Ray Mariano: Losing friends over the election

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Editor’s note: Please help us welcome our newest contributor, Ray Mariano, by enjoying his complete first column free of charge. We hope you come back next Sunday for more. Thanks for reading and for your continued support of Worcester Sun!

Ray Mariano

Ray Mariano

I have been around political campaigns my entire adult life.

I worked in my first presidential campaign in 1976, when I went to live in New York City and ran voter outreach efforts for U.S. Sen. Scoop Jackson.

I’ve worked in campaigns in Texas, Idaho, Wisconsin and a dozen other states. In each campaign, the fight was tough, often nasty and even bitter. But when the campaign was over, adversaries who lived next door to each other and split during the campaign went back to being friends and neighbors.

In Massachusetts I’ve worked on some really tough campaigns.

A few years back, I worked for now-Congressman Stephen Lynch, who was a Democratic primary candidate for the state Senate against Bill Bulger Jr. I had good friends on the other side. That campaign got so nasty that the Bulger people were leaving dead skunks on the lawns of Lynch supporters.

Whitey Bulger even sent one of his goons to find me at a pub on Broadway in Southie where I was holding a get-out-the-vote meeting for Lynch volunteers (true story). As nasty as that campaign was, when the campaign ended so did almost all of the bitterness. My old friends were still my old friends.

Unfortunately, the current election for president is very different. More than once, I’ve heard Clinton supporters say that any of their friends who support Trump are no longer their friends. The same is true for Trump supporters who have friends who support Hillary Clinton.

Someone in my own family said of their friends who support Trump: “They’re dead to me. I don’t have the time for anyone who is foolish enough to support such an evil man.”

A friend whose family grew up in Plumley Village told me that his brother called him recently and said that they should no longer be friends with someone they have known since childhood simply because he supports Trump.

The pages of Facebook are littered with comments about people “unfriending” those who disagree with them. Women, in particular, are anxious about the election and the candidates.

Part of that is due to the fact that Hillary is the first female major-party presidential nominee in the history of our country. The other part is that Trump is an admitted serial groper who has bragged about his exploits. Taken together, these factors, along with many others, make this campaign highly emotionally charged.


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The issues that our nation faces are considerable.

Illegal immigration, threats to the homeland, social injustice, economic prosperity and other issues make this election critically important. But, each election has had an equally long list of issues vital to our nation’s well-being. The difference in this election is Donald J. Trump.

Trump’s scorched-earth style has signaled his supporters that it’s permissible, even admirable, to demonize the other side. Let’s “lock her up” and put all the Muslims under surveillance. For those who oppose Trump, his words are all the evidence they need to dismiss his supporters as “deplorables.”

Campaigns are a tough business. They should be. There is an expression familiar to some of us: “Campaigns ain’t bean-bag.” In other words, this isn’t a kid’s game and we expect it to get rough and tough.

Over the past several years our nation has grown bitterly divided. On issue after issue, it appears that people have gone to separate sides of the room, and they refuse to acknowledge the other side or even consider their point of view.

That makes compromise and governing virtually impossible. We hate those on the other side. The results are a deadlocked Washington.

How can we expect our elected officials to work together if we demonize those we disagree with? If we have disdain, or worse, for those whose opinions are different, what chance do we have that our government’s leaders will work cooperatively to solve our nation’s challenges?

Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill were friends who disagreed on almost everything. But, they maintained a healthy respect for each other and worked together for the common good. Ted Kennedy was a master at maintaining friendships with people with whom he disagreed. Those friendships helped make him one of the most effective U.S. senators in our country’s history.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped seeing the other side as friends and neighbors. We no longer just disagree with them; we have no respect for them. Ominously, I have seen more than a few Trump supporters on television proudly boast that if Trump loses they will seek to take matters into their own hands violently.

So, why is it important that we maintain our friendships with people who support a different candidate than we do?

Simple. On Nov. 9 after the polls have closed and a winner has been chosen, if we are to prosper as a nation, we need to come together and move forward. If we remain deeply divided, if we continue to fight the other side, then nothing gets done and we all suffer.

After losing the election to Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush wrote a letter to Clinton in which he said in part: “Your success now is our country’s success. I am rooting hard for you.” It is that kind of gracious acceptance of the election results and a keen understanding that we share a stake in the future of our country that has been critical to the peaceful transfer of power and the success of our nation.

So, on the day after the election, forgive your friends for their foolish choice of candidates and invite them out for a drink. At a minimum, add them back to your list of friends on Facebook. Our country’s future depends on it.

Raymond V. Mariano is the former mayor of Worcester and executive director of Worcester Housing Authority. He grew up in Great Brook Valley and holds degrees from two city universities. He will comment on his hometown every Sunday in Worcester Sun.

23 thoughts on “Ray Mariano: Losing friends over the election

  1. First of all, I want to say I have great respect for the work you did with the Housing Authority. It’s a shame that you don’t have the opportunity to see your vision through. Now… regarding the election… some of what you say is true, but one of the paragraphs in this piece is an indication that you don’t really understand the reason why one of the sides believe the stakes are high enough to lose friends over. First, you have referred to Mr. Trump as an “admitted serial groper.” False. Rather, he has denied the groping outright! He apologized for stupid “locker room talk” and totally denied the groping. How can you call him an “admitted serial groper?” Your ears and eyes must be hearing/seeing what you want to hear/see! This statement is juxtaposed with “Part of that is due to the fact that Hillary is the first female major-party presidential nominee in the history of our country.” If you believe that this is why conservatives are vehemently opposed to the election of Mrs. Clinton, that she is a woman, (the first nominee in history who has decided to run using her first name… I wonder why!!?), your understanding of the situation is so shockingly erroneous. The reasons (please note the plural) the “right” cannot stomach the thought of Mrs. Clinton as president are much more nefarious than that erroneous one you sited Mr. Trump. I won’t list them. I think you and most of the readers are quite aware. But they are serious and worthy of multiple jail sentences. You continue to list and blame Mr. Trump for the voters’ extreme moods and actions, and nothing about what is fueling the other half (and probably and hopefully more than half) of the dissatisfaction. So… in this reader’s opinion… your inaugural column has fallen far short of being fair and true enough to have gained a fan. I had some hope that you weren’t like the rest of the media (due to your common-sense approach at the Housing Authority), but you have disappointed me. I know that this is a “column,” so you get to spout your own opinion, but at least you can try to get the story straight. It seems, from this column, as if the only person you had to site from the “right” is a friend’s brother. Do you have a friend, instead of a relative of a friend, who you can sit with and ask what they are thinking? Maybe not?

  2. Ray, I had hoped for a fair/balanced approach in your column. I thought it was possible due to the common-sense, somewhat conservative way you ran the Housing Authority. I am sorely disappointed, though. This column is such a slanted/unbalanced misrepresentation of the true story, you have already lost a potential reader. It is the abundance of misinformation like this that illustrates the reason for the sad and emotional division that is occurring. In my humble opinion, rather than making me me apt to reach out and maintain friendships, you have added fuel to the fire. Good job. :-/

      • There’s no way I’m voting for Trump. He is a disgrace, but I have to agree with Judy T. Anyone who thinks the reason Trump supporters abhor Clinton is because she will be the first female president is delusional. And this is part and parcel of the problems in America today. Hint to Ray Mariano. The reason Trump supporters hate Clinton is because of the corruption and deceit emanating from her and the Democrat Party. It would be front page news if the mainstream media would only cover it. Instead they cover for the Clintons and Democrats.

  3. Mr. Mariano, first of all, I want to commend you for your work on the Housing Authority. Too bad your vision will not be realized. You really had such great ideas! Now, for this inaugural column… You have already lost a potential fan. I was expecting some fairness and balance from you, but this is so one-sided, it is appalling. Really. If you truly think that the one reason that the “right” side is vehemently opposed to Mrs. Clinton (do notice that she is the first presidential nominee in history who is running using only her first name – I wonder why) is because she is a female, you are so uninformed and unaware that you are, in my humble opinion, not qualified to write a column! That is not even ONE of the reasons. As you probably know, but do not want to print, the list of reasons why the anti-Mrs. Clinton folks are emotionally charged and as afraid of a Clinton presidency as apparently the opposition is to a Trump presidency is long and nefarious and nothing to do with her gender. (After all, there is no such thing as gender anymore. :-/ ) Also, Mr. Trump has apologized for his words of 10 years ago as “lockerroom talk” and has personally denied all accounts of such behavior. VERY misrepresenting to refer to him as an “admitted serial groper.” You go on to site every incident which might incite a supporter of Mrs. Clinton to an extreme stand, while all the time making it seem as if the only reason a supporter of Mr. Trump has to fear a 2nd Clinton White House as the fact that she is a woman. Come on, Ray! One thing I can say, you are transparent. You have made it very clear to me that you do not intend to be fair and balanced in your column. If that’s what you wanted to accomplish in your inaugural piece, you succeeded. Good luck to you.

  4. Hello, Ray. I tried to leave two, very well-thought-out and detailed comments already, but apparently they were too long, and disappeared when I hit the submit button. Suffice to say that I was happy to give your column a chance, because I expected fairness, due to the common sense and somewhat conservative approach you took at the Housing Authority. Great work there, by the way! Unfortunately, this inaugural column of yours is so slanted/unbalanced/inaccurate and subsequently unfair that you have lost me already. I had listed the reasons in my previous, unpublished comments. Any well-informed readers will already know what they were.

  5. After your common-sense approach with the Housing Authority, I was hoping for some balance and fairness in your column, Ray. No such luck. This is so blatantly one-sided and inaccurate you have already lost one potential reader. (FYI – I had written a longer, detailed comments to illustrate my points, but they disappeared when I tried to post.)

  6. I had hoped for some fairness and balance in your column, Ray, due to the common-sense somewhat conservative approach you used at the Housing Authority. No such luck. This inaugural column is so one-sided, deceptive, and inaccurate you’ve already lost a potential fan. Oh, well… I shouldn’t be surprised.

  7. Great article, Ray, and so true. We are all American citizens and we must work together or we will fall apart as a nation! Father Dean an I miss you.

  8. Great article, Ray, and so true. We are all American citizens and we must work together or we will fall apart as a nation! Father Dean an I miss you.

  9. The difference this time around is that Trump speaks like a fascist from the past. His attacks on the media, his characterization of his opponents as horrible people, and the way he seeks to undermine the FBI and the DOJ as corrupt and incompetent tear at the fabric of this democracy. The list of the ignorant things that Trump has said and done that disqualify him for the presidency is so long that understanding how Americans can continue to support him in such significant numbers is difficult to understand and is downright terrifying to many Americans. I understand that people hate Hillary and don’t want her as president, but come on, does Trump have to call for the extermination of muslims or undocumented immigrants to get people to realize just how dangerous he is? Or would that even matter? There is a very big difference with this campaign. America is great now and will become greater as we become more educated and continue to evolve as a caring and compassionate society focused on social and economic justice for all. There is no great again, there is only focusing on current greatness and on what we need to do to improve in areas where we are not so great, like racism and stark inequality in the distribution of wealth and power.

  10. Lincoln (the Illinois one, not the Worcester one) simply hired all the ones he beat and even let one of them –Seward — buy Alaska!

  11. Wise advice. My mother, now 99, lost her best friend because she called her ignorant for her political choice. Emotions are high, but those with intelligence will express their views, even debate them and in the end respect everyone’s right to choose regardless of whether we agree or disagree. Looking forward to your continued sage insight in future columns.

  12. The sad thing is supporters of both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have resorted to organized violence this past year to disrupt candidates and views they disagree with. Not to mention the speech and thought control going on in many college campuses today.

  13. This is a different election. Trump is a different candidate. Never before in my almost 60 years have I been so repulsed by a candidate. An admitted life-long Democrat, I’ve always believed that we have to work together. I have life-long friends who are Republicans. But this time, this year, with a candidate like Trump, I understand the disdain that’s out there. I ask all the time; How could any sane person vote for a man who is this repulsive, who has supported hate, who has openly spoken against women and minorities. You do realize there’s a reason why the hate groups like KKK are supporting Trump, don’t you? Those I have unfriended will remain so. I am as far removed from any one who could vote for him as I could possibly be. Ending like I started: This election is different – VERY DIFFERENT – and it demands a different response. Reach out? More like push away.

  14. Sorry but it is one party that has denigrated &! Obstructed a very fine president; one party that stands for bigotry misogyny and gay-bashing. You can’t tango by yourself even with the best intentions.

  15. Welcome Ray Mariano. A refreshing addition to the Worcester Sun. I believe you will serve the readers well. We are in dire need of independent, common sense journalists. I believe Mr. Mariano’s stellar “resume of life’s experiences” gives him a unique perspective on many issues. “Losing friends over election” article beat 60 Minutes “take” on the same subject.

  16. I agree with the premise and intention of the article, but I do have an issue. Trump is a lot of the things mentioned in the article. But the article seems to lay the fault for the political climate solely at his feet. Clinton as well as the previous administration has hugely contributed to people’s anger. Visible corruption of the political/ democratic process seem just as bad as talk of groping on video. Trump doesn’t have a news media covering up his every indiscretion. He doesn’t have people to do slanderous dirty work. We can agree that we have an issue where we have two candidates equally undesirable. But to paint a picture of only one candidate running a scorched earth campaign is at the very least ….unfair.

  17. It’s sad to see a couple commenters here exhibiting exactly the behavior Mr. Mariano warns will continue to divide us as a nation. I hope that once this extremely personal and nasty campaign comes to a close and each voter has had their say, that there can be healing for the sake of our collective future. It starts with each individual, in one’s own sphere of influence. I, for one, intend to try compassion, cooperation and kindness with everyone I meet. I hope you will too.

  18. Mr.Mariano,
    In the bag of “political dirty tricks” – I believe demonizing is one of the dirtiest.
    We are in dire need of honest, straight talking journalist who can remain neutral and unbiased while searching for the truth.
    Welcome – best wishes on your literary journey.

  19. I didn’t see any thing biased in this article. I think it is so true that we need to stop all of this divisiveness. Used to be you could argue and LISTEN to each other and still disagree, but understand at least what the other person was thinking and move on. I think social media is one of the causes of this issue – drama drama and easy to hide behind a keyboard or phone and be nasty. Reality TV has also made people get used to trash talk and nasty drama. Very sad and unfortunately it is not just an etiquette issue – it impacts how we treat one another daily and in this case, who we nominate for President and how we allow campaigns to be run. I hope there is a backlash where this becomes less the norm and we can focus on what is truly important…

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