I’m With Her! Feel the Bern! In NE Denver, Democrats are comfortable supporting their chosen candidates and sharing their views. Denverites have voted for the Democratic presidential nominee in almost every election (except 1972 and 1980) since 1960. But what about the residents who support the Republican side? How do members of the GOP feel about living in a predominantly blue zone during election times?
“In general, I keep quiet unless I think I can have a meaningful conversation,” says Ronak Patel of Stapleton. Patel, who moved to Denver from Texas, says his positions on social issues are not what some might expect. “There are so many stereotypes attached to being a Republican that people often jump to conclusions. Some people assume I’m against gay marriage or that I don’t believe in equal rights for gay people. That is not my stance at all. Or they assume that I want to put guns in schools. I’m a fiscal conservative who believes in small government. I don’t back every Republican candidate, but I think there is room for two parties in America and there are times when Republican policy is appropriate.”
Despite what it might feel like to him, Patel is not alone. Other local GOP supporters admit to being careful about sharing their views.
“I’m friends with all the folks in my courtyard but we never talk politics,” says Rebekah Keller, who resides in the Westerly Creek neighborhood in Stapleton and is a former vice chair of the Denver GOP as well as a former vice chair of Denver Republican Women. “It’s kind of the white elephant in the room. I had my signs out during the last elections, but it’s a little uncomfortable and you don’t want to get into arguments that might ruin a friendship. People have become rabid about their political views, but I think we all basically want the same things—a good world for our kids, respect for our government and hope for our families. I like to think we can have different viewpoints and that we still have something to learn from each other.”
While canvassing her precinct in past elections, Keller recalls visiting a politically split household, where the husband was a Democrat and the wife was a Republican. “The husband wouldn’t open the door. He said ‘I’m not the Republican in the household,’ and that was the end of the conversation. People can be very standoffish.”
On the more aggressive side of the issue, political signs in support of Republican candidates have reportedly been vandalized during past campaigns.
“Someone tore down the sign we had up for Mitt Romney,” says Tara Porter, who lives along a busy street in Stapleton. “We had it secured pretty well, but they managed to rip it up. Also someone driving a Smart Car drove by and shouted at us to take it down. I don’t really talk politics with liberals. I’m a Trump supporter but I might not put a sign up this election. It’s a challenge. I have a strong view and I don’t waver. I hear horror stories on social media of cars getting keyed for displaying stickers.”
Peggy Watkins, a resident of Historic Montclair, says she and her husband have plans to leave the U.S. should the election not go their way. “I’ll always vote Republican as long as I believe the candidate has the best interest of the country in mind, but my husband and I have an exit strategy for November. If things don’t turn around we will likely move out of the country. If Hillary wins, we’ll probably head to Belize.”
Jen Callahan, a former Park Hill resident now living in Stapleton, says she grew up in a predominantly Republican community but quickly realized after moving to Park Hill that she was in the political minority. “I’ve always backed my candidates. I’ve worn many a Republican T-shirt and although I do get the odd look, I have also gotten many ‘I thought I was the only one!’ We’ve learned to adapt. Our neighbors know they can civilly banter with us. In sum: no major drama because we realize we are choosing to live in a liberal neighborhood. We love it here and try to be quiet but not silent conservatives.”
Patel points out that he has had disagreements with friends on all sides, Republican, Democrat and Independent. “As long as I feel that I’m being heard and we’re not just bashing each other, I’m happy to talk to people,” he says.