Last week, the Democratic National Convention ended and yesterday the Republican National Convention started. In the midst of all this, I read an article about a small business owner in Virginia Beach that prompted me to think carefully about political affiliation and what it says about us.
“No Democrats allowed”
Jake Hiles owns a charter fishing boat and, according to his company’s website, “You will find Capt. Jake is very good at catching fish, and you will enjoy spending the day with him on [his boat] The Matador.”
Depending on your political affiliation, though, that last part might be false advertising. In a recent video posted to Facebook, Captain Jake announced that Democrats are no longer welcome on his boat.
Why, you might ask, is political party relevant to booking a fishing charter? Hiles explained, “I love America, I love my country, I love God, I support the police, I support our military, and Democrats are not with that, so I refuse to offer my services to Democrats. You can be a Democrat. You just can’t be a Democrat on this boat.”
Do our political parties define us?
If so, national conventions offer an opportunity to clarify just exactly how different we are. Watching both party conventions, then, you ought to be able to see those differences on display. There are, of course, different personalities, platforms, and policy positions, but I’m confident that you’ll hear many of the same sentiments at both conventions.
Captain Jake might not believe them, but Democrats—like Republicans will this week—talked about their love for the United States and for freedom. Both conventions will undoubtedly feature verbal attacks on the other party and its personalities, and speeches at both will highlight their counterparts’ failings.
Meanwhile, back on board The Matador
In an interview with a local news channel, Jake Hiles says he will actually allow Democrats on his boat, as long as “they don’t talk politics.”
Regardless of your political affiliation, that’s probably a sentiment with which you can empathize. Talking politics is often a sure way to cause bad feelings between people, and it turns out that those bad feelings contributed to Captain Jake’s policy. He says he was tired of being treated differently by people after they found out he was conservative.
We all want to be treated with respect. During this election year, we can rely solely on political affiliation to try to understand one another. But if the sentiments expressed during party conventions about love for our country matter more than our love of political affiliation, we should consider the words of Boyd Matheson, editor of the Deseret News, in an op-ed he wrote last week:
It is the recognition and respect of our fellow human beings, humanity and dignity, that helps us transcend “us” and “them” tribalism and form the foundation for a more perfect union. Recognizing our own potential and the inherent goodness and possibilities in others is the path to the soul of the nation.
5 links worth your time
- Va. boat captain sick of defending his political stances not allowing Democrats on board, ABC 13 News (Lynchburg, VA) – Charter fishing company owner Jake Hiles says that his business, Matador Fishing Charters, will no longer serve Democrats. Maybe. Elsewhere, he says he will allow Democrats on board as long as they just don’t discuss politics.
- Does Anyone Really Change Their Votes? Politico – Do political conventions actually affect the way people vote? Do they matter at all? A political scientist who studies the psychology of voters and nonvoters describes what we do (and do not) know about those potential voters who are “undecided.”
- Escaping the Partisan Death Spiral, Cato Policy Report – If you’re up for a longer read and are interested in some historical background, Lee Drutman, senior fellow at the New America Foundation, traces political parties in the United States from the Founding to the present. He explains how (what he calls) the “two-party doom loop” has broken “the political marketplace.”
- No, this election is not a ‘battle for the heart and soul of America,’ Deseret News – During political conventions, we’re likely to hear bold claims about what the election means to our country and who we are. In this piece, Boyd Matheson argues that “the heart and soul of the nation” never belonged to political parties.
- Dreading Election Season? Get 5 Tips for Better Political Conversations, Common Ground Committee – If you just can’t help yourself and want to talk party politics (and find yourself on a fishing charter with someone who disagrees), the co-founders of Living Room Conversations and Bridges USA offer some helpful suggestions for how to have conversations about the topics that divide us.