It’s been a rough few years for my adopted Western family of nearly 30 years, the Petersons. They consist of my best friend Mark, his brother, two sisters and his mother and father.
Sadly, Mr. Peterson passed nearly three years ago. One of Mark’s sisters followed suit soon after and late last month, following years of poor health, Mrs. Peterson died peacefully in her home in Nampa just outside Boise.
I have many fond memories of Mrs. Peterson and her family. They are funny, warm and, at times, a little off the rails (the latter is mainly my friend Mark, often with an assist from yours truly). They also vary politically from fairly liberal to staunch conservative.
Missus Peterson definitely falls into the latter category. I’ll put it this way: I’ve known her for nearly three decades and she still would not have voted for me. On her deathbed, I reminded her I was running for office as a Democrat and she replied — as she often did — “Oh, Jeremy,” with nothing but exasperation.
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That was our relationship. Warm and loving with an overtone of disapproval. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
The last days of Mrs. Peterson’s life were among the few times Fox News was not broadcasting non-stop on her living room television. I say that not out of derision, but out of fondness. Missus Peterson and I agreed on very little politically, but it never stopped her from inviting me over for dinner or me giving her good-natured jabs about whatever GOP-induced drama was gripping the nation.
I feel like we need more people in this state who have a relationship like mine and Mrs. Peterson’s.
Over the last seven years of service, I have knocked on more than 35,000 doors around the state and made a couple thousand more phone calls. Throughout that time, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people lament the fact that we can’t talk to each other because we’re so polarized politically.
I hear that — but I don’t see a whole lot of people actually making the effort to bridge that gap. That goes for Democrats and Republicans alike. I have commented many times about how each side just stays in their bubble and refuses to venture out. Believe me, I know.
I live right in the middle of one of the most active Democratic volunteer bases in the state, and I don’t know that any of them have ventured too far outside downtown Boise. At the same time, I’ve knocked on enough doors in red districts to know the lack of tolerance goes both ways. If I had a dime for every door slammed in my face once they discovered I was a Democrat, I’d own most of southeast Idaho.
Too many Idahoans complain that we can’t talk to one another, and yet too few of us are willing to make the effort to find common ground. Hypocrisy abounds on both sides.
That’s why today I think fondly of Mrs. Peterson.
She would have sooner run over her own foot with her car before voting for a Democrat (including me), and yet she still would have told me how proud she was that I was running.
If you’re one of those people who complain that we can’t talk to each other — and yet do very little to bridge that gap — I don’t know what to tell you. Either make the effort, or find a Mrs. Peterson in your life. Because, here’s the thing. Despite their political party leanings, she and her husband both signed the first iteration of the Quality Education Initiative back in 2021. That initiative called for hundreds of millions of dollars in public education investments. The measure ultimately qualified post-COVID and forced Gov. Brad Little to finally make serious investments in our schools.
See what happens when you actually make the effort to talk with one another? There’s more common ground than you think.
God bless Mrs. Peterson and my Western family of nearly 30 years. I’ve gained so much from them over the years, even if we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.
And even though Mrs. Peterson wouldn’t think of voting for me.
I love her even more because of that.
Jeremy J. Gugino is a Democratic communications volunteer.