Bridging the Gap - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2262226

Bridging the Gap

This past Memorial Day, I attended a solemn and respectful service at the Hampton Bays American Legion honoring the ultimate sacrifice made by members of our armed forces.

After the services, I came across John Avlon mixing with the attendees at a fine luncheon that was offered in the hall downstairs.

For me, Democrats in general check the boxes of what I want to see in a congressional candidate. Of course, I expect my candidate to support women’s reproductive rights, voting rights, climate change initiatives, the freedom to express love however is natural to you, and, most importantly, our democracy and the protection and preservation of our democratic institutions. Those are no-brainers for me.

I also expect them to support federal legislation that will benefit our district by stimulating job creation and living wages, restoring SALT, enacting comprehensive immigration reform, increasing the Child Tax Credit, investing in our police departments and protecting Social Security.

But stated support for these things does not mean that one will necessarily connect with the general electorate. Platform does not necessarily translate into votes.

I was standing with a friend of mine and his young son at this luncheon, when the son recognized Avlon but appeared disgruntled by the sighting. The boy, having an interest in politics uncommon for his age, openly holds a different political perspective.

So I did what any person seeking to avoid confrontation would do. I introduced them.

After a brief handshake, the boy took no time to ask, “If elected, what would be your first priority in Congress?” A very good question.

Without skipping a beat, Avlon responded, “Restoring the middle class.” A very good answer. He then described how the middle class on Long Island, decimated by years of neglect and abuse, needed help to make life livable again.

When the boy turned the conversation to January 6 and expressed disbelief at the suggestion that it was an insurrection, a discussion began concerning how to think about and process the events of that day. I watched as Avlon listened to the boy, completely engaged and met him on his terms. Avlon asked more questions than he answered and found some common ground in a reading recommendation, The Federalist Papers. Engrossed in the conversation, he only departed when a staff member gave him a third and final warning that he was dangerously off-schedule.

While I cannot say what effect this dialogue had on the boy, I can tell you what effect it had on me: I saw a candidate at ease with difficult conversations, calm and patient, treating someone of a different political persuasion with dignity and respect, and endeavoring to bridge the gap.

That gets my vote.

John J. Leonard

Hampton Bays