One Small Step: Northern Nevadans connect on changing political party affiliations
Pat Ragains, a retired librarian who lives in Sparks, participated in One Small Step, a program to connect people with different political values through dialogue. He switched his party affiliation from non-partisan to Democrat to be able to vote in Nevada’s closed primary elections.
He spoke with Monica Kales, who works as a mediator in Reno. She was a registered Republican but has also switched her party affiliation and is now non-partisan since it aligns more with her political beliefs.
In their discussion, they reflect on the people who have influenced their evolving political values and grapple with the nation’s political divides.
Pat Ragains: Well, Monica, I’m curious to know more about your perspective as a mediator. I imagine, without getting into your work with clients necessarily, just interpersonally in having conversations with people of different political and social views, how do you approach it?
Monica Kales: Having significant differences and perspective with people that I’m very close to — family, friends — I’m finding those conversations to be a lot more difficult, and frankly, I find myself avoiding them. With the polarization that you mentioned, it truly seems to have become endemic in the population, and it’s very challenging to have just a conversation about, “Hey, you think differently than I do, and that’s fine.” It doesn’t seem to be fine anymore to think differently.
Pat: I’ve found the same, and my strategy has been largely avoidance, too. I don’t feel that that’s necessarily good all the time, particularly for people who I have long term, lifelong relationships. Looking at my beliefs about democracy, I think democracy presumes that we’re going to differ about important things.
Monica: Who has been the most influential person in your life, maybe from a political view? And what was it that they taught you or that you learned?
Pat: This came to me this morning, actually, when I was thinking about this. It probably was good for me to grow up with differing viewpoints in my family and also in the communities I lived in because it helped me see that as normal. A relative of mine who I’ve become good friends with, we were together at a family reunion, and he and I were talking in a small group, and he mentioned he did not think differences in theology. His father was a minister, so he’s keyed into theology and likely to mention that more than some other folks we run into, but he didn’t think differences in theology and his church community was as important as just the fact that they could have relationships and be supportive of one another. That’s stayed with me. I’ve thought about that quite a bit.
So I'll ask you, Monica, has there been one most influential person in your life, and what did they teach you?
Monica: My parents were very much political, but in opposite ways. My father was a Democrat, my mother was a Republican, and we had many, many dinner conversations about current topics of the day, politics, and who was right and who was wrong.
At the time, it felt very confusing, honestly, but something resonated with me about what you said. In another way, it was sort of liberating, and a good thing, because we heard both sides. So I would say that my parents were the most influential on me, in many ways, of course, but particularly from a political point of view because the rest of us were just kind of listening to the differing viewpoints on the same topic. They taught me that there are two sides, at least, to every situation, and no one viewpoint, no one person, has all the answers and is rarely ever right. It made me pretty open-minded, actually.
This conversation was facilitated by Natalie Van Hoozer and produced by Carly Sauvageau as part of One Small Step, a StoryCorps program designed to connect people with different beliefs through dialogue.
KUNR and Noticiero Móvil’s work on One Small Step is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. Nevada Humanities was a key community partner for this program.