“Not a Real Democrat” : A Civil Debate with my Republican Cousin

I hail from a rock solid family of ultra-conservative Republicans. In return, I’ve defined myself as the bleeding heart liberal!

Tonight at a small family gathering, I held my own against my ULTRA- conservative Republican cousin. I was surprised and happy when later on, my step-mother commended me for it! She was glad to see that feisty side of me, she said. That I should show it more often. 

That’s the side of me that wrote a newspaper column. I miss that side of me too– I need to reconnect more with her.

My Dad and I crack wise to each other but out of respect don’t get into details because we value our relationship and he is very set in his ways. I know I’m never going to change his mind, so I just accept his good qualities and rib him a bit. 

But my cousin is quite aggressive and really likes to dig in– he was on a mission to prove me wrong. He failed. 

He and my parents and I were sitting at four-top table, my cousin and I directly across from each other. And once we got going, my parents were looking at us, back and forth, like it was a tennis match. A battle of wits, it seemed. My aunt, his mother, stood in the kitchen, observing quietly. Which is rare for her– he inherited his aggression honestly on her side. Later on, my step-mother told me my aunt had expressions of delight when I said a few things to her son that even *she* would never dare say! It takes a lot to intimidate this woman. THAT is a real compliment. 

I didn’t have a bunch of stats to rattle off– I just used logic and my own personal experience. And several times, I silenced him. He would try and throw my own words back at me and present me with two options– neither which applied to my opinion. I called him on twisting my words, and refused both choices. He laughed. 

Which was hilarious to me. My cousin is 20 years older than I, a man who has dedicated his life to business and hard work. He is the ultimate believer in America being “the land of opportunities.” I tried to convey that this is a narrow and naive way to define our country, and that not everyone has the opportunities he assumes they do for a host of reasons.

“I hope you fall in love with a Democrat,” I said. “She’ll be Republican before she gets the ring,” he shot back. 

At some point, he tried to label me as “not a real Democrat.” Because I don’t smoke pot. And all Democrats are just pothead slackers, right?  He asked me to name ONE person who smokes pot regularly that “has a real job.” I told him I know several– who have enviable and solid careers. A lot of my friends are pot-smokers– some are even Republicans. Whoa. 

My family was mystified when I told them a majority of my friends smoke pot, and I don’t. How could I tolerate that?! I’ll tell you– because they accept my decision and don’t pressure me. The ones who did that are no longer in my life. 

I really respect and enjoy the company of my friends, and I don’t define them solely by their pot smoking. I also have plenty of friends who also eschew drugs and so for me, it balances out.

I explained to my family that as for my pot smoking friends, either they don’t smoke it around me, or I get up and move to another part of the room to not breathe it. I don’t let people smoke it in my car. Or if they go outside to smoke, I stay put. If I’m at a party and it’s being passed around, my friends know to just pass it and not offer. If I know there’s going to be so much smoke that it’s unavoidable, I just don’t go to those parties. I generally avoid environments where there will definitely be drugs. But I do draw a boundary. If someone breaks out hard drugs, I’m out of there. When I go out, I don’t go to after hours, when I know everyone will just be getting wasted. I enjoy myself and I go home sober. 

 But tonight I was proud to be standing up for my political beliefs, and for challenging the views of my cousin.

“You keep saying that word, change,” he said. 

And that’s why I’m a Democrat. Because I believe there are new and better ways to do things. Because I like fighting for the underdog. Because I embrace compassion. 

I do believe in change.

I believe people can change, if they want it bad enough. 

I believe in equal opportunity.

I believe in respecting others who may have radically different believes and lifestyles than I do.

I believe in accepting people for who they are, and meeting in the middle over what we have in common.

Yup, I’m a real Democrat. And I still love my Republican family, but they don’t dictate my beliefs.


2 comments on ““Not a Real Democrat” : A Civil Debate with my Republican Cousin

  1. virginiaanne says:

    I hate talking about politics but this doesn’t sound horrible! Good going

    • I usually don’t even try with my family. I’m the quiet one sitting there while everyone else talks. But last night I did and it was great! The surprise on my cousin’s face was perfect. It felt good to show that I’ve got a brain. 🙂

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