In late November 2016 my parents were visiting us for my son’s birthday. It was one week after Donald Trump won the Presidential election. My nerves were shot, optimism gone, and a fearful panic of the next four years consumed my thoughts. But not my Dad’s.
My father was an English Literature Professor, for 37 years, who specialized in Southern Literature, specifically, southern female authors. I remember tagging along in 1995 as he interviewed Christine Wiltz and Anne Rice. He spent most days in New Orleans at the Tulane library and we would meet around 4:30 for an early dinner, somewhere in the Quarter, then later we would end the day at Café Du Monde. This was our routine the two or three times we came down each year.
He’s a very smart man. Obsessed with world history. He speaks fluent Latin. Doctorate from Case Western and his under-grad was from Duquesne University. He can site the origin of any word or saying and usually along with a short story about it. And he loved New Orleans. Knew it inside and out. We were a good travel team. We shared our favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons and I was amazed when I discovered that he loved Beavis and Butthead. This really should not have surprised me considering how many times we watched Pink Panther movies. His favorite scene being Inspector Clouseau dressed as a pirate trying to inflate a plastic parrot on his shoulder.
I thought that I knew him. To the point where I did not even need to ask who he was voting for. He raised all of us to be caring and sympathetic to others. I have voted Democrat in every election since turning 18 in 1990. And I thought he had too. I was wrong.
During my parents November 2016 trip to the area we began talking about the recent elections. Assumed my father would have a head full of complaints about Trump getting elected. But he did not. And this shocked me. I thought I knew him well enough that he would not vote for a man of Trump’s character. I was wrong.
He stated that he did not think Trump would turn out bad. I said he would rank as one of the two worst Presidents in our country’s history. He disagreed and mentioned that Congress would keep him in check. He began going through, in considerable detail, a handful of really bad Presidents. Benjamin Harrison, Chester A. Arthur, Herbert Hoover, Millard Fillmore, and of course Warren G. Harding. I could not debate him – he had specific facts on each President, how it affected our country, and how Trump wouldn’t even come close to these infamous President’s. I was angry.
Had we had this conversation today I would have my facts straight. I can make a pretty compelling argument and would certainly do my best to get him to change his mind now that we have three years of the worst President in our history to discuss. We have not spoken on this subject since that night in 2016.
My view of my father had changed. This was the worst part for me. I remember being 15 and my mother driving me to St. Vincent’s – St. Mary’s high school in Akron, Ohio. Each morning we had a political debate. We also had them sometimes at dinner – and my father would take my side and we would lay out a case for whatever we may have been talking about – against my mother. But in 2016 this changed. My father was making a case – along with my Fox News addicted mother – that Trump would be fine and Hillary Clinton was far worse. It was at this point that I felt like a stranger in my own house.
A few months later I created the Northshore Indivisible chapter due to Trump and his administration. Within months after that I decided to run for Congress – a life changing venture for better, or worse. We did not talk about my entry into the race, how it changed my life and my family’s life, lessons learned and what it’s like to lose on a grand scale. But he should know by now that I’d do it all over again.
I’m waiting to finally have this Trump conversation with him again – next year.
Jim Francis was one of the former Democratic Louisiana 1st Congressional District candidates who ran against Steve Scalise.