Right and left of center is where problems are solved

Editor’s note: Last month, reporters for Bloomberg News Service stopped in Grand Junction on a tour across the country to gauge voter sentiment. In Grand Junction, they interviewed two friends: Sarah Shrader (pictured left in the photo), a Democrat who started a successful zip line manufacturing company in town, and Robin Brown, (right) a Republican who served eight years in the military, did two tours in Iraq and who now owns a local public relations company. The headline for The Bloomberg interview was “Friends Across Party Lines, United in Dismay.”

Intrigued by the ability of friends on opposite sides of the political aisle to carry on a civil political discussion, The Sentinel will continue the Shrader-Brown interview on a variety of topics over the coming weeks. This interview occurred on Sept. 12 at the Blue Moon in downtown Grand Junction.

Sentinel: Republicans and Democrats seem further apart now than ever. How is it that you two are able to disagree in civil fashion?

RB: We’re all working for the same thing. Everybody wants a healthy economy and families that are able to afford things they need. It’s just a matter of how we are going to get there. The right thinks we are going to get there this way and the left things we are going to get this this way. It’s easy in a small town. Easier than on the national level because we can dial it down to like ‘what is really wrong?’

SS: What strikes me about what’s happening right now is that so much is based on misinformation. That was shocking about being at Club 20 for two days. So many of their assumptions are based on misinformation instead of fact.  Actually, it’s all shades of gray. It’s not black and white. Robin is right of center. I’m left of center. The center is where people get things done. It’s not about taking something way left or way right, but that’s what we’re doing right now in this country.

Sentinel: Do you think there are more people in the center of the political spectrum in this country than there are on the wings?

RB: We’ll find out after this election.

SS: If there aren’t, I’m concerned.

RB: I feel like the extremes are people who look for problems and create problems, when really there’s no crisis. They’re a bad solution looking for a problem.

SS: Some of these people … what they’re saying is not true, but they think it’s true because they’re misinformed. While I don’t think regulation has helped the coal industry, it isn’t one person’s fault that the demand for coal has decreased. That’s the misinformation. There are cleaner ways to provide energy to American homes, and that’s what the market is demanding.

RB: We’ve been run by Republicans here forever, and how healthy are we now? So, the policies of the extreme right are not in the interests of the community. Do I believe in energy? Absolutely. Do I believe we should tap into that natural gas under us? Absolutely. Do I think we should put it in a pipeline and send it to Jordan Cove? Yes. But is that working for us right now? No. So, in the meantime, as we try to figure all this out, something needs to keep us afloat. It’s already keeping us afloat, but nobody will acknowledge it. Tourism is absolutely what has been sustaining us the last five years, there’s no question.

SS: We’ve got doctors moving here because we offer a great quality of life. I think that’s what’s kept us afloat. We have an amazing hospital in St. Mary’s that’s attracting physicians from around the country who are saying, ‘I don’t want to live in the suburbs. I want to live in a place where I can ride out my back door.’

RB: I think the whole point is — though we’ve lost control at the national level, there’s nothing we can do about that — but we can effect change at our local community level, which is why we are working together to do that, which is why this is all so important. We’ve seen great examples in the last year of lots of people coming together out of desperation — we have to. Right now, we’re trying to survive, so we have to work together to survive. Maybe one day, in five years let’s hope, we’ve succeeded and we can be on different sides of something in a nice way.

SS: I saw this awesome interaction last week between Gov. John Hickenlooper, President Tim Foster and a few other people. People from all over the political spectrum were in the room, but there was this inspiring interaction in the group. There was some razzing. There was some teasing. And there was a lot of constructive conversation. I feel like that is where need to come to not only in our country, but in our local community. And I think we are coming to that place in our local community way faster than our country is. It’s a mutual respect thing, and I think that’s actually what was happening in the ‘50s and ‘60s and ‘70s. Since then, it seems like something devolved.

Sentinel: Do you think most people are like you two or do they just enjoy disagreeing? Is it more fun to divide up into teams?

SS: I really appreciate the discourse. You can’t just surround yourself with people who think exactly the same way you do —

RB: That would be terrible.

SS:  I have to believe that most people want to live their lives this way (gesturing a connection to RB). I have to believe that most people don’t want to live their lives full of fear and hatred for other people.


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