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Mullane: Snap out of it — ending friendship over Trump is dumb

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Is Trump responsible for Capitol riot, break-in?

The consensus is angry Trump supporters followed the president’s suggestion to storm the People’s House.

Phil Gianficaro and JD Mullane, Bucks County Courier Times

The two women were political opposites, one a conservative Republican, the other a liberal Democrat, but the differences didn’t matter until Donald Trump became president, and their 40-year friendship abruptly ended. 

“Haven’t heard a peep from her since,” said the Republican, a former newsroom colleague. 

It must bother you.  

“Not really,” she said. “Why do you say that?” 

This is the third time you’re telling me the story. 

“Oh,” she said. “Third time? Well, I guess it does bother me. When I think about it, it doesn’t make me cry, it just makes me say ‘Wha-a-a?’” 

She asked to keep her name out, in the small chance of reconciliation.  

“I don’t want her to feel awkward,” she said.

Call it Trump Estrangement Syndrome. It’s more common than you might think.

You may be experiencing it, in a friendship or within your family. An Ipsos/Reuters poll showed that after Trump’s 2016 election, 16% of those surveyed said they had ended a friendship or quit talking to a family member. The Atlantic reported in March that, nearly five years later, hard feelings persist between Trump supporters and Trump loathers.    

“I can’t believe she just dropped me over what – politics?” said my old colleague. “We always joked about politics. How is who you vote for more important than a long friendship?” 

One explanation is evolutionary. Over the last few decades, American social scientists have tracked the expansion of political affiliation to include “our social identity, our morals, our values,” The Atlantic reports. Voting isn’t just politics anymore. It’s a moral statement that, in some cases, is so sclerotic it ruptures family ties and friendships. 

The two women met in the newsroom in the 1970s and became friends. The friendship grew tight. Lunches. Outings to the Jersey Shore. Each always happy to see the other to swap stories and share laughs. 

“I was in her wedding. Our families vacationed together. We went to Cape Cod, I took my two kids with me. It was so much fun. The memories are really great,” she said. 

“Just because of the nature of my work, most of my friends were Democrats, and active Democrats. (Former Bucks County Democratic Commissioner) Lucille Trench was a great friend of mine. Back then that difference was never an issue with me, and it wasn’t an issue with them. Then all of a sudden along comes Donald Trump, and things changed.  

“I realized things were different when I got the impression that people who didn’t like Trump actually believe he’s the embodiment of evil, the personification of it. He’s a racist and a Nazi, just like Hitler. And you can’t change their mind.” 

Her friend believed these things, and there was no wiggle room.   

“Look, I never liked Trump’s tweeting insults, the snark, but I liked his policies, especially on the economy,” she said. “We used to have the wisdom in this country to separate the man’s weaknesses from his policies.” 

As Americans did with Bill Clinton, even as Republicans impeached him.  

She has been in politics and around politicians and their supporters for years. Emotions run high, but then the election’s over, passions cool, and everyone moves on. But not after Trump.     

“We made plans to go out to lunch the Friday after the election (in 2016),” she said. “But then she sent me an email the day after the election and said something came up, and she couldn’t make it. I assumed she had a doctor’s appointment or something. I didn’t assume anything negative.” 

She emailed back to reschedule lunch. 

“I didn’t hear back from her,” she said.  

“So I called and left a message. I asked, ‘What happened? Where are you?’” 

No response.  

Two weeks later, she made another call. Again, nothing. Birthday and Christmas cards stopped. Four years later, the stony silence continues. 

“It’s like I’m dead,” she said. “She hated Trump. Despised him. And because I didn’t share her feelings, she thinks I must be like that, too. 

“That’s when I realized the polarization you hear so much about in the country hit home. I was experiencing it. Still am,” she said. 

She blames Trump, in part.   

“He played into it, the polarization. The divisive stuff,” she said. “Trump’s egotism, his narcissism, whatever you want to call it, it really rubs people the wrong way.” 

As for her old friend: “I miss her.” 

So what to do? This is what happens when politics is treated as a spectator sport. So, retreat from cable news and talk radio, both dead end cul-de-sacs of conventional thought. Rediscover the civic wisdom that used to be passed from grownups to young people: Never, ever discuss politics or religion. It’s respect.   

Estrangements over Trump are foolish. Among family or between friends, consider the milestones missed, the joys unmultiplied, the griefs undivided. 

Snap out of it. Make the call, send the note. Keep trying. Years pass quickly and one day it’s too late.  

Columnist JD Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or at jmullane@couriertimes.com