I’m a recovering Conservative and proud of it!

Smile when you say that … in a Living Room Conversation

By Alan O’Hashi

Being from Wyoming, when it comes to political party identification, you pretty much have to be a Republican. I self-identified as a Republican starting in 1968. That was the year I paid attention to my first presidential election. Most of my friends were from Republican families.

In a politically homogenous culture like Wyoming, I didn’t think to seek out diverse discussions. In 1972, my first presidential vote was for Richard Nixon, and I’m still atoning for that.

When I lived in Wyoming, I hung out with Republicans, some of my good friends are Republicans, but I avoid talking about politics. This summer, I was at my 50th high school class reunion, and nobody mentioned politics. I’m guilty of avoidance to maintain harmony, but that doesn’t bring anyone together.

If only people would get over themselves and be open to diverse perspectives. Latter-day politics are divisive at best. If it’s not disagreements about whether to take cow dewormer or not, it’s arguments about whether or not it’s Trump’s fault or Biden’s fault for getting out of Afghanistan.

Regardless, it isn’t easy to get Conservative and Progressive people to sit down and talk. The conversation is tough when trying to reason while sifting through perceptions about half-truths and outright lies.

Nonetheless, people have common ground. Much of that is understanding the lingo of your counterparts.

I volunteer for a nonprofit organization called Living Room Conversations (LRC). LRC offers a variety of discussion topics and a facilitated approach. The idea is to bring together diverse perspectives to talk about tough issues in a very safe setting.

Back when I was a Republican in Name Only (RINO), the Wyoming political climate started to change. Wyoming was always a “Purple State,” with at least one, if not more, of the statewide officeholders being Democrats. Getting kicked out of the party in 1988 for supporting a Democrat for U.S. Senate was a symptom of that.

Presidential candidates used to campaign in Wyoming because it was once a competitive state.

Getting the boot turned out for the best. I intentionally exposed myself to progressive lines of thought, and even in Wyoming, I learned that Progressives and Conservatives have more in common than they think.

One of my missions now is to be in a conversation with a bunch of Conservative people. A few months ago, I joined an LRC group to discuss gun control on a Zoom call that originated on the Western Slope of Colorado in the 3rd Congressional District, one of the most conservative CDs in the United States.

“Surely, there will be some conservatives in that conversation,” I thought to myself.

Was I mistaken. It turned out that I — the liberal from Wyoming — had the staunchest 2nd Amendment gun rights perspective compared to the others. I learned from that conversation that even though we may label ourselves as liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, we have views in common that we might not otherwise learn until we sit down with someone.

Just participating in the discussion was an icebreaker.

My challenge is for other Conservative people, or recovering Conservatives like myself, to join together in a Living Room Conversation around a hot topic. We may have more fun than we think!

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