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Late last year, I wrote a personal essay on what I thought was a pretty benign topic: my relationship. More specifically, how I, a liberal woman, fell for a Republican man.
Turns out it was a lot more controversial than I thought.
My essay was shared thousands of times and received over 1000 comments, with hundreds more comments across social media. The comments were rabid and full of outrage, with many readers denouncing me. Why did so many people take my relationship with Todd as a personal affront? Does it have something to do with the fact that Americans are more politically divided than ever? Whatever the reason, the hatred was vitriolic.
While I brushed off most of the negativity, I have to admit that this election cycle has been tough on Todd and me. In fact, my relationship has ended. That's right — because of politics.
As I mentioned in my previous article, Todd was no fan of Donald Trump. Like a lot of people, we both thought Trump was a joke that would blow over. We were wrong. As the Republican field narrowed and Trump became a viable option for the nomination, Todd's attitude began to change. Maybe Trump was on to something. Maybe the party establishment did need a bit of a shake up. Maybe it was refreshing to have someone up there saying what he really thinks. Besides, what was the other option, Ted Cruz? Todd hates his Tea Party-pandering extremism and rigid social conservatism much more than Trump's media-baiting.
For me, Trump's racist comments are a bridge too far. We'd watch the debates and argue — that was nothing new. But there was something unsettling about his new interest in Trump. We'd sit on the couch and he'd spend hours on Twitter, scoffing at "Hillary trolls." We'd always enjoyed a good argument, but now there was a hint of chauvinism and condescension. The wit and charm I fell in love with seemed to have dulled.
One afternoon, we attended a barbecue in the Valley. One of Todd's oldest friends was moving back to New York. Everyone was there. I was knee-deep in Republicans desperate to compare notes on the election. As usual, I knew it'd be tough to keep my cool, but it was nothing new. Or so I thought.
Things started off harmless enough. It was a perfect LA afternoon: sunshine, good food, catching up with old friends, a few drinks. Todd was happy to see his old crew again. There was a boyish grin on his face; seeing him — tall and handsome, laughing in the sunshine — made me remember why we fell in love. The sun drifted behind the palm trees and the gorgeous LA sunset enveloped us. I held his hand in mine. I was happy.
After dark, we gathered in the kitchen and things got a little raucous. There were plenty of not-PC one-liners, but everyone was in good spirits. Then, inevitably, we got onto the topic of Trump.
I suddenly realized that pretty much everyone in the room was a Trump supporter. I'd expected a few, but I'd been a little naive. Things turned nasty. One of Todd's friends said that LA would be a much nicer place if we deported all the Mexicans. Everyone laughed; Todd laughed the hardest. I said nothing.
Todd made a racist joke about Mexicans. He was egged on by his friends. I grabbed his arm. He could see that I was pissed. I mouthed, "Let's go." He ignored me. The conversation continued on its downward spiral.
"Hillary will ruin this country," he said, looking directly at me. "She's an entitled c*nt who only represents a bunch of ugly feminazis."
I was shocked. I'd never heard him speak about women like this before.
"I'm voting for Hillary," I said, trying to maintain my composure.
"Women don't deserve the vote," he retorted. Was this a joke? Some kind of Ann Coulter bullshit? Some of his male friends laughed uneasily. The women in the room were silent. All eyes were on me. I placed my half-empty wine glass on the marble counter top and walked calmly out of the room. I slammed the door. I sat in the car alone and cried.
I texted him that it was over.
I was devastated. Why did he have to treat me like that? If he wanted to break up, why did he have to do that in public? To impress his Trump-bro friends?
You might be thinking that it's a stretch to blame Trump for causing the end of my relationship. Maybe it is. But I can't help thinking that if Trump didn't get his hooks into Todd, we'd still be happily agreeing to disagree. Trump has lowered the debate into the sewer, and it's become toxic.
I thought that we could beat politics, but politics beat us. In the end, Todd's love for Trump and his Republican bros was bigger than his love for me.