It’s time to talk, not march in the streets
Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final installment in a series of interviews with Robin Brown and Sarah Shrader, two women from opposite sides of the political divide who are active in efforts to improve the Grand Valley’s economy and quality of life.
This project was inspired by a Bloomberg News Service story, “Friends Across Party Lines, United in Dismay.”
The following exchanged occurred Nov. 10 at Baron’s.
Sentinel: President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign succeeded premised on some divisive promises. His win appears to be giving rise to acts of racism and celebration by hate groups. Is this an accurate portrayal of America today?
RB: I don’t think a majority of people who voted for Trump think he will actually do those things. I think that most people recognize that he said a lot of really inflammatory things to get some attention. He’s a TV guy. But I don’t think most people believe he is going to kick all the Muslims out of the country.
SS: You called me naïve before, so I will return it. I think you are naïve in this sense. I think there is 20-30 percent of the Trump-supporting population who don’t want immigrants or minorities or women to have the same rights as white men. They want Americans who look and think just like them.
RB: I agree with you, but there are not enough of them to do anything about it. Most of the people who voted for him recognize that he said really stupid things, but they thought not electing another Democrat was more important than dealing with this stupid man.
SS: I wish he would say, “Look, I shouldn’t have said all of those hateful things that I said. What I really want to do is bring this country together.”
RB: He didn’t say that, but what he said was, “I’m going to be president to all Americans.”
Sentinel: Is it safe to assume you were as shocked as the rest of the world when voters elected Trump to the same office as Abraham Lincoln, FDR and George Washington?
RB: The outcome of this election did not come as a huge surprise to me. Maybe I have a more diverse social network than the rest of us, but with all the feedback, I just kept feeling the presence of people — who were not Trump supporters — but they were just so unhappy with the last eight years. So when people were saying that there’s just no way Trump can win, I had a feeling it might go the other way.
SS: Tell me what was so bad about the last eight years? When Obama took over, we were in such a bad place with the economy and jobs. Now, we’re in such a better place. The stock market has almost tripled and employment is back at pre-recession levels.
RB: It doesn’t have anything to do with that. It’s about other people telling you what to do with your life.
Sentinel: Like laws regulating the size of soda?
SS: It’s because we are not talking to each other. We are not taking the time to listen to each other. Part of the reason we got here is because elitists were not listening to and treated would-be Trump voters like, “You are not educated. You don’t have a voice and you are not worth listening to.” That is not how to be an American.
RB: That’s how liberals are perceived because a lot of liberals act that way. They can be condescending.
SS: A very effective leader in this state said to me once, the way you get things done is you have a beer with folks. You sit down and have a social and casual interaction that creates a dynamic where everyone can feel heard. If we are going to learn anything from this (election outcome), that’s what we need to learn.
RB: We are becoming a society where we don’t talk anymore. I learned this doing downtown events. When you’ve got a million things going on and something goes wrong, people get pissed off. I could tell you about a hundred times where someone stormed up to me and they’re furious, but as soon as you say, “I’m sorry, let me help you,” it totally disarms them and they suddenly are reasonable.
SS: We have to be the example of that. In this community, we have the opportunity right now to be the example of people coming together — people of completely different sides coming together. This is the work. It’s not going out marching in the street. The work is sitting face-to-face with people.
Sentinel: How do you do that in this community?
SS: You have to be willing to listen to people who you think you don’t like because of things they say publicly. We need to just sit down and say, “Hey, what’s going on? Tell me what’s going on.”
RB: The day when you and I are on opposite sides of a local issue is a great day. Know why? Because it means we have gotten past the really hard stuff that we have to work together on to get done. Because right now it’s just about survival.
SS: It’s so important to disagree if you are disagreeing in a respectful way, in the center. There are very few people I have more respect for than Robin Brown because you drive me crazy and make me mad, but at the same time I think, “Wait, she has a point about that. And that and that….”
Sarah Shrader is a Democrat who started a successful zip line manufacturing company in town. Robin Brown is a Republican who served eight years in the military, did two tours in Iraq and who now owns a local public relations company in downtown Grand Junction.