For the first time in my life, we’ll be four generations strong for the same candidate—but all for different reasons.
MICHIGAN—Michigan v. Michigan State. Politics.
Those are the two subjects guaranteed to fire up a lively debate in my family.
But this year, for the first time ever, my family is not debating who should be our next president. All four living generations—from my 86-year-old grandma to my 20-year-old son—we are united in voting for Joe Biden. And each for completely different reasons.
Now, maybe you are in a family that has voted along the same party lines and this does not seem that remarkable. For us, it is.
Growing Up Republican
My earliest political memory is my mom taking me to a Ronald Reagan rally in Detroit when I was 11 years old. After that experience, I was hooked on politics, and our family became steeped in volunteering for Republican candidates and campaigns.
In high school, I was the vice chairman of the Macomb County Teenage Republicans, and in college, I interned in Washington, DC for a Republican Congressman.
But as I did that internship, I would listen to the conversations taking place among Republican staffers, and in my gut, they felt wrong.
They would often make fun of poor people who needed assistance when it was obvious that so many of these staffers never knew what it was like to struggle financially. They were young adults who had never wanted for any material thing in their life, but they still seemed so sure if it were they who were educated in a school without enough books, they would have still managed to “figure it out.”
When they talked about the importance of our military, it was never about increasing the soldiers’ pay or improving care for veterans. It was always about building bigger and more lethal weapons.
I started to realize the Republican Party did not value the same things I did.
And so I would start to vote Democrat.
I remember being so nervous to tell my parents. Even though I was already in my mid-twenties, I had to get up the strength to say the words “I’m not a Republican anymore.”
Embracing Democratic Values and Passing Them Down
Twenty years later—and after many heated family holiday dinners—two of my sons will, for the first time, get to cast their vote together for president.
My oldest son Gage, 26, followed in my footsteps of loving politics. When he was in fourth grade, he played 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry for the school mock debate. He is now an attorney and thinks about possibly running for office someday.
I asked him why he is voting for Biden. True to being a lawyer by nature, he emailed me back a thoughtful essay with detailed, nuanced opinions, focusing on the importance of the Supreme Court and other judicial court appointees chosen by our next president. It’s his belief that Biden will surround himself with people who understand progressive policies and America’s need for them.
Equally important to him is integrity.
“Biden’s character reflects the good in people,” he wrote to me. “He will put the values of our nation ahead of his own interests.”
River, 20, is excited about voting in his first presidential election. He has followed the campaigns with intensity and often tells me about the passionate discussions he and his friends are having in group text messages.
He surprised me by stating his top reason for liking Joe Biden was Biden’s commitment to providing more funding for Title 1 schools. River hopes it will help kids who live in low-income school districts. He recently spent a year working in a school in Flint and he saw up close the educational disparities that exist based solely on your zip code.
River had actually hoped for a woman president this election, but thinks Sen. Kamala Harris as vice president is a good step in moving the country towards bringing equality to our nation’s highest office.
We all share this confidence in Democratic core values with my 86-year-old grandma—a Macomb County resident who is not shy about expressing her distaste for President Donald Trump.
She and my grandpa, who passed away many years ago, were a strong union-supporting family. My grandpa worked in the factories and she worked at a day care. She believes in putting working-class families first.
Trump: The Turning Point for My Republican Parents
For my mom, a Reagan Republican, this election is about health care. As a result of an accident 10 years ago, she is paraplegic. Her quality of life revolves around the healthcare system. She recognizes the importance of protecting the Affordable Care Act and the devastating impact it would be for so many families if it was ended under President Trump.
It’s my dad, though, who is our biggest family victory and the very reason I can share this story.
Although he grew up in a union house, he embraced the traditionally conservative views of lower taxes and small government. He is a numbers guy and the economics touted by Republicans has always made sense to him.
But then came President Donald Trump.
My dad supported him in 2016 because he thought he was a successful businessman who would minimize regulation, lower taxes, and keep the stock market strong. But it was really the never-ending antics, President Trump’s verbal abuse of everyone around him, and his inability to handle a crisis that have made it impossible for my dad to vote for him.
He is also disappointed in fellow Republicans who have failed to stand up to Trump.
When I ask my dad who he thinks could potentially put the Republican Party back together again, he responds with a sigh and shakes his head. He believes the party is in such shambles it will take years to be fixed.
Even though he will never admit it, I have watched my dad grow gentler—and in turn, kinder—in his views of the world in the past few years. He has seen the tragic effects that hate speech, racism, instability in the healthcare system, and inequality in education have on real people. On Americans.
He will probably always be more conservative than me, but we have come together to vote for a better nation now.
And every time I think of my family, all united behind voting for a president who will start to heal the divisions in this country and fix the mess we are in, it makes my heart burst with joy.
Now we can go back to arguing about who will win the Michigan-Michigan State game this year.