Ashbaugh: How a Latino Democrat and a Black Republican opened a white, middle-aged woman’s eyes 

By Erin Ashbaugh | Guest Commentary, Rocky Mountain Voice

 “I’m a Republican.” he said. 

“Ohhhh, I never pegged you to be that. I don’t think we can be friends anymore,” I laughed, only half-kidding. I was what one would consider a “Far Left” Democrat living in Boulder, CO when I said this, and Republicans were “the enemy.”

The Republican friend of mine who I so quickly judged, as we reconnected after years of not seeing each other, was Lavelle Lewis, a football and basketball player who I’d cheered for during our years at IHS in Rochester, NY. After a couple of cups of coffee, I realized that as liberal as I was, Lavelle and I weren’t so different.

Believe it or not, our values, morals, and political perspectives were rooted in similar ideals, just with different approaches to how we felt things should be handled. His historical and global understanding made me realize that my “deep-rooted Democratic beliefs” were actually not rooted in anything other than assumptions and headlines. 

Lucky for me, it turns out that Lavelle is the co-host of a show called Politically Correcting (also referred to as the Politically Correcting Podcast, or PCP). PCP was founded by another IHS grad: Jose Peo, who in 2021 launched the podcast as a response to the chaos influencing major decisions in the political realm. He saw a need for open, honest and reasoned dialogue, and created a platform to provide an opportunity for this. What started as an independently-run podcast was picked up by a local radio station in Rochester in 2023 and the show has been a part of the WYSL lineup since. 

Nine months and 70-some-odd episodes of the Politically Correcting Podcast later, I’ve broken up with the Democratic Party and reclaimed my independence. I realized that the party I joined when I was 18 years old no longer represented me. No party does. Yet, I have been called a “Far-Left MAGA Extremist” because the values I uphold are a mixed bag of political ideals that dip into both sides of the aisle and essentially define me as a patriotic truth-enthusiast who wants leadership that puts people before profit, and who wants truth and accountability to be the new norm. Let me explain how I got here.

Listening to PCP for the first time, I became overtly aware of how closed-minded and sheltered I had allowed myself to become over the years. They say ignorance is bliss, but I have to disagree -– ignorance is numbing and leads to fear-based reactions and decision-making. At least that was my case. I became a dedicated “PCP addict” from that first episode on Sept. 18. Each hour that I spent listening, I gleaned different perspectives that challenged what “I had known” all this time. Humbly, I realized that I actually knew very little outside of my bubble, and I found myself constantly searching for information while I listened so that I understood what the guys were talking about. 

Put a Puerto Rican Democrat and a Black Republican in front of a microphone, and you’re sure to get differing opinions. But -– true to their tagline –- they bring common sense to each conversation, and they leave listeners curious and motivated to look further into things. Between Jose‘s experience with the military and local politics, and Lavelle’s knowledge of political history, especially as related to Black history (his great, great grandfather worked closely with giants such as Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington and President Roosevelt, but that’s a fascinating conversation for another time), these guys know their stuff.

When they discuss current events and headlines on each show, you can be sure Jose and Lavelle have done their research and -– while sometimes their banter is controversial and often raw, it is REAL. And it makes sense. It reflects a natural conversation that any one of us might have. Except that, Jose and Lavelle can disagree -– with each other, or their listeners who call in -– and still engage in discussions that are civil and thought-provoking. Folks often find themselves seeing things in a surprisingly different light after listening to the show, and many have expressed that their whole perspective on politics and media has changed. 

This is what happened in my case. Listening to the show I realized -– as I said before -– that my perspective on the world, politics and policy, social movements, historical figures, my trust in media and the “experts,” and even my ideals and tendencies were often formed out of fear and blind trust, and no longer served me. They never really did. But, I was too ignorant to know where to even start breaking free from the narrative that I had been programmed with since I was a young girl.

The PCP boys didn’t tell me what to think, they showed me how to think: critically. How to question things in a meaningful way by approaching them from a new angle -– not rooted in fear, not colored in Blue or Red, but ultimately as a result of common sense. For me, a middle-aged woman who was admittedly clinging to the word of “Mainstream” media during Covid-19 and living in a perpetual state of fear while I watched the world around me respond to guidance now being admitted as mere guesses by a man who had a hand in the pandemic, PCP has been the equivalent of the “red pill.” 

My eyes are open. Between the show, the live podcast that was an event at the CU Boulder Conference on World Affairs in April, and personal conversations that I have had with Lavelle and Jose, I am no longer stuck in my bubble of ignorance. I do my own research and look at both sides of an issue from a non-biased point of view. I’m no longer dependent on the media and the puppeteers in control of headlines. I’m no longer afraid of the truth. 

Red, Blue or in between, PCP is a reminder that we are not as divided as headlines and -– let’s be honest -– propaganda lead us to believe. People are realizing that the best way to connect and correct the political divide is to unify as a citizenry by having open, honest conversations about topics that may present as controversial, but that are critical to realizing that, regardless of what political party we identify with, we all want the same things and those are the things that our country was founded upon. If we break free from the status quo and cross the aisle, we can bridge the divide by challenging narratives. This is just what the podcast has done for me. 

PCP has challenged me, but also made me realize that the truth knows no boundaries. That we live in a country where we -– as citizens -– need to be accountable for seeking the truth so that we can make informed decisions when exercising our freedom to hold leaders accountable, thru our vote. It is clearer than ever before that we need to stop letting our personal beliefs and ignorance further divide us. It is evident in the way that grassroots efforts and independent  journalism all continue to grow that patriotism is not dead, but rather can be the path to progress and peace.

People genuinely care and want to return America to the promised land that it once was, and they are waking up to the fact that we, as a nation, have often been misled and not informed of the truth. Until more people come together and have difficult conversations though, things will continue much in the same way – driven by the interests of the few, we will continue to be sold a story that we are divided. The PCP boys show otherwise. And they do so by using common sense to call out the hypocrisy driving this story. 

For me, the Politically Correcting Podcast is a refreshing way to spend an hour of my time – it’s engaging, entertaining, and enlightening. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the lunch hour as live episodes air every Monday and Wednesday at 1pm EST/11am MST on WYSL (they’re on just before Dan Bongino and in the lineup after Glenn Beck, by the way) or any streaming platform, including here on the Rocky Mountain Voice. For me, PCP has been life-changing and mind-altering. I’d encourage anyone ready to break free from the chains of conformity and confusion to tune in, engage, and be part of the change this world needs!

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in commentary pieces are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the management of the Rocky Mountain Voice, but even so we support the constitutional right of the author to express those opinions.