A haven for political junkies

EH gary johnson

Conversations about Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson appear regularly in the author’s online political group, as do debates about health care, GMOs, minorities, countries with bombs and guns.

By Elizabeth Hovde

Like most people who use social media, I started seeing a lot of Facebook posts about politics early this year. At times, they even outweighed posts about cute kids and cats. I knew I would need to take drastic measures.

Not only was I becoming tempted to respond to these posts, I found myself wanting to share news items or opinions I found insightful. This was trouble. I’m usually a political minority among my friends — and in the Northwest. I’ve written an opinion column for a newspaper for 20 years. I usually talk about those columns with zero of my closest friends. That’s best for all of us, and I have readers who indulge me with political discussion.

To continue to preserve my friendships and keep from becoming what I’ve always tried to avoid — the friend or family member you don’t want to bring up politics around — I knew what needed to be done. I joined an online group of political junkies who talk politics all  the time with reckless abandon.

No cute kid pictures or links to pigs walking cats. (Really. See for yourself. I saw this posted at least five times:)

Only pigs walking Trump would have had more staying power in my newsfeed that week.)

Most people in this politically interested circle weren’t friends when they arrived. They might have known one or two other contributors in a past or current life somehow, but they were not well connected, live in different parts of the country or world and wear different political stripes. Best of all, their political discussion was about more than just Hillary, Trump and Bernie. Ahhhh.

At first, I only watched the banter and barbs. I liked what I saw. Most of these people were my people!

I thought they only existed in editorial board meetings or in pre-2010 legislatures. They were the type of people you could debate with for hours and then meet for a beer, without a side of grudge or drama.  They weren’t afraid or sorry to say what they thought. They didn’t shut up when someone told them they should. They took insults, shrugged and came back for more. There isn’t a lot of dwelling, and posts in this group really only have a daily, or hourly, shelf-life. There is always a new issue or candidate to haggle over within the hour.

I’m pleased with the timing of this group in my life. With less column space available to me and newspapers “changing,” I’m having to decide again what to be when I grow up.

It’s much harder this time around than when I was 20. I’m now a 40-something single mom who needs a reliable, living-wage job to keep my kids in their beds at night. (I used to have one of those. That was cool.) And column writing has spoiled me. I love researching and writing about politics and social issues. I’m passionate about furthering discussion and building bridges with others. I’m addicted to learning new things and often learn most from my political opposition.

I met this Facebook group of political nerds (I call them that with admiration) at a good time. They’ve helped show me there can be interesting political debate and discussion for me when my column writing has to end.

The desire to keep doing something I love for work has led me to believe I should be a florist, a recreational therapist or a chef — three professions for which I have absolutely no qualifications. My resume is full of entries about my experience in an industry that is changing in ways that make it unrecognizable to many writers. I’m writing a book and thinking about blogs, but they don’t promise an income I can work with.

Trying to find the next right fit, I have written press releases, grants and website copy. I have taken on emergency substitute teaching in local, public schools. I’ve brainstormed a house-cleaning business I could start when my kids go back to school so I can continue to accommodate the hours in which they need an adult. If I did that, I could at least listen to OPB, play loud music and think of good points to make in my all-political, all-the-time Facebook group when I get home.

I can only offer so many emoticon reactions to pigs walking cats, after all.

Photograph: Katie Frates, The Daily Caller


Elizabeth Hovde writes for The Oregonian and takes other random contract gigs. She’s a mom of two boys. Currently, one likes her and one doesn’t. She believes nachos should be eaten at least weekly.

Editor’s note:  I got to know Elizabeth when I edited her columns as the Sunday Opinion Editor at The Oregonian. Though our politics differ, that doesn’t lessen the friendship that has grown from our professional relationship. Few people I know are as genuine as her.

Tomorrow: Tim Akimoff, Night on the Kahawai


16 thoughts on “A haven for political junkies

  1. Elizabeth, how about a gig as a tv network political pundit or a campaign spokesperson? Even better, run for public office. However, you might have to quit doing in-depth research before you speak.

    • That sounds great, Bob. Radio, I’d love. I keep my eyes open. I realize I might have too many words floating out there from the past 20 years to ever attempt a political run. My opposition would have a hey-day taking me out of context. I say stuff and believe things.
      Thanks for the compliment about in-depth research. I don’t know how people can have an opinion without it!

  2. I’ve said it many times. I pine for the days of Ronald Reagan. Compared to our current crop of Republicans, they were very thoughtful and mostly governed well. When I was a kid, no one cared all that much whether you were one party or the other, you just wanted the best person. Tom McCall was a Republican! Vic Atiyeh was a Republican, and one of the last really good governors (though I wasn’t crazy about him at the time). Gary Johnson is looking pretty good. I certainly wish he was running as a Republican. I always enjoyed talking politics with you Liz, and reading your columns. I wish you were in the paper more. The Columbian seems like it would be a good fit for you. I read their opinion section religiously.

    • Thanks, John! I would be welcome to write a column for The C — for free or once in awhile for inadequate pay for the time involved in writing a column. My newspaper career is unlikely to be stable or offer a livable wage any more. There is one opinion writer manning the Columbian opinion ship now. They did not even replace the letters editor who retired after three-plus decades this year. I hurt for him and the skeleton crew at The O.

  3. Here’s a thought for you. Write for Gurgaon. Not Oregon, but close. That’s a tech city in India. Newspapers seem to flourish in other countries. In Nairobi it was like 50 pages thick. I remember listening to the Voice of America when I was a kid and there was always this “Letter from America” by Alistair Cooke. I’m sure the world would like you!

    • Isn’t that wild? I was in Canada this summer for a few days and read the Victoria paper. I couldn’t just enjoy it; I had to make a list while reading it of all the maybe-differences I saw. Some day, I’ll be able to read a paper or hear radio news without taking issue or production notes, making a list of questions or writing a quick paragraph of what I think is interesting or clever commentary . I wonder if George is there yet?! If you see this, George, do tell!

      • E — I think journalism is so thoroughly embedded in my bones that I can’t help but read anything and everything with a critical but constructive eye. I’m repeatedly impressed by the quality of work I see — most often that done by legacy media organizations, but also increasingly that done by web-only sites. I appreciate it when a story is deeply sourced and it’s organized and written well.

        At the same time, I see too much click-bait material that is thinly reported or exaggerates a single element. End result in either case: no depth, no context, no reason to return to that site.

        What has changed is my move away from an OregonLive-centric approach to one that is more brand-agnostic. That’s not a diss on my former employer but more a move toward where everyone else is: Quality is quality no matter where you find it.

        And in that vein, I pass along a great daily newsletter recommended to me by my brand-agnostic neighbor:

        A great read that arrives in your mailbox around 1 pm weekdays.

  4. Thanks for another reminder of why I am glad my career took me in another direction from my J degree. Being a hard-core news junkie, I still take the O (print) daily, paying a crazy monthly fee over here in Rockaway Beach, but it seems like I need to do this to breathe. Does that make sense? I did see that you were cut back to monthly and that sucked, but it goes with the shrinking number of pages I pay that ghastly amount for.

    I like pigs and cats walking, really, and i’m trying harder to fill my FB feed with cats and dogs over Trump memes. I think it’s been weeks now since I’ve posted one … and the twitching has nearly stopped. 😉

  5. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but ten years ago I wanted to be a journalist for a while. My career coincided with the emergence of Facebook and Twitter, and I was able to make an amazing career out doing really fun and adventurous things for a decade. Now that I’ve left journalism to the really dedicated people who should be paid and appreciated far more than they are, I’m having fun looking around me at how people are getting their information. Podcasts, Vlogs, newsletters, if there is the smallest interest in a topic, it probably has any number of these platforms around it. I’ve always believed that newspaper columns were among the most important parts of the paper. Providing several sides to a single issue and giving columnists the time to sit down and invest in their communities provided something that simple news storie often don’t, and that’s context. I’ve been thinking about what the digital equivalent of newspaper columns is, and the more I think about it, the more I think it needs to be reinvented. Built from the ground up for a new generation of digital news consumers. I don’t reply see the specifics, but I see outlines of what it could be. Too much for a reply on this blog, but I’d be happy to chat it up with you at some point if you like.

    Oh, and nachos. Yes. Weekly at least.

  6. I have to be honest and admit that when it comes to the annual VOA, your piece is the one that I look forward to reading. How clever of George to wait until August 30 to publish it, guaranteeing my sustained readership right to the end! Year after year, your writing is easy to characterize in a single word… honest. Thank you for being so willing to share of your imperfect self to all of us who are imperfect as well. How counter-intuitive that humility has such a power to inspire!

  7. Always good to see your piece! I’m pleased to learn such a place of respectful banter regarding politics exists on the internet and that you have found a haven there. Best of luck to you as you continue on your journey to decide what you want to be when you grow up.

    • Thank you, Nike. Today, I saw two men swearing at each other in debate there! I wanted to write, “Settle down, men. I don’t want you storming off! AND I just wrote about how y’all don’t freak out! Don’t make me a liar.” I didn’t write that, counting on the post to get trumped by something else. (No pun intended. That man has ruined how much I like to use that word!)

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