StoryCorps’ One Small Step Project

It’s no secret that politics in the U.S. has become increasingly polarized in recent years. We see it in our social media feeds; we read it in the news; we hear it in conversations with our colleagues and neighbors. For many of us, it’s as if party lines have turned into walls we can’t see over or around.

In December 2019, the Montana Media Lab teamed up with StoryCorps’ One Small Step project to help bridge the political divide here in Montana. We invited Montanas with opposing political views to sit down with each other for a 40-minute, recorded conversation.

The goal? To get beyond political stereotypes and recognize our shared humanity. To stop debating and start listening. To realize, at the end of the day, that we might have more in common than we think.

The following One Small Step conversations were recorded in Missoula, Mont. in December 2019.

“I voted for Trump, and I’m not ashamed of that.” — Jason Ellsworth

Jason Ellsworth (Republican State Senator representing Montana’s Bitterroot Valley) and Susie Orr (executive board member for the Missoula County Democrats) discuss how they came to hold their current political views and share their hopes and fears for the future. Listen here.

“I’m most fearful that we’re losing the ability to have compassion for each other.” — Rachel Gooen

Lisa Velk-Buseman, a fiscally-conservative, fourth-generation Montana, says Missoula has changed dramatically over the years, and not always for the better. Rachel Gooen, a Montana transplant with a social justice background, sees those changes differently. Listen here.

“We both really want to look at where the problems are… and try to do something about it to get to a better place.” — Ethan Holmes

Jessica Mayrer, LGBTQ community member and self-described liberal, Missoula liberal and member of the LGBTQ community and Libertarian Ethan Holmes discuss the environment, the 2020 elections and the concept of “anarcho-altruism.” Listen here.

“[Republicans] are not all the same, and I’d like people to know that… and I assume the same for the left.” — Jack Meyer

College Republicans Vice-President Jack Meyer and self-described liberal Ashli Jaschke (both UM students) talk about everything from prison reform to political stereotypes. Listen here.

“I used to think, ‘You can’t be a Christian and a Democrat,’ but I have changed.” — Rebecca Miller

Bigfork resident Rebecca Miller and University of Montana student Cassidy Martinez talk about religion, sexuality and how their political views have evolved over the years. Listen here.

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