Stop hating everyone who didn’t vote like you

skenazy picBY LENORE SKENAZY | It seems like arguing — screaming, shouting or at the very least, extreme eye-rolling — is right up there with eating breakfast these days. Wake up, brush your teeth, glance at the latest news and…explode!

Jeanne Johnson was sick of it.

Johnson is a mom of two in Ridgewood, N.J., and a local activist. A few years back, she got the city to make its crosswalks more obvious to encourage kids to walk — and cars to stop. Last week she wanted to encourage something else to stop: The demonization of everyone who voted for someone other than the someone you voted for. So to a local social hall she invited Guy Benson, a conservative author; Julie Roginsky, a Democratic strategist; and Kennedy, the mordantly hilarious libertarian who has a show on Fox Business. In fact, all three are on Fox all the time, often sparring, but also always happy to see each other.

That’s what Johnson wanted her fellow citizens to witness: You can disagree with someone’s politics, even vehemently, and not despise them as humans.

As crazy as that sounds.

Kennedy moderated the chat by asking the kind of questions that can stop a, “You crazy s—head” in midair. For instance, she wondered, was there ever a time when either of her guests realized the other side was not evil incarnate?

Roginsky recalled a time back in college when she and her fellow feminists took a bus to a Rhode Island abortion clinic, where nuns and priests were protesting outside. As Roginsky and her retinue shouted, “Keep your rosaries off our ovaries!” she looked at the clergy, fervently praying, and suddenly it hit her: These folks weren’t there to be judgmental jerks. They had come because they truly believed that a fetus is a life that must be saved. For them, blocking the clinic was no different from grabbing the gun from some nut holding a hostage. To this day, Roginsky remains adamantly pro-choice. But she sees pro-life supporters as people.

Benson flashed back on 2009, when Obama was sworn into office on a wave of Democratic euphoria. Conservatives were beside themselves: Here was a president who would pass every piece of liberal legislation this side of Sweden.

So Benson said, smirk-free, he truly empathizes with what Democrats are feeling now. He  obviously doesn’t share their dismay — although he didn’t sound very happy about Trump. But he gave a knowing nod to the people who…well, that’s just the thing. The room was filled with ardent Democrats and Republicans, and probably some Libertarians. And you couldn’t tell who was who.

“Those [feuding] people ended up having to sit at the same tables together,” she said. She’d deliberately chosen round tables, so everyone would be looking at everyone else, and purple tablecloths. Not red. Not blue. Purple. The cookies for the event were iced in purple frosting with the word “Together.” Cookies are always an ice breaker.

And so was this event. Up on stage, Roginsky and Benson were discussing free speech. They’d just gotten word about the unrest — riots? — at the University of California Berkeley, where masked agitators had caused $100,000 in damage as they protested a speech to be given by the right-wing agitator Milo Yiannopoulos. Roginsky was appalled. She is hardly a fan of Yiannopoulos, but free speech wins, she said. “Always.”

Benson had some advice for the Dems: “If everything is an outrage, nothing is.” Pick your battles, he advised.

The trick is to “listen generously,” said Benson. Don’t assume the person who didn’t vote your way chose the other candidate out of bigotry, stupidity or calumny. Assume they had their varied reasons, just like you had yours.

“I know how contentious things were, or are, in our community — horrible,” she said. “Just like on the national stage.”

But after the event, the audience hung around for almost an hour, talking, laughing and eating those cookies.

“Let’s do this again!” they said.

That’s an idea no one could argue with.

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