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“Living in this town, you can’t even express an opposing viewpoint!” says an Ann Arbor Republican.
by Eve Silberman
From the November, 2020 issue
“I don’t even feel like I can say I’m a Republican because the hatred and the intolerance spill over,” says the woman.” I certainly could not
put up a Republican bumper sticker on my car.”
She first agreed to be quoted by name, “to show there are people in this town who are Republicans, and that’s okay.” But after talking it over with family members she changed her mind. Her neighbors “wouldn’t be rude to me” in person, she says, but she was afraid she’d be flamed online.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton got 86 percent of the vote in the city, capping decades of decline for local Republicans. Ingrid Sheldon, the city’s last Republican mayor, left office in 2000, and the last two GOP councilmembers switched parties a few years later. Today’s council is not a big happy family, but it is a Democratic one.
Sheldon and others from her era identified as Milliken Republicans, after the late governor Bill Milliken: fiscally conservative, socially progressive. She says she is not voting for Trump–and adds, “I think anyone who is a Trump supporter is keeping very quiet.”
Yes. Republican National Committee member Rob Steele–whose Facebook profile photo shows him with the president, grinning and giving a thumbs-up–didn’t respond to an email or a call to his office (he’s a cardiologist). Former Republican county commissioner Dan Smith agreed to a phone interview but canceled by email, citing “the extremes that unfortunately exist locally.” The Washtenaw County Republican organization didn’t respond to emails, and, as of mid-October, no longer had a working phone number.
Social worker Samantha Toma emails that she’s “a little nervous to ‘come out'” as a Republican. “I probably would be a pro-life Democrat,” she says, “but they’ve made it clear we’re not welcome.” She finds community instead with her church, Christ the King Catholic parish.
Roger Kuhlman is not afraid to voice his support for Trump in local online forums, though the retired accountant admits he
might be if he were still working. A leftie when he was young (“I went through a period when I thought Lenin was all right”), he now sounds off frequently on what he calls Ann Arbor’s intolerance, and says he’s been banned from nextdoor.com for his contrarian views. “The left-wing activists have become so intolerant it’s frightening,” he says. “The idea that America is dominated by systematic racism and white supremacy is hateful.”
Dentist Doug Hock says that some friends have tried to “shame” him and his wife for their support of Trump. “We tried to tell them it’s not the candidate,” he says. While admitting Trump has “a very abrasive personality,” Hock appreciates his support for “religious freedom, increased manufacturing jobs, [bringing] troops home.” He describes global warming as “a controversial thing.”
Hock believes that “social media and Trump combined to make [political discussions] much more volatile … My wife likes to openly talk about politics. I tell her ‘Be careful, be careful.'”
He says they felt “a good deal of trepidation” when they put out a small Trump/ Pence sign on their front lawn. Persons unknown moved it a couple of times, to places where it was harder to see, but it was not stolen, as he’d feared it might be. And one neighbor “complimented us for having the gumption to put up a sign.”
That neighbor even gave them a second Trump sign–though he suspects that may have been because she was afraid to put it up in her own yard.
On October 29, 2020, J Dougherty wrote:
It is not “hatred and intolerance.” It is impatience and (sometimes) contempt. When trump supporters offer false, often ludicrous, justifications for their support (bringing back manufacturing jobs, which are down due to tariffs, “religious freedom” for Christian evangelicals and right wingers only, “bringing back the troops” when the policies are impulsive, haphazard, and destabilizing) it seems the roots of their support are elsewhere in trumps thoroughly corrupt and authoritarian character.
As for bans, the only ones I’ve seen are for any dive language and posting of debunked claims, often about COVID or lies about trump’s “enemies.”
On October 29, 2020, Edilsa D-Ruíz wrote:
Hi, I don’t think republicans should be worried in Ann Arbor. I think we are all entitle to have our candidates. If, Trump has been a good citizen nobody will be so unhappy with his job as president of this country, even outside the US he is not considered a right fit, and many had asked how the country elected him. People in other states had been attacked by republicans who don’t like the Biden signs, even we have a friend that a car ran over their garden to pass over and destroy their Biden sign. Others signs got stolen and people are afraid to put out their signs. All because this president has promoted hate and fear instead of peace and love.
Peace to all of you!
On October 29, 2020, MJ Olsen wrote:
“because the hatred and the intolerance spill over” I wish this statement were not so general — as it stands it gives the impression that should I express disagreement with her political views that would be seen as “hatred and intolerance”. Nor do I know any Democrats that would not welcome “pro-life” Democrats — or does this comment narrowly confine itself to anti-abortion instead of meaning pro-life in the wider sense? As for the man who said “The left-wing activists have become so intolerant it’s frightening,” he says. “The idea that America is dominated by systematic racism and white supremacy is hateful.” Is he actually saying that ‘the idea’ is hateful rather than the practice? As for Mr. Hock, who “appreciates [Trump’s]support for “religious freedom”, I would refer him to the actual definitions of those words: religious freedom: the right to choose what religion to follow and to worship without interference and without punishment from the government; versus bigot: a person who is intolerant of any ideas other than his or her own, esp on religion, politics, or race. Nor does any educated person today seriously consider the climate crisis “a controversial thing” — and the evidence for that is easily available for anyone who cares to read it. And as a mild person who loves people as well as scholarship, I must say I’m getting terribly tired of being characterized as “extreme, hateful, intolerant” etc. Why is the Observer giving a platform to this kind of divisive nonsense?
On October 29, 2020, Ed Kimball wrote:
“The idea that America is dominated by systematic racism and white supremacy is hateful.” Yes, it is hateful. Unfortunately, the “systemic racism” part is also true.
On October 30, 2020, Annie Bacon wrote:
What the anonymous Ann Arbor Republican who cited the “intolerance” of liberals in her statements to the Observer is missing is context. To her, these are simply political views. To me, for example, her support of Trump communicates to me that she does not think my transgender friends deserve access to healthcare, or that my gay friends’ marriages should be legal, or that my Black friends deserve equal protection under their own government, or that my immigrant friends deserve to live in the country they’ve called home for decades, or that my son deserves any effort to prevent the climate disasters that almost certainly await him, or that my mother deserves any of the social security money my father worked for until the morning he died this year, or that my immunocompromised friends deserve protection from a little-known deadly virus, or that my friends who have suffered through the worst of COVID-19 are telling the truth … this list goes on.
If we turn our backs on those who wish to harm the ones we love, that can hardly be called “intolerance.” I think what this neighbor is confusing for intolerance is actually the formation of a protective barrier from the well-established harm of her ideas, not that they are different from our own.