A liberal Democrat at the Republican National Convention

September 03, 2012

Jane C. Edmonds, a senior fellow in the Col­lege of Pro­fes­sional Studies, proudly iden­ti­fies her­self as a lib­eral Demo­crat, which is why she puz­zled so many friends and col­leagues by not only sup­porting former Mass­a­chu­setts Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP’s nom­inee for pres­i­dent, but by speaking out in sup­port of him at last week’s Repub­lican National Convention.

“I know I may face crit­i­cism for being at the RNC, but what I want to say, ‘This is America, we should be able to make up our minds and sup­port someone on our own,” said Edmonds, who served in the admin­is­tra­tions of gov­er­nors Romney and Michael Dukakis, now a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence at North­eastern. “I felt priv­i­leged to be at RNC and speak from my heart, saying what I believe.”

In her speech on Thursday, Edmonds described Romney to del­e­gates as a ded­i­cated leader who worked hard to increase the number of women in state government.

“When I first met Gov. Romney, I was struck by his humanity, his grace, his kind manner,” she said, describing her inter­view ahead of being named the state Sec­re­tary of Work­force Devel­op­ment. “I could tell imme­di­ately just by our inter­ac­tion that he is the real thing — authentic. He struck me and now as honest, trans­parent and inclusive.”

Edmonds said deliv­ering the speech was a true honor, but she described another event — a ses­sion on women in gov­ern­ment and pol­i­tics called “Uncon­ven­tional Women” that drew par­tic­i­pants from across the aisle — as an eye-​​opening oppor­tu­nity to con­nect with people she may never have oth­er­wise inter­acted with. (A sim­ilar ses­sion will be held at the Demo­c­ratic National Con­ven­tion this week in Char­lotte, N.C.)

“Like most people, I think I have to work hard not to label any one group and paint with a broad brush,” Edmonds said. “One of those groups is the Tea Party; I don’t know if there is any one group whose views seem fur­ther away from what I believe. But it turns out that once you actu­ally sit down and talk to people, you get a very dif­ferent take­away. You’re hum­bled knowing there are many view­points and ways to think about an issue, and soon you’re finding common ground with a group you con­sid­ered your­self so dia­met­ri­cally opposed to.”

Those dia­logues hap­pened across the con­ven­tion, she said, in the cor­ri­dors of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, which hosted the event, and over meals in hotels and nearby restaurants.

“It was an oppor­tu­nity to say, ‘Tell me more. Where are you really coming from?'” Edmonds said. “Being able to ask ques­tions and have a con­ver­sa­tion was a true joy for me. I came back thinking the expe­ri­ence had truly stretched my mind.”

Edmonds said she is con­fi­dent that America can thrive under the lead­er­ship of whichever pres­i­den­tial can­di­date the public selects; what is more impor­tant, she says, is that the country — both its leaders and its cit­i­zens — works to become more open to dia­logue, inclu­sive­ness and an open exchange of ideas.

“There are some very hard divides along party lines,” Edmonds said. “I’ve been a Demo­crat all my life, and I’ve been in pol­i­tics nearly as long. More than ever before, I’m seeing these divides that keep people from talking to each other. This idea of civil dis­course may seem like an anti­quated phrase, but it’s exactly what we need right now for our country.”

For students and the general public interested in knowing more about political conventions and campaigns, Northeastern University offers an informative, non-partisan website, “U.S. Political Conventions & Campaigns”.