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Spencer Rendahl: Outside The Bubble

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl
Vehement political disagreement is visible in this damaged campaign sign.

I have friends in liberal bubbles - like Brooklyn, Boston, and Berkeley - who claim they’ve never personally met a Donald Trump supporter. I tell them that in my neighborhood, Trump supporters are as close as the school bus stop. 2016 election data recently mapped by The New York Times supports my claim. The data shows that Trump won New Hampshire's Sullivan County, where I live, by three percentage points. The rest of the state is similarly mixed. Far northern Coos County went for Trump, and Grafton County, home of Dartmouth College, voted solidly blue. Hillsboro County in southern New Hampshire went for Trump by less than five hundred votes. Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire, but only by a few thousand votes.

The Green Mountain State isn’t solid blue, either. Yes, Clinton trounced the opposition in Chittenden County. But in Orleans Country, Clinton beat Trump by less than thirty votes. And in Northeastern Essex County, Trump beat Clinton by less than five hundred.

Living outside a bubble has led to some interesting situations around the neighborhood and at school. My kids spend most of their school days with other kids who see the world differently. They have peers who don’t believe in evolution or climate change and aren’t allowed to attend health class which covers human sexuality. Yet they manage to get along.

Likewise, I’ve learned to rely on the decorum of Town Meeting as a guide for how to stick to issues and not make things personal when disagreements arise.

But things can still get uncomfortable at times – even ugly. Political signs on our front lawn got vandalized twice during the last election, and one resident who lives on a state highway put up a life-size figure of Hillary Clinton with a shotgun aimed in her direction. It might have been reasonable to assume that there were more guns on the property, but someone went and persuaded him to move the statue out of view of kids riding to and from school.

The Times’ map showed that my friends’ experiences of living in blue bubbles aren’t unique; they dot the country in seas of red. But while it may be more comfortable to only see and hear our own point of view in a bubble, I believe we lose something. As challenging as it can be, I think the country would be the better off if more red and blue voters were neighbors.

Suzanne Spencer Rendahl is a former journalist whose work has appeared in publications including the Boston Globe. She lives with her husband and two children in Plainfield, NH.
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