Published on Seattle PI
(Graphic: Jesús Hidalgo)
Had it been a normal Thanksgiving, Chris Wilson would have driven more than an hour to her family’s cabin in Cle Elum with her husband and three children to meet her parents and have a traditional meal together.
But this wasn’t a normal Thanksgiving for the Wedgwood woman.
A liberal atheist, Wilson, 36, stopped communicating with her parents after the election because they told her they voted for Donald Trump.
“Our differences are too deep and I can’t ignore them anymore at this point,” she said. “It’s been a problem for a long time. It’s not just politics.”
At first sight, generational differences seem to be a key factor to understand the opposite voting preferences between Wilson and her parents.
After all, younger voters were more inclined to back Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, according to a CNN national exit poll.
The former U.S. secretary of state received half of the votes in the 18-29 population, while approximately one third of this group supported Trump.
The numbers were just the opposite in the oldest population of the poll, with 52 percent of voters 65 or older supporting the now-president-elect and 45 percent voting for Clinton. But David Domke, chair of the University of Washington’s Department of Communication, thinks misogyny played a more crucial role than generational differences among voters.
“In this election, we saw this overt misogyny, this hatred towards women,” Domke said. “We had a major-party candidate who acted in ways that were deeply hateful in the things he said, that were frightening in terms of his denigration of and intimidation of females.”
Misogyny didn’t only manifest in the Republican candidate’s rhetoric but also among the white conservative Christian groups that voted for Trump and especially among white evangelicals, the University of Washington scholar said.
Evangelicals represent the largest population among religious congregations in the U.S. Seventy percent of American adults identify as Christians, according to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey — with 25.4 percent being evangelicals, 20.8 percent describing themselves as members of Catholic congregations and 14.7 percent belonging to mainline Protestant groups.
Evangelicals voted for Trump in massive numbers, as the CNN national poll shows. Almost one-quarter of its respondents was white, born-again or evangelical Christian and 80 percent of this group went for the Republican candidate, compared to just 16 percent for Clinton.
Trump was not their preferred candidate for the White House but white evangelicals still voted for him because they were completely opposed to what Clinton represented as a strong political woman, Domke said.
“We can’t understand the level of opposition to Hillary Clinton without attributing some significant portion of that to a conception of the world in which women shouldn’t operate that way,” Domke said. “There is a decent chunk of people who think a woman, or at least this particular woman, should not be president because she was violating some traditional gender norms. Had Hillary Clinton been a man, she would have been looked at without the same vitriol that we saw.”
Tensions between Wilson and her conservative Christian parents arose even before this year’s election process but she still remembers the precise moment when she decided it was enough –when it was revealed that the then-candidate Trump told Howard Stern that it was OK to call his daughter “a piece of ass.”
Wilson’s parents didn’t decide to drop their support for the New York millionaire despite his misogynist comment, so talking about politics with them became pointless, she said.
“That moment was an emotional catalyst for me,” Wilson said. “I have a little 5-year-old girl that adores her Poppy, and just lavishes him with love and hugs and kisses. And to know that her Poppy is voting for a man that just said it’s OK to call his daughter ‘a piece of ass,’ it was beyond anything I can manage. There’s no reason why my daughter should idealize someone who voted for a man like that.”
Merletta Roberts, 72, a lay member of the Seattle First Baptist Church who grew up among conservative Baptists in southern Indiana, thinks conservative Christian groups in general had a gender bias against Clinton.
“I strongly feel that the issues conservative Christians had with Hillary, a big part of it is that she was a woman,” Roberts said. “A lot of issues that were raised and brought up wouldn’t have happened if she were a man.”
Rebecca Sumner, 35, now a pastor at Our Common Table Church but who was raised evangelical, said that conservative Christians opposed Clinton mainly because of her views on abortion, as some editorials in Christian outlets such as CharismaNews.com and DenverCatholic.org show.
Sumner remembers that she wept after voting for George W. Bush in 2000 despite not wanting him to be president.
But, as an evangelical who believed that a person supporting abortion would receive a harsh divine punishment, she felt that is what she had to do at the time.
“In the world that I was brought up in, they used words like ‘genocide’ when talking about unborn babies, so I believed that by checking that box next to Bush’s name, there was the possibility a baby would live that wouldn’t have lived if I haven’t checked that box,” Sumner said.
The Our Common Table Church pastor said that something similar happened in this year’s election.
“People voting for Trump and even for Gary Johnson knew this is by and large not a good direction for the country, but for them not voting for Clinton was a way to end abortion,” Sumner said.
Since Wilson’s parents used to see their grandchildren every weekend in the Cle Elum cabin and spent summer and school breaks together, Wilson said that she was concerned about the influence they could have on her kids. That was another reason why she decided to pull back and avoid contacting them after Election Day.
“I have no tolerance for their behavior,” Wilson said. “If they weren’t my parents, there’s no way that we would be friends. We have absolutely no compatible ideologies whatsoever. I don’t want to have any strong relationship with them anymore.”
But with Christmas coming soon, Wilson said she thinks about her parents every day and is still trying to figure out what the next steps are.
“I think before the holidays, before we are all together in the house, I need to talk with them to express how strongly I feel about it,” Wilson said. “I’ve never been super involved in politics and maybe that’s because I didn’t understand how entangled it is with everything else. In dealing with them, I need to take the politics out of it as much as I can because my real issue with them is that the values that I’m so conscious of and strive everyday to instill in my children are undermined by every moment they spend with their Nana and Poppy because of their behavior.”
What could Wilson and people experiencing similar cases do now? You can listen to Rev. Rebecca Sumner and Mica N. McGriggs, a doctoral psychology intern at the University of Washington’s Counseling Center, give advice about how to deal with family conflicts related to politics.