Several years ago I read somewhere that politics had overtaken religion and race as causes of divisiveness in our personal lives.
The divide is blatant through the polarization of Congress and the caustic campaigning. Lately, it requires finesse to keep the friction away from happy hour, off the dance floor and even out of the bedroom.
“Obama’s in Africa, for God’s sake,” snapped a friend seated in the middle of our trio at a restaurant bar over the holidays.
“He just finished a press conference at the White House so he isn’t, but what if he is,” I replied, unintentionally riling her more.
Talking over her angry comeback in the noisy lounge, I pleaded with our friend on the other side of her, “I love her too much. Let’s change the subject.”
“You love HER?” fumed the one in the middle, mishearing and referring to Hillary.
“I love YOU! Merry Christmas!” I replied with a hug.
Not long before that, a disc jockey and longtime friend teasingly—not really—countered with, “Heck no, you’re a damn liberal,” when I requested a song. Same DJ who professes to love me to death despite questioning my logic each time I see him. Come to think of it, I don’t believe he did play that tune.
I’m old enough to remember when presidential campaigns preceded elections in reasonable lengths of time. Then the nation, for the most part, would support the newly elected president throughout his (so far) term and Congress would focus on legislating until the next election. These days, campaigning starts over with the new term, and speculation before that. Party lines block progress and nobody wins.
A very early memory puts me on our living room sofa with my mother watching a political convention on TV, black and white, I’m sure. “The loser should be vice president,” I said. “I’ve thought that, too,” she told me.
One of my favorite Christmas gifts from my parents, a bust of then-President John F. Kennedy, came when I was in high school. Much later and sadder, mom gave me a special edition John John doll. Both still create a shrine in my home. They remind me of more tolerant times.
So, what’s going on?
It’s true. “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines, and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive, than at any point in the last two decades,” according to the 2014 Pew Research Center report Political Polarization in the American Public. The survey of 10,000 adults nationwide found that although most Americans do not have uniformly conservative or liberal views, partisan animosity has increased substantially in those who do. Liberals and conservatives disagree over where they want to live, the kind of people they want to live around and even whom they would welcome into their families. Thirty percent of consistent conservatives say they would be unhappy if an immediate family member married a Democrat and twenty-three percent of across-the-board liberals say the same about the prospect of a Republican in-law. In contrast, 11% of Americans say they would be unhappy at the prospect of a family member marrying someone of a different race.
Validating that, a friend stated “too conservative” as a reason for moving from Northeast Florida.
This friend has not yet met my boyfriend of three years because I—a peacemaker with an aversion to controversy—fear the potential political ugliness.
“You mean like in an airplane, with a parachute?” my friend joked when I told him a meeting between the two of them would necessitate an escape plan.
“Something like that, yes.”
Yep, we’re in a Mary Matalin/James Carville relationship. Minus the discussions. My request. Except when he gleefully tries to, quote, “stir the pot” with full animation. However, neither of us is willing to let politics mess up a good thing.
Of the 55 items on my “the man I have been waiting for” list I compiled when I retired in 2012, political compatibility is the only one he missed. Sure enough, politics came up within five minutes in our first conversation. “Uh, do you want to give my business card back?” I asked. “Oh, no!” he groaned. Out of respect, affection and admiration for each other, we make it work.
On purpose, my blogs are not controversial. Neither is this one. Please.
To be honest, I attempt to be open to others’ political viewpoints, value our political party system and don’t always vote for my party’s candidates.
In his last State of the Union address, President Obama conceded that he regrets not having been able to bridge the political divide. I’m sorry, too.
To quote the Beach Boys, “wouldn’t it be nice:”