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Beyond The Evanston Liberal Bubble

Following an election that divided the country, Patch columnist Christine Wolf wonders whether we have insulated ourselves too much in Evanston when it comes to politics?

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.

Lyn Warner November 18, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I was born and raised in Evanston. When I returned here after being away for 27 years I was appalled at how the city, the environment, the very air had changed here and not for the better. At one point in time ETHS was one of the top schools in the country. The teachers taught us to ask the question 'why' and to look beyond the surface for what is really happening. There may be 'diversity' here but not as far as thinking goes, it seems that everyone thinks the same way except for a few brave souls that understand what true diversity is and take the time to ask the question 'why' and 'what's really going on here?' This used to be a great place to live but not any more. Business are fleeing this town as fast as they can. Downtown is no longer a fun place to go on Saturdays. And it's Dykie Stadium not Ryan Field. Good grief this place is such a disappointment and small minded and in a bubble.
Steve Newberger November 19, 2012 at 12:57 AM
My original point: we've changed utterly since 1958. Refreshingly progressive modernism has supplanted rock-ribbed Republican narrow-mindedness. Whole Foods has replaced Smithfield's. I will never forget reading a story in the weekly paper of that era, describing the subject of the story as a newcomer: she'd lived here 15 years! No one should mourn the old Evanston; everyone is better off in today's Evanston. And folks, if you don't believe that, put yourself where your (often regrettably snarky) words are (and, shotguns, apparently), and run for election.
John November 19, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Just a random thought, but for those who have stated thoughts (negative or positive) whether democrat or republican, what would happen to these sentences if we changed the word democrat to Christian or the word republican to Jewish or republican to Asian and democrat to Afro American and the word progressive Latino? Re-read some of these postings and it is scary. For instance Mr. Newberger's post (for example, if we switch Republican for Asian) would read, "...supplanted rock-ribbed Asian narrow-mindedness..." Or, E Moran's "...anyone but a Democrat" changing Democrat to Latino becomes,"...anyone but a Latino" Do we realize how this sounds? Do we realize how intolerant we have become regarding diversity of thought? Does this make for a welcoming tolerant community?
Steve Newberger November 21, 2012 at 01:17 AM
John, and note, John, that I am not bashful about my full identity here, if you are unhappy with the tone of discourse on this site, reading Rupert Murdoch's papers and columnists, watching his Fox News, and listening to Rush Limbaugh must leave you truly nauseous. Me too, actually, about those things. I really don't believe my comments come close. I'm actually quite tolerant. Unfortunately, the other side doesn't seem to be.
John November 21, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Sorry if I offended you Steve. My point was while Evanston celebrates diversity of culture and faith it doesn't celebrate diversity of thought. It would be great if we realized that there are extremes in faith and culture and there are extremes in political thought. 98% of republicans in Evanston are reasonable thoughtful people and 98% of all democrats are reasonable thoughtful people. There are valid thoughts that come from both democrats and republicans. The extreme 2% (whether politics or culturally) are always polarizing. My only wish is for Evanston to embrace diversity of thought with the same verve that Evanston embraces faith and culture. It would be great to see republican yard signs viewed with the same respect as democrat yard signs (the classic for us was when our Brady for governor sign was run over by a mom pushing a stroller!). For what it's worth I listen to Mark Belling on AM1130...Have a great Thanksgiving.

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