August 14, 2017

Two Iowa neighbors, a progressive and a conservative, find something to agree on

Todd Mensink voted for Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses and for Jill Stein in the general election. His neighbor Chris Chilson calls himself a constitutional conservative and voted for Donald Trump. Both men agree on one thing: the need for a more civil discussion of politics.

Mensink said he “disagrees with everything [Trump] says” but believes the “resist” movement is wrongheaded.

“I would just kind of like to see him get something done, regardless of who’s president,” he said. “I don’t like this whole ‘our agenda is to make sure somebody doesn’t get re-elected.’ That just seems foolish. You’re serving the party, you’re not serving the country.”

Chilson agreed. “When Obama was in office, there were some [calls to resist] coming from the Republicans too,” he said. “I think when they went out in front of cameras and said, ‘Our goal is to make him a one-term president,’ that didn’t help anything. The rhetoric was just way too negative.”

They both said the parties need to offer positive agendas. “You need to come out with solutions and present them, not just be against something,” Chilson said. “You need to say what you’re for. … [The parties] need to look at where they do have common ground and focus on that.”

The neighbors also felt the media play a role in dividing the public. “I think a big hindrance to [finding common ground is] not only the politicians themselves, but the media,” Chilson said. “They just love that red meat when they’re going after each other. It’s going to get reported on and it should. [But] it kind of drowns out anything else.”

“Especially with 24 hours, MSNBC, Fox News, they’re both guilty of creating this,” Mensink added.

Mensink and Chilson live in the town of Lime Springs, in the northern part of Howard County, which voted for Donald Trump by 21 points four years after voting for Barack Obama by the same margin. The 42-point swing was one of the largest in the country. The neighbors exemplify the political divide in the county. But their relationship is also an example of the type of civil and respectful discourse that’s badly needed today.

“People take it way too personal,” Mensink said. “You can disagree with somebody and still respect them.”

This video was originally featured as a part of the Washington Examiner’s series The Race to 2020: The people and places that will define a presidency. You can read more about Howard County, see more videos, or use the form below to get email updates about future updates.

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