Sue Hatfield (opinion): Head of CT GOP suggests following 'Mom Rules' in political discourse

Sue Hatfield with her sons at the Connecticut Republican Party State Convention in 2018 where she was nominated as the Republican candidate for attorney general.

Sue Hatfield with her sons at the Connecticut Republican Party State Convention in 2018 where she was nominated as the Republican candidate for attorney general.

Contributed photo

As someone who was recently elected to take the reins of the Connecticut Republican Party, I’ve found myself reflecting on some of my own life experiences, the lessons that I teach my children (ages 13 and 9), and what I often hear from other moms about today’s political environment. The disconnect between the behavior that we teach our children and what we often see in today’s political environment is stark, and that is not lost on any of us.

I believe it doesn’t need to be this way and that we can begin to turn things around if we all start practicing what our parents taught us when we were young: be kind, play fair, and congratulate the other side when they win.

So, with that in mind, I think it might be time to get everyone around that plastic Graco picnic table, hand out the wooden spoons and Hoodsie cups, and go over a few important “Moms Rules” that can govern both life and politics.

Play Hard, But Play Fair. I played basketball in high school and college. And there were a few rules that my teammates and I always followed. One rule was if you knocked someone down by accident you quickly extended your hand to help that person up and asked if they were alright. Our fair play principles and respect for our opponents were always front and center. And that’s what I expect of my two young boys today. Likewise, in the political arena we also welcome spirited yet fair and respectful exchange between opponents.

Our Competitors Can Be Our Friends. Today, I am an attorney who often goes to court. And sometimes I strongly oppose another attorney’s motion and make arguments against their position. But when court is in recess, I will often ask about his or her child’s last sporting event or share with them details about my last family adventure. Again, I don’t believe that makes me less of an advocate for my client. I simply think it’s important to treat the attorney, and their client, with civility and respect. This is an example I often cite to my boys as I explain that our adversaries can also be our friends, and they often serve to make us better.

Embrace Those With Different Opinions. Early in my professional career I worked at the U.S. Capitol for the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. I was often greeted with open arms at the office of a Connecticut Democratic Congressman where a dear friend also worked as a staffer. Her door was always open. I never felt our friendship made me less of a Republican or her less of a Democrat. We learned from each other, we respected each other’s opinions, and we remain friends today. We teach our children that it’s “people before politics” and that our homes and hearts are always open to all of our friends regardless of political beliefs or affiliation.

Huddle Up — There is No “I” In Team. The other moms and I teach our children that there is no “I” in “T-E-A-M” and they should “huddle up” around their teammates when they fumble a play on the athletic field. We teach our children to handle situations with their peers directly and diplomatically and to offer their teammates support and guidance. Similarly, in the political arena, our children should see that we will also call our teammates directly to offer support, share ideas, and provide guidance as opposed to grandstanding and finding opportunity in someone else’s failures.

Be a Good Sport. On the Little League Field or at the local hockey rink our children line up after each game and fist bump the players on the opposing team as they say “good game” or “congratulations.” Our children display this respectful act even when they find it difficult to do so. Consider how we would react if our son or daughter skipped the line?

I can tell you that the other moms and I firmly believe the political environment, and ultimately our democracy, would benefit immensely if those in the political arena more closely modeled the behaviors that are expected of our children.

An excellent book that can serve as a refresher of these and other important “Mom Rules” is Robert Fulghum’s famous book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” This book contains lots of good advice such as “When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.”

As well as my personal favorite: “Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.”

Sue Hatfield, is the chair of the Connecticut Republican Party and was the 2018 Republican Nominee for attorney general in Connecticut.