After months of scandals and contentious rhetoric from Democrats and Republicans, how does a divided country come together again? Take a lesson in putting friendship over political differences from these next-door neighbors in Dallas.
The Clinton sign on the block
This is a tale of two yard signs. The first sits, bold and blue, on Melanie Grimes' meticulously-landscaped Dallas front yard. It doesn’t mince words: “Texans for Hillary, Vote Straight Democratic.”
Grimes, a mediator in private practice, has lived in this cozy family neighborhood east of downtown for more than 20 years.
“My mom and dad were Republicans. When I was growing up, they would always vote Republican,” says Grimes, a native Texan. “When I became an adult, I found the Democratic Party supported what I supported.”
For Grimes, that includes economic opportunity, and equal rights for everyone, regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation.
She’s been Team Hillary since 2008, when Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination against Barack Obama.
Now, she says it’s Clinton’s moment.
“I love that we have the absolute best candidate. And she happens to be female, and I love that,” Grimes says.
Something else for Texas Democrats to love: the polls. Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump are surprisingly close in this deep red state. In spite of (or because of) that, Grimes’ first Clinton yard sign was stolen. She had to get a replacement.
Grimes says she sees fewer Trump yard signs than she remembers seeing out in support of Mitt Romney in 2012.
“I drive back and forth to the airport, through Highland Park and University Park — where I’m thinking there could be some Republicans — and I’m not seeing the signs,” she says. “So the only one I’m aware of is next door.”
The Trump sign on the block
That takes us to yard sign No. 2. It belongs to her neighbors, JP and Katherine Morgan. JP is an aircraft maintenance technician for a major airline, and Katherine is a flight attendant.
JP was in the Air Force and then the reserves. He and Katherine are both lifelong Republicans.
“I’m a cradle Catholic and a cradle Republican,” Katherine Morgan says. “When I turned 18, my father was like, ‘Here’s your voter registration card!’ And I was excited to vote Republican.”
The Morgans say they're behind Trump this year. JP says he likes that he's an anti-establishment candidate, pro-life, and he's focused on improving the economy and national security.
Plus, he’s no Clinton fan. When he first saw that "Texans for Hillary" sign next door, JP says his first thought was to donate to Trump's campaign.
“I figure, if she’s got a sign up, hey, it’s fair game," he says.
The Morgans have two kids: a toddler son, and a 7-year-old daughter, Ada. She’s shy at first, but once in front of the microphone, she talks about her love of animals, birds -- and her political leanings.
Who's she voting for?
“Donald Trump,” she says. “I think he’ll be the best president to vote for.”
The Morgans say this Trump sign isn’t their first either. Seems there’s a bipartisan sign stealer in their neighborhood. Melanie Grimes’ disappeared first.
“Katherine was worried that I stole the sign,” JP says jokingly.
“I wasn’t worried,” Katherine says. “I...I just had to double check!”
But don’t let the sparring signs mislead you.
The Morgans and Melanie Grimes say they’ve been good friends for more than a decade.
So, a friendly competition, then?
“It’s very friendly,” JP says. “If it’s a competition.”
Friendship over politics
America could learn a lot from their live-and-let-live attitudes. A new study shows Americans have more negative views of the political party they oppose than any time in almost 25 years. Both families agree that that’s a shame. They say their bond as neighbors comes first.
The Morgans say Melanie’s seen their kids grow up, helped out when they needed, and generally treated them like family since they moved in. Grimes says, coming from a Republican family, she knows how to separate politics from everyday life.
“I love my neighbors. I have the best neighbors in the world,” Grimes says. “I wouldn’t want to damage that relationship. There’s nothing about the way they would ever vote that would actually change that.”
The families even had a gate built between their houses so they could get directly into each other’s backyards.
On a recent Sunday, the Morgans walked over to visit Grimes, through their own gate. The sound of wind chimes and a bubbling garden fountain filled the backyard.
They say, in a bitter election season, it’s nice to just leave the politics at the gate.
“There’s so much that we can discuss besides politics,” JP says. “She's a kind and loving person. Just because we have different political views, that doesn’t mean we can’t coexist with each other and be neighborly.”
JP says he’s even attended Democratic primary parties at Grimes’ house. He says he had fun, even if he was “the only Republican there.”
Katherine says having different views across the fence helps when you’re trying to raise smart kids.
“I told Melanie from the beginning, I said, ‘fill Ada in on everything.’ I want Ada to, you know, be well-rounded. I want her to hear both sides and come up with her own ideas,” Morgan says.
Though, for now at least, Ada seems more interested in her neighbor’s pets, like Lucas, Grimes's new cat. Ada was looking for him in the yard.
“Melanie is my neighbor, and now we have Lucas,” she tells me. “He’s a nice cat. Brown. I made a book about him.”
The book is about cats doing cat things, without a campaign sign, border wall or email server in sight.
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