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Robert Regan was the first candidate to support Trump

Just after Trump's election in 2016

Judy Putnam, Lansing State Journal Published 11:16 a.m. ET Nov. 18, 2016 | Updated 4:14 p.m. ET Nov. 18, 2016

EAST LANSING – Robert “RJ” Regan describes himself as so conservative that he makes Rush Limbaugh look like a liberal. His high school friend Janie Cavanagh is a progressive, raised in a strong Democratic household.

The pair, 1985 graduates from East Lansing High School, are navigating their way through the post-presidential election fallout that’s traumatized and strained other relationships.

“A lot of people are defriending each other on Facebook,” Regan said. “We’ve been able to remain civil friends through the whole thing.”

Cavanagh is the daughter of longtime Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanagh, who retired from the bench two years ago. She’s been friends with Regan since high school but the relationship was strengthened in recent months as she’s been one of the caregivers for his aging parents.

He’s an Uber driver with rental properties in Grand Rapids who ran for the state House in 2014, losing in the Republican primary.

Wednesday they got together to settle an election bet. Cavanagh had to wear GOP President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign button and take Regan to dinner. The original bet called for dining at Hooters but they settled on Buffalo Wild Wings in East Lansing. (If Democrat Hillary Clinton had won Regan said he would have worn an “I’m with her” or another Hillary t-shirt at “liberal” Beggar’s Banquet.)

The pair say they listen to each other, though neither has been persuaded to switch support for their candidates.

“He’s not confrontational about it. He’s willing to listen. He sees the humor in it,” she said.

“I’m pretty funny,” he interjects. She laughs.

The bet was his idea.

“She was going on and on about how this is going to be a blowout (for Clinton) and blah, blah, blah and ‘I said I really think Trump is going to win in a huge and unbelievable landslide,’” he said.

They like puns. Asked whether Regan was gloating over the election, she responded: “When he goes gloat, I go high.” Cavanagh said, playing off First Lady Michele Obama’s advice in the campaign: ‘When they go low, we go high.”

Their conversation since Trump’s win echoed many discussions across the country minus the rancor.

She said people, particularly Muslims and the LGBT community, have reason to be scared. He said candidate Trump will be different from President-elect Trump.

“It will change now that he’s President-elect Trump, and it should change,” he said.

“I really hope he does want every American to do well,” she said.

It goes on.

“We’ve never had a president between the election and inauguration facing racketeering and rape charges. And he’s never paid his taxes,” she said.

When he counters about Bill Clinton’s checkered personal history, she said “He wasn’t running.”

“She (Hillary Clinton) supported and enabled that behavior,” he counters.

The post-election protests are valid and an expression of free speech, she said. They’re being paid for by George Soros, he said.

The takeaway was that their discussion over politics was just that. They didn’t attack each other personally.

“People need to relax and joke. We’re all part of one race, the human race,” Regan said. “I really do think people are more important than politics.”

Cavanagh said she’s been frightened for the country since the election. Seeing Regan excited about Trump’s win reminded her of her excitement when candidates she supported, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, won their elections. Voters on the other side were frightened back then. It helps to add a little perspective, she said.

“That’s what makes America great is that we can have this kind of discourse without beating each other up,” Regan said.

Judy Putnam is a columnist with the Lansing State Journal. Contact her at (517) 267-1304 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Write to her at 300 S. Washington Square Suite #300 Lansing, MI, 48933. Follow her on Twitter @JudyPutnam.
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