Political Respectness on November 7 (And Beyond)
November 5, 2018
With perhaps one of the most talked-about midterm elections in a generation now just a day away, we know that by this time tomorrow evening, Americans from both sides will have at least some reasons to rejoice and some reasons to grumble. As shared with CNN International this evening, here are my suggestions for how to maintain political respectness in the rhetorically charged era in which we live, (particularly in families and among circles of friends).
Put Off Posting
Don’t turn to social media–whether to gloat or to grieve. Political animosity has been so vicious in the run-up to the midterms that the last thing opposing sides want to hear on November 7 is grandstanding—or griping, as the case may be.
Celebrate (or Commiserate) With Like Minds
With so many tight races and so many supporters all-in for specific candidates, depending on what happens at the polls, there are going to be huge disappointments, much excitement and perhaps some upsets. If you’re looking to share the joy of victory or the agony of defeat, do so with others whose views are similar to your own…not with those whom you know are diametrically opposed to you. You’ll find far more receptiveness to your point of view with like minds, with less temptation to argue.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I encourage everyone to be conservative with their critiques of their opponents and liberal with their empathy. I call this political respectness. We know that American families are often divided on these issues. How can we expect our Senators and Representatives to cross the aisle if even family members cannot accomplish that? Listen before jumping in and learn how (and when) to bite your tongue.
Let the Dust Settle
The newly elected will be making big plans, and those defeated will be licking their wounds. But it’s important for the rest of us to take a momentary breather and find joy in diversions outside the political arena this week and next. Re-charge your batteries so you’ll be ready for Thanksgiving, when so many Americans have been shown to be cutting short their celebrations, or skipping them altogether simply because of political strife with family members. (A 2016 survey using cell phone location data from 10 million mobile devices found that family members were actually leaving their dinners 30-50 minutes earlier than in years prior, owing demonstrably to opposing political viewpoints.)
Make a Wish
And since Thanksgiving will be contentious in many households, rather than dredging up the same old arguments, family members should consider avoiding talk of specific candidates or issues and focusing instead on having constructive conversations about how to find common ground and mutual understanding. Set some house rules and have both sides explore the topic with respect and humility, valuing the dignity of the other individual throughout the process.