It's got to be hard to be a Republican in Evanston right now, and not just because Barack Obama was re-elected last week.
Yard signs, grocery store conversations, and bumper stickers suggest Evanston’s a solidly Democratic town, and these numbers prove the point: nearly 85% of the November 6th votes cast in Evanston went to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
In a city like Evanston -- where we pride ourselves on our diversity -- what does it feel like to be in the political minority? I can’t imagine it’s been easy.
Evanston Township High School's newspaper, The Evanstonian, recently ran a column by Opinion Editor Daniel Schoenfeld titled, “Democratic Bias Creates Ignorance”. Schoenfeld writes:
“Evanston is a small bubble, and leaving it can come as a culture shock. Evanston’s politics make the rest of Illinois look like raging conservatives. By ignoring their opinions, students are distancing themselves from half of the country.”
I think he’s right on the first part: Evanston is a small bubble, and I usually like that bubble. I like how we’re a vocal, outspoken, let-it-all-hang-out kind of town. I like that so many of us walk around just being ourselves. I like that we keep it real. I like that we’re not perfect, and that our discord often emanates from a common desire to see our community better itself. I like that our bubble encompasses high standards while still maintaining a more relaxed vibe than many of the North Shore suburbs.
But I also think Schoenfeld raises an important point: that balance is critical.
It’s easy (and to some, very appealing) to get “swept away” by the loudest voices in a room, but the loudest voices aren’t always right. Following the unconscionable campaign spending during the 2012 presidential election, I’m thrilled to return to pre-campaign normalcy: I can now answer my phone, check my texts and emails, and watch TV without fervent political messages urging party support.
I'll admit that my initial reaction to Schoenfeld’s column was defensiveness. After all, I voted for Obama and helped raise money for the Obama campaign. On election night, I'd felt physically stressed while watching the results roll in, texting like-minded friends who were also worried Mitt Romney would win. One friend texted that her high school aged son had reassured her that everything would work out and that Obama would be re-elected. Still, she texted me with the concern that she didn't think her son realized "what a bubble we live in" here in Evanston.
I also wondered, Did I offend Evanston Republicans with my yard signs and grocery store discussions and bumper stickers?
Then, I tried to think from a Republican’s (or Independent’s) point-of-view. I imagined what it must have been like to be in the minority, listening to so many neighbors espousing beliefs so different from my own -- and believing, just as fervently, that I knew the best course for this country.
Some might say, “That’s just the way life is,” but to me, Daniel Schoenfeld is absolutely right: We do need to look beyond the iridescent, internal curvature of our Evanston bubble; not only will it help us understand the world around us, but also to appreciate the company we keep.