GOP friendships strained in the era of Trump

There’s a somewhat less newsy piece at The Hill this week which deals with something many of us are watching play out every day on social media and among our own circles of friends. The phenomenon will be familiar to Republicans and conservatives all across the country. People who either oppose Donald Trump or plan on voting for him are seeing old friendships strained or entirely broken over their differing views. The article covers a number of well known Republicans including Matt Schlapp, Mike DuHaime (a Christie adviser) and David Perdue among others. Old relationships are breaking up, at least for the time being, and making things uncomfortable around DC watering holes. One person who wished to remain anonymous discussed secret Trump supporter meetings which take place in dark bars like something out of an old spy movie.

A senior House Republican staffer who works for a committee chairman doesn’t tell his colleagues that he likes Trump or that he has informally advised the campaign.

“Basically nobody knows what I’ve done,” said the staffer, who asked for anonymity for fear of the impact his views could have on his career. “It’s not something I talk about openly at work, because there are a lot of strong feelings, still, among the staff. People talk openly against the guy.”

He worries it might harm his reputation if colleagues discover he’s a major fan of Trump.

“I always felt that I would be viewed in a different light,” he said. “I think they would have pegged me as being…all the things the media has said about Trump. That he was a racist, a misogynist, a xenophobe.”

Over drinks with colleagues after hours, however, the staffer is finding a growing number of colleagues who also secretly like Trump.

“It’s kind of like you’re doing this little weird sort of dance around it,” he said. “You haven’t admitted to them that you’re supporting the guy and they haven’t admitted to you that they really like the guy.

I only highlight this article because it’s something I’ve been watching play out for a while now. I’ve both seen and experienced cases of friendships and relations with professional acquaintances (or just people I follow on Twitter whose work I enjoy) degrading or even ending this summer. As far as the #NeverTrump folks go – and I count many of them among my frequent contacts – I recognize that they’ve attracted a lot of attention and derision from some of the more acerbic Trump supporters out there who engage in name calling of all sorts and unpleasant virtual attacks. For my part I pretty much gave up engaging with the Never Trumpers early on because I took them at their word. If they had already vowed to never vote for the party’s candidate then it’s a waste of time to try to convince them. It’s time better spent working to defeat Hillary Clinton and finding paths to reach out to undecided voters. I’ve certainly never used the derogatory term “cuck” to anyone, but I see it thrown around a lot.

But let’s not pretend that this is all one sided. Some of the #NeverTrump people I know not only through social media but in real life have been relentless in their verbal assaults, not only on the most enthusiastic Trump supporters, but toward anyone who would vote for the man no matter their reasons. There are many that I’ve moved out of my “closely watched” column and some I’ve simply unfollowed entirely. The fact is that you can only sit there and be insulted day after day – even in a generic way – for so long before you grow tired of it and no longer care to see them in your timeline. That doesn’t apply to all of the #NeverTrump folks of course. Many are happy to join me in going after Hillary and leave our personal Trump voting intentions on the sideline.

But if there’s any positive message to take from this, it’s that I highly doubt it’s a permanent situation. Politics not only makes for strange bedfellows, but for high temperature conflagrations as well. That doesn’t mean that it will last forever. In less than fifty days the election will be over for better or for worse. After that, the world will go back largely to what it was for conservatives before Trump’s arrival on the stage. The common opponent which remains in liberalism will still be a much larger driving factor than any lingering resentment over who did or did not support the nominee in one given election cycle.

As with so many other things… this too shall pass.


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