WASHINGTON ― Such is the divisiveness of today’s political climate that three grown siblings who each raised three kids near their hometown, in the area where they all still live, could stop talking to each other for weeks because a guy got elected.
The siblings told HuffPost this week that a year after Donald Trump’s inauguration, things are better ― but their mother’s not so sure.
“Nothing has really changed,” said Renee Walker, 86. “It’s gotten worse in terms of our feelings within the family.”
Her son, Michael, is a 57-year-old builder and real estate developer in Port Washington, New York, who became a huge Trump supporter during the 2016 election. Her younger daughter, Shelly Betancourt, is a 59-year-old attorney who cannot believe the country elected someone she considers a monster.
After the election, Michael Walker skipped Thanksgiving, and Betancourt showed up late to Christmas in order to avoid spending time with her brother. Their older sister, Jodie Davies, has hosted both events at her house for years.
The pair resumed communication when Walker called to say he was coming to Trump’s inauguration and that he’d booked an extra night at his hotel so Betancourt could use it for the Women’s March. She got stuck in traffic on the way and didn’t make it.
“I have lived through several presidents. I have never seen such poison and hatred acceptable,” Renee Walker said. “It’s acceptable now, it’s OK to hate. Even the neo-Nazis ― they think Trump is wonderful.”
Serious political disagreements among family members might be happening more often, but they’re still not incredibly common, according to limited survey data. Twenty-nine percent of respondents to a HuffPost/YouGov survey early last year said they’d argued about politics with a relative in 2017, compared with 23 percent in May 2016 for that year.
Michael Walker used to be liberal, like his sisters, but had started leaning conservative since voting for Barack Obama. He kept quiet about it until throwing his support to Trump. So he thinks maybe they could cope with the fact of his Trump support a little better.
“In the past years I used to have to grin and bear it while they talked politics,” he said.
One thing that’s made it easier to get along, Betancourt said, is that her brother acknowledges that Trump has flaws.
“He has not exceeded my expectations in his ways of doing things, because he has shot himself in the foot many times,” Walker said.
“Him admitting that Trump is a jerk has made me feel better,” Betancourt said.
In December, she didn’t avoid the Christmas party at Davies’ house in Woodbury, New York ― though she did avoid talking about politics near her brother.
“I don’t want my kids to see a non-forgiveness type of behavior,” Betancourt said. “And my kids love him. He’s hilarious. He’s that fun uncle.”
Arthur Delaney co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast: