radicals intent on taking away their guns and replacing their coal rollers with bicycles. I shouldn't be saying this, but it's all true, everything you've heard on Fox News. We want you to stare into the image of the blue bison and tell you that you are getting sleepy, sleepy, sleepy. And then bam, we have you in our clutches. Where did you hide those guns? Give us the keys to your truck.

The woman on the front porch knew the former chair of our Democratic Party Grassroots organization. "I don't see how she gets it all done," the woman said. Periodically, she rubbed her hands together, said they were sore from working in her garden. She had a beautiful yard. The dogs stopped barking. She handed me her card. We said our farewells and marched on down the street. We met a libertarian man who had registered as a Dem to vote for Bernie Sanders. He didn't think he wanted to remain involved with the Democrats due to their tax policies. He owned one of Toyota's first hybrid cars and recently drove 700 miles into Iowa on one tank of gas. He looked like a handy guy -- we interrupted him working around the house. A paddleboard was attached to the top of his truck. The man looked at it and I could see that he'd rather be on the water than talking to us.

We moved on. One woman voted for Dems but spent most of her winters in Arizona. "No politics in Arizona," I said. We all laughed. She filled out a card, said she might be interested in attending some Laramie County summer events.

We moved on. A couple walking down the street waved at us. We waved back. I wondered if they wondered what we were doing in their neighborhood. One man asked if we lived around here. We answered in the affirmative. For 22 years. Three different places. Our kids attended Hobbs Elementary, McCormick Junior High and Central High. Voted in this precinct and worked at the polls. At the next house, the couple warmed up to Chris as soon as she said she worked at the Y. They were a mixed race couple whose son had been spending his summers at the Y for four years. His parents called him out and introduced him. Chris and the twelve-year-old recognized each other.  The woman said she voted for Democrats but was too busy working three jobs to volunteer. She and her husband both filled out cards because they were angry at current events. They didn't mention Trump but didn't have to. He was black, she was white. We chatted about kids and the Y and school but only made a few references to politics. They urged us to contact them, as if they felt a pressing need to do something, anything. We said we would. Secretly, we hoped that the Dems would follow through as the party hasn't always been the most efficient political machine in Wyoming. I know that Chris and I would see to that.

We said we had to go across the street to talk to their neighbor. They told us he was hard of hearing so we had to talk loud. They didn't know that he was a Democrat. We walked over and rang the man's doorbell but no answer. The couple yelled from across the street, said that their neighbor was probably going for his walk as he usually did every day at this time. We said we'd come back.

But our time on this July afternoon was limited. Chris had to go into work for a couple hours. I had to shop for a Sunday garden party with colleagues who, during last election season, had raised quite a bit of money for legislative candidates who ended up getting walloped on Nov. 8. But we missed working with each other. We missed each other. We were neighbors, after all. People who cared about their neighborhoods and their city and their state and their country.

We walk neighborhoods for our country.

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