Republican Like Me: A Lifelong Democrat's Journey Across the Aisle by Kenneth Stern
We Would All Be Better Off Doing Less Finger-Pointing And More Listening To The Other Side
In REPUBLICAN LIKE ME, lifelong Democrat Kenneth Stern goes on a brave adventure: Attend lots of conservative events for 1 year. This means going to conservative churches, learning how to shoot guns, attending Tea Party rallies—and even chatting with Steve Bannon.
Prior to his 1-year adventure, the author admits he held many of the stereotypes about conservatives. He didn’t associate with conservatives, he didn’t like them—and neither did any of his friends. In his neighborhood, he could not find a single Republican.
The author is quite frank about his political leanings: “I detest Fox News, and the very sight of Mitch McConnell’s hound-dog, jowly face irritates me. “
So why are the partisan barriers so strong? It’s because we don’t even talk to the other side: “We are increasingly participating in groupthink. When all the people you know, when all the people in your political sect agree with you, it becomes easy to relax in the certainty that you and your cohort are right.” The author makes this frank admission: “When we don’t hear from them, when we don’t talk to them, when we can demonize them to our heart’s content.”
Well, that all changed when the author left his bubble. He acknowledges that associating with Conservatives for a year really changed his perspective. The other side is a lot more like him than he thought: “We are not nearly as different from them as we like to think we are.”
There’s a much bigger point that the author emphasizes: It doesn’t take an entire year to change perspective, and soften partisan rigor. Mr. Stern cites a study with eye-popping implications. Professor Samara Klar, at the University of Arizona, wanted to see how easily partisan walls could be overcome. She discovered that folks of opposite political beliefs could begin to reach common ground in just a few minutes of conversation.
The author summarizes this surprising finding: “Klar’s research opens a little window of hope, that if we spend a little time we each other, if we venture outside our bubbles, we might see things a little differently.”
So all in all, I found REPUBLICAN LIKE ME to be a fun read. The author writes well, and tells a good story. He is a brave man for admitting he was living in a partisan “bubble,” and being willing to listen to people he disagrees with. He sums up his adventure: “If the year has taught me anything, it is that none of us has a monopoly on the right ideas and none of us has a superior claim on values.