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Ale for what ails us

November 23, 2018

STAMFORD — Steve Kolenberg has often wondered how to bridge the divide between liberals and conservatives in the city, so he came up with a plan.

On Friday, Nov. 30, the Republican member of the Stamford Board of Representatives is hosting an event at Lock City Brewing with the intent of getting Democrats and Republicans to have fun together and pay for each others’ beers.

“If we can’t buy each other beers, we’re in trouble,” Kolenberg said.

Kolenberg is co-organizing the event, called “Beers and Bipartisanship,” with colleague Matt Quinones, who serves as the president of the Board of Representatives, and is a registered Democrat.

Kolenberg said he was inspired to do something in response to the congressional hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in which the prospective judge came under fire for allegations of sexual assault.

The political discourse had gotten so “nasty” at the time, Kolenberg said, that he set out to find ways to tone down the arguing and find common ground.

“We need to stop, take stock of who we are, and realize we’re not enemies shooting at each other,” he said. “We’re two parties but we all want the same for Stamford, which is making it the best place to live as possible.”

Kolenberg came up with the idea of hosting the mixer, and added a stipulation that Democrats must buy Republicans a beer, and vice versa.

He said the reaction so far has been positive.

“People have been waiting for an opportunity like this,” he said. “Nobody really likes what’s going on in this country.”

Quinones did not respond to a request for comment.

When asked what has caused the toxic environment in Washington, D.C., and the rest of the country, Kolenberg didn’t hesitate to answer.

“It’s 100 percent Donald Trump’s fault,” he said.

People feel they are being attacked personally for their views, and not on the merits on their arguments, Kolenberg said, adding President Trump has only exacerbated the problem.

“Donald Trump has really brought identity politics into the forefront,” he said.

Trump has been criticized by members of both parties for a long list of personal attacks he has levied against his detractors. As examples, the president has called Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas,” adult film star Stormy Daniels “horseface,” and former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman a “dog.” He has also repeatedly called the news media “fake news,” and “the enemy of the people.”

The poster for Friday’s “Beers and Bipartisanship” event asks, “Sick of the toxic political culture coming out of Washington?”

Kolenberg doesn’t know how many people to expect, but said he’d be thrilled if 40 to 50 people showed up.

His goal is for people from both sides to recognize that those with oftentimes opposing political views “are people too,” and not “a fire-breathing dragon.”

While the event is clearly intended for Democrats and Republicans, Kolenberg said he wants people from all across the political spectrum to show up.

“Everybody is welcome,” he said.

Registered Green Party or Libertarian Party voters won’t be left out of the fun.

“I’ll just buy you a drink,” Kolenberg said.

“Beers and Bipartisanship” will take place on Friday, Nov. 30, at Lock City Brewing, located at 54 Research Drive in Stamford, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

ignacio.laguarda@stamfordadvocate.com

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