Maddy Vonhoff doesn’t see a lot of civil discourse in the national political arena these days, so she decided to try it in her living room.
On Tuesday night, Maddy invited locals to her apartment in Capitol Hill so they could have an honest chat about getting involved in politics in 2017. She called it “Ask a Republican: Civil Discourse in Action.”
Ninety-two percent of Seattle voters did not pick Republican nominee Donald Trump for president. So two of Maddy’s guests stood out: Braedon Wilkerson and Gina Blanchard Reed, who did not themselves vote for Trump, served as GOP national delegates for Washington state.
Maddy hoped that members of the public would come and talk about what members of the Republican party thought about the current political climate. It was an informal conversation. In fact, it was a taco potluck.
The 10 people who came discussed, among other things, how the Republican party is behaving in 2017. One guest, Gabriel Patterson, said that while he completely disagrees with the Trump administration, his issue with the GOP lies in what he sees as the party’s silence or acquiescence in the face of Trump’s more controversial public comments and positions.
Braedon and Gina, neither of whom voted for Trump, said they disagree with their party’s tactics. But this is the political process, they said. And even though they disagree at times, they will follow their party. (To a point: Gina and Braedon were part of the Never Trump movement during the campaign.)
A point Braedon and Gina kept making was this: Republicans have the majority, they won the election, and now everyone has to deal with it.
“The Supreme Court is a perfect example,” Braedon said. “Barack Obama was president of the United States and he had the right and the constitutional authority to appoint somebody to the Supreme Court, but Republicans controlled the U.S. Senate, which was also a provision of the law that they have the right to hear a nominee. You didn’t have the numbers. Period. And so within the structure, the structure worked. The political system worked as it was designed to be. Whether or not we agree with the outcome. That’s how it was designed to work.”
Not everyone in the room liked hearing this, but the conversation stayed civil.
When Maddy looked at the clock at the end of the night, she realized they were 40 minutes over time.
Maddy said she was very happy with how the event turned out. “They weren’t ready for it to be over,” she said. “They were still learning, they were still ruminating on everything they had heard.”
Maddy, who is friends with Braedon, started a community called What’s Next to host conversations like this one. The group believes that exchanging ideas with people who hold different political views “makes us more informed, educated constituents and advocates,” Maddy said.
Maddy plans to get a logo and build a website for What’s Next that’ll be ready to debut this summer. She also plans on creating advocacy and citizen Town Hall toolkits for people around the country to use for their own political activism.
Follow the What’s Next Facebook page for updates, or join the 400-member community here.
Thanks to Charles Wolfe, a student at the University of Washington, for covering the event for The Evergrey via the UW News Lab.
Editor’s Note: We’ve updated this story to add make clear that Republicans Gina and Braedon did not vote for Trump and actively objected to his nomination as part of the Never Trump movement.