My Christmas truce in political war

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I do not celebrate Christmas, but I do enjoy the traditions. So this is what I am giving myself this holiday. I am taking a Donald Trump supporter to lunch. I am not sure who it will be, and I will gladly accept nominations. We will schedule it after the New Year, at a Long Island diner, where even agreeable conversation is excessively noisy. It is my Christmas truce.

I want to end the gerrymandering of my mind. Much has been written about the sociopolitical trench warfare in which we live. As a result of partisan redistricting, residential sorting patterns, and the transformation of many cable news programs into tribal whooping, America has entered a new “continental divide.” It is not just pro-Trump versus anti-Trump or even red versus blue. We are undergoing a mass migration of opinions. The real impenetrable border wall is the one separating us ideologically.

{mosads}Too many of us wake up in the morning and get our fix of high calorie confirmation bias by turning on our favorite news program. Then we go to work and associate with people who disproportionately lean toward our own views. Later, to use the exquisite metaphor by David Wasserman, we might go to dinner at either a Whole Foods or a Cracker Barrel. Then, the last thing we hear before drifting to sleep is more political preaching before we wake up the next day and do it all again.

Rarely is there room for a dissenting view. If we happen to hear one, we clench our fists and hunch our shoulders in a primitive defense of our tribal truths. We are not a melting pot. We are two angry conflicting echo chambers. So I declare my own truce. I want an ideological demilitarized zone. I am inviting a Trump supporter to lunch. I want to understand why you loved him when he insisted that his border wall would be funded by Mexico and love him just as much now that he insists it be funded by you.

I suspect you will want to know why many progressives have criticized the “Forever Wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan. You will want to know why they now rail against the decision Trump made to withdraw troops. I think I can explain. We will have so many questions for each other! I suggest that you also do the same. Adjust the right and left balance knob in your minds if only for a day. Instead of being ticked off, try to understand what makes someone with whom you disagree tick. Do not go in trying to prove a point. Do not go in seeking to proselytize. It is fine to begin and end with irreconcilable opinions. Maybe then you will learn what is behind them.

A few days ago, I tried a similar experiment. This one was online. I posted on Facebook my desire to understand why Trump supporters did not feel betrayed by his promise that Mexico would pay for the border wall. I received the typical responses from the left and the right. A Trump voter accused me of transforming my community into “Little El Salvador.” A progressive wrote that “Trump supporters will never get it.” But hidden among the reactive responses were a few kernels of genuine debate.

My Christmas truce is declared. No angry posts. No online diatribes. Just an invitation. If you support the president and want to have a civilized lunch to share some thoughts, email me at I will select one person. (Diners here are not cheap!) We will break bread and nothing else. I will pay for lunch and a nice holiday tip for our server. We will disagree on most issues. But maybe we will also understand. Truce?

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist whose latest book is “Big Guns.” You can follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael and Facebook @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags Christmas Democrats Donald Trump Government Republicans Steve Israel

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