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A Job Changes A Young Woman's Political Identity


Election Day is coming November 6. Voters will go to the polls to cast their ballots, but they will also on that same day take care of a sick relative, have a difficult conversation with a loved one, maybe start a new career. Basically, live their life. This week, we're bringing you personal conversations that illustrate the ways in which that lived experience affects how we vote. Today we'll hear from a young woman named Alexa Gruman. She's 24 years old from a family of Democrats in Minnesota, and a recent job is changing her political identity.

Did I hear that you have been taking online quizzes to figure out where you actually lie in the political spectrum?

ALEXA GRUMAN: I have because I'm so torn. I just feel stuck somewhere in the middle. And generally, it feels pretty hard to talk about it.

MARTIN: The middle is not such a comfortable place for a lot of people. I mean, are you feeling that as both parties kind of to move to extremes?

GRUMAN: Yeah. I almost feel guilt that I no longer align with some of my previous ideas. And I think that's part of the problem, is that it seems like if you want to appear as a liberal in society, you either have to believe everything on the table or you're out. You're out of the group. And there's so much going on, but I feel like I can't speak up because you're just asking for people to come after you.

MARTIN: Did you grow up in a family that talked a lot about politics?

GRUMAN: We talked a lot about politics. (Laughter). I was fortunate that my whole family lives nearby. We would go to my grandma's house every Sunday. And, you know, the kids would go play, but I liked to sit and listen to, you know, my parents and my aunts and uncles talk. And it was generally about, you know, politics, social issues. We were always encouraged to voice our thoughts. And, growing up in Minnesota, which is pretty blue, pretty Democratic, that's what I grew up hearing.

MARTIN: As you started to develop your own political identity, how did that take shape?

GRUMAN: Sure. It was after the 2016 election. I felt, man, I need to get more involved. And that's what led me to working in immigration because I saw all these families who were being deported, and it broke my heart. And I got a great opportunity to help a lot of people, but everything that I had been hearing about ICE and conservatives in the news is they are these evil people who don't care about these families and they don't want people coming to our country.

And some of the most enlightening moments I had were when I did work with ICE, when I would go pay bond or go down to the government center. And what I saw is - and it sounds kind of silly now saying it out loud, but they're not evil people. They are people who are looking at the same problem as me and believing that there's another solution, that there's a different solution.

So I guess it gave me a lot more compassion towards the right that I hadn't had before in my personal development. Yes, I still feel like I have my roots in liberalism, but I feel like we should be listening to each other a little bit more 'cause I had thought before that I had been listening, and I found out that I hadn't been.

MARTIN: I understand you also watched the Supreme Court nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh really closely.

GRUMAN: I did.

MARTIN: How did those hearings shape how you're thinking about politics or the election?

GRUMAN: It's an issue that hits very close to home. I have personally experienced sexual assault. People in my life who are very close to me have been raped. So it's not something that I take lightly whatsoever. I believe Dr. Ford, and I believe that she experienced what she says she experienced, but I don't know that I believe that it was Kavanaugh. And there was just not quite enough evidence brought forward for me to fully believe that, yes, this man committed this crime. So I don't know who to believe, but I don't think that we should put this guilt on someone when we just don't know.

MARTIN: So how does that affect how you vote?

GRUMAN: It's made me uncertain. I think the way that the liberal party, at least from what I've seen in the media, has been handling it with, you know, chasing after people in restaurants and yelling at people. And it just seems like a lot of bullying, and I guess some people would disagree with me and say that, no, that's activism. But I think with everybody just yelling at each other, we're not really getting anywhere.

MARTIN: You don't think the right has participated in that same vilification of the other side?

GRUMAN: I think they have. I think there are equal problems on both sides because you'll hear the right calling the left snowflakes and, you know, they're just whining about these issues. And I think it comes from both sides, but I haven't personally seen it on the left like this up until this past year.

MARTIN: What do you think about President Trump?

GRUMAN: I'm not a fan. I voted for Clinton. I don't like Trump. I think, you know, going back to the Kavanaugh questions, I think what he said about Dr. Ford was horrendous. I guess I don't feel like I'm afraid of him as much as the liberal party feels like they're afraid of him. And not afraid, just angered. I guess I feel more passive because I'm tired of it.

MARTIN: So you are still considering your choices, but what I hear you saying is that you would perhaps vote for Republicans for the first time, despite President Trump.

GRUMAN: Correct, and because it's more than that. It's, I would rather look at things issue by issue and decide based on that rather than based on strictly party lines and rather than, you know, going out and filling out all of the Democratic checkboxes. I want to feel like I've done my due diligence and at least gone through and considered the other side. So yes, I would consider voting for a Republican in the coming elections.

MARTIN: Have you talked to your family about your evolution?

GRUMAN: I have, (laughter), been avoiding it. You know, prior to this conversation, I decided, well, you know, I suppose I should let them know before they hear it on the radio. And I don't think that they would ever think less of me. They're very, very accepting people. Although, they might hear me say things and go, why would you say that?

So I just - it's taken me some time because I'm still trying to work it out myself. So I'll do my research, and whoever I think is, you know, best for the job then, you know, that's where I'll put my check mark and that's where I'll focus my optimism.

MARTIN: Alexa Gruman, thank you so much for talking with us.

GRUMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.