By Elizabeth Hovde
Fall was hard. I lost some friends after opposing a teacher strike and writing my newspaper column about it. Showing up to picket lines with questions instead of doughnuts was not welcome. And years of volunteer support and crafting cocktails for my kids’ teachers wasn’t enough to insulate some relationships.
Shortly thereafter, I was off-the-charts disappointed in what I saw as #BelieveWomen laziness. In the rush to say women should be valued and respected, we did some harm. I raise two middle-school boys busy becoming men. They’re watching. And they heard they’re not to be believed. Women are.
When I expressed frustration while hearing a man-bash in process, I was treated like I had betrayed my gender. My beliefs were ridiculed, even around a campfire with some of my oldest friends.
Then in October, I took a public and colleagues’ lashing after talking with an activist many of us were writing about — but, in many cases, not actually speaking to. I lost more friends. Piles of research and first-hand inquiry did not spare me from the verbal flogging. Local politicians even weighed in with disdain.
The result of the fall season? I feel more isolated and conservative than I ever have. That troubles me.
I’ve always felt center-right in this liberal land. I cycle, hike and drink craft beer, which has allowed me to play reindeer games with a lot of people whose politics I don’t share. I listen to and read mainstream and left-leaning news, avoiding conservative pundits so I can better think my own right-leaning thoughts. I have a fairly obsessive Oregon Public Broadcasting habit. Like others, I often sit in my driveway to finish listening to guests interviewed on Think Out Loud. I’ve even been one of those guests — again, allowed to play reindeer games.
The vast majority of my friends are liberal. Of course they are! I grew up and live in a liberal land where the biggest minority is an ideological one. Conservatives don’t grow on trees. I also worked in and wrote for newspapers for 24 years, hitting a 10-year mark for The Oregonian this year. My column was discontinued shortly after my head was hunted when I wasn’t saying what others were about a polarizing figure.
In my experience, it’s true that conservatives in newsrooms are as rare as preteens who don’t like Fortnite. It’s also true in my experience that despite wide disagreement on issues, newsroom employees usually agree on going out together after work, learning from each other, sharing laughs at parties and finding common ground. Some of my greatest supporters and friends have been liberals I spent time with in a newsroom.
I didn’t support Trump or Obama. I am anti-death penalty and anti-abortion, even if I would leave Roe v. Wade on the books. Because of my Purple Party tendencies, I’d be considered a liberal in the South. I was when I lived there for a short stint in the ‘90s. In Portland, however, I’m often labeled “right wing” and called things like “the Northwest Ann Coulter” — when I’m not being called an “idiot” by the “tolerant, inclusive” left, that is.
President Trump gets a lot of blame for the way members of the media are treated. He should. He often says, irresponsibly, that reporters and columnists are unprofessional losers. Poor form, Mr. President. But be assured: Some of us were treated as enemies of the state in the Clinton, Bush and Obama years, too. I have plenty of hate mail to prove it.
Feeling more conservative than ever concerns me, and it should concern liberals, too. I believe Trump was elected in 2016 in large part because right-leaning people were being kicked in a corner, called stupid and told that their opinions were unwelcome. Those beatings seem worse than ever now.
As Trump continues hitting below the belt, people like Former Attorney General Eric Holder are joining him. He’s said Former First Lady Michelle Obama got it wrong. Instead of the wise encouragement she gave to go high when others go low, Holder said, “No. No. When they go low, we kick them.”
With all the kicking, on both sides, I worry we’re sending more conservatives into bubbles of unchallenged conservative thought, leaving those who lean left in liberal-only bubbles to nod in unison without interruption. Less growth. Less learning.
I hope we find our way to higher ground soon. The view is way better up there. And you get to keep your friends.
Elizabeth Hovde is a recent Oregonian columnist. One of those “greatest supporters” she mentioned in this writing was her editor of several years, George Rede. He knows how to find common ground, Hovde says, and she is forever grateful.
Editor’s note: Elizabeth is a longtime colleague and friend who, like me, has gone from traditional journalism to adjunct college teaching. We’ve confronted similar challenges in the newsroom and classroom and shared strategies that we hope will engage the newest generation of students. I admire her energy, her grit and hustle, and her determination to keep an open mind in the face of way too many trolls.
Tomorrow: Eric Wilcox | Falling from the sky