Seeking unity across party lines

Detroit Free Press, December 9, 2016

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few weeks back I spoke at my synagogue on the future of the Republican Party.  Always by my side, my family of liberals, conservatives and independents came to support me. Like any good mother, my own mom asked me the best question of the morning: what do you recommend divided families do this holiday season? My answer was simple: Come together, love each other, and be thankful.

This was an extremely difficult election cycle that ended not in a Republican mandate, but rather a repudiation of the establishment. People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. People are hurting, and they are ready for change. Both parties were sent a direct message this election, a message that will require each of them to change if they intend to stay relevant.

For many, December represents a time of coming together to see loved ones and celebrate the holidays. Our family units represent a perfect analogy to the state of our politics and the future of both parties. Like a family, if either party wants to thrive, their viability is founded in the strength of all its members working together. I am blessed to see how this works firsthand, not just in my various GOP roles, but each day on personal and professional levels. I am blessed to be a co-owner of Vesco Oil Corp., my family’s third generation oil distributorship, alongside my sister, Lilly Stotland, and our parents, Marjory and Donald Epstein. We each have unique qualities that enhance not just our family, but also our company. Most importantly, we support one another. As I embarked on a summer of campaigning for the GOP, it was my sister and parents, all liberals and independents, who encouraged me to champion my convictions. I am better — we are better — because of our unwavering support for each other.

Similarly, both political parties need to spend this holiday season figuring out how to effectively be a productive family.  We need to have an open mind and a willingness to support each other, despite our disagreements, for the betterment of the family. President-elect Donald Trump has committed to assembling a team to better not just the Republican family, but the American family of which we are all a part. The fact that he is considering Mitt Romney, one of his most vocal critics, shows his ability to lead by example and embody unity.

As younger generations become more of the voting base, the demands of the electorate continue to change, and so, too, should the parties that look to capture this support. When looking at exit polling, Trump did better with racial minorities than Romney in 2012, and fared about the same as Romney with female voters. The GOP’s potential will be subject to Republican willingness to embrace Trump’s populism, and convey that this new movement for change is not just for older white men, but for all Americans.

One’s success, personally and professionally, is founded in the love and support they receive from family along the journey — I know this firsthand. It’s often forgotten, not just in the media, but in Washington, too, that the founding principles of the Republican Party were based on a powerful stance of love and support for all people — for equality — a champion against the oppressive institution of slavery. Lincoln’s party was not just founded on tolerance, but on the idea of truly embodying, ironically as it may sound to some Clinton supporters, the idea that we as a people, as a country, as a family are “stronger together.” I agree.

Lena Epstein served as Michigan cochairwoman for the Donald J. Trump Campaign