The Democrats in our lives
How to interact with the Democrats in our lives is an issue many Republicans have wrestled with for some time. Frequently we maintain a "no fly zone" when it comes to discussing politics with Democrat friends and family members, often by unspoken mutual agreement. We prioritize the relationship and do not want to damage it because of political differences — there are other bonds through which we maintain our connection. A February 2020 Pew report bears out this approach: almost half of all adults in the U.S. have stopped discussing politics with someone.
Less cordial interactions, however, are not uncommon. According to the May 2021 American Perspectives Survey conducted by the Survey Center on American Life, 15 percent of the American public has ended a friendship over politics, with liberals almost three times as likely to sever ties as conservatives (28 percent vs. 10 percent). The survey does not include information about rifts between family members over politics. However, anecdotal evidence based on personal experience indicates that the number of people severing family bonds because of political differences has increased as well.
Until recently, I had only known other Republicans with Democrat friends or family members who had severed relationships with them because of politics. This situation changed when, out of the blue, almost a year after the 2020 election, a close relative sent a profanity-filled text attacking me because I am a Republican who voted for President Trump. This person called me an "idiot," "moron," "douche bag," "Repubutard," and "dips---," and told me I should not seek to communicate again if I liked President Trump. This individual's opinion that President Trump was a "liar" and the Republican party was a "pack of liars" was given as the reason I should not vote or register Republican. However, no examples of the supposed lies were provided. We had never discussed why I am a Republican or my reasons for voting for President Trump. We had not discussed politics in years. My sense of our unspoken contract was we had agreed to disagree and get along. My previous text was "Miss you. When can we get together?"
After recovering from my initial shock, my first question was, "What do Democrats hope to achieve by such behavior? Do they think insulting and cutting off Republican friends and family will make us change our political views?" One might think a better approach would be to keep communication channels open, discuss differences of opinion, and explain the reasons they support Democrat policies and actions. Democrats who are secure in the positions of their party should welcome discussion and be able to provide reasoned arguments substantiated by truthful facts. Instead, despite their claims to abhor bullying, many Democrats engage in it — unabashedly subjecting Republicans to unfounded accusations and ad hominem attacks and dismissing them as deplorable. Who would want to be affiliated with people who engage in such behavior? When Democrats abuse and reject Republicans in this way, is there a reason for Republicans to keep them in our lives?
For myself, the answer is yes. There are planes of experience and shared perspective other than politics that connect us and through which we can appreciate each other's humanity. Therefore, I will endeavor to keep communication channels open with my relative. However, this individual has damaged my sense of this individual's identity and harmed the once-close bond between us, making me question what type of relationship is possible with someone who is willing to summarily discard another human being.
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