My uncle Dan and myself were having dinner together one night a few years ago. Dan approached politics from a liberal philosophy. I considered myself, and still do, as a moderate that leans to the conservative philosophy quite a bit. In short, there wasn't a lot we agreed on. The topic that night was the impeachment of President Clinton and we were about as far apart as we ever were on any political topic. There was not any way that we would ever agree on any part of the scandal that brought about the impeachment, but neither of us were going to back down.
We were at Chubby's on Broadway, one of our favorite haunts because it had a different atmosphere and served breakfast twenty four hours a day. The discussion became an argument and the argument became louder and louder until we were pounding our fists on the tables to emphasize our respective points we were trying to make. Eventually each of us began to feel our bodies shaking from the stress and the anger. Dan was to the point of getting up to leave to ease his stress and to get away from this argument that had grown out of control.
Then at about the same time, we stopped talking and looked at each other. This just wasn't worth it. We had grown very close to each other and we both could feel that we were on the edge of losing a relationship that neither of us wanted to lose. We each reached across the table and held each other's hand. We worked our way around to making a promise to each other that we would never argue politics again with each other. Not in a serious way anyway. As time progressed we would make political jokes to each other but drop the topic immediately. It just wasn't worth losing our love and friendship for each other. It was the last serious political argument I had with Dan. That night was one of the worst nights we had together, but also one of the best. That night we came to an understanding that would stand until the day he died.
I still feel passionate about politics and my philosophy. I will argue once in a while issues that face our country, but I always try to stop short of getting too wrapped up in a discussion that I lose control. Most of the people I know and my friends know where I stand with regard to my philosophy concerning politics. There is no reason to keep airing them out when I know it will cause friction that isn't desired or needed.
Over the past few elections, the country has become more and more divided and passionate. Partisanship is at the worst that I can remember in my lifetime. I have come to the conclusion that most intelligent people, on both sides of the political spectrum, are so very passionate and dug in to what they think and believe that trying to have a discussion about any particular issue is a fruitless endeavor that will result in nobody changing their thinking and the hardening of feelings for friends and family.
The current campaign that is under way between President Obama and Governor Romney is very passionate on each side. I don't know who will win out in November, and to be honest, right now I am not sure it will make much of a difference. The congress has become so partisan it is hard to imagine them being able to accomplish anything. As a a matter of fact, the congressional elections this year are probably more important than the Presidential election.
Another reason it may not make a difference on the outcome of the Presidential election is the recent rulings of the Supreme Court. I think that everyone who was following the President's health care bill was a little confused when the decision came down upholding the health care bill. Whether you considered the Supreme Court's ruling a victory or defeat, you had to end up sitting there scratching your head on how the decision came down. The major swing vote over the years on the court has been Justice Kennedy while the Chief Justice Roberts was considered a definite part of the right wing of the court. When the decision came down it was 5-4 to uphold the health bill. That wasn't too big of a surprise. Most people were pretty sure it would come down to a 5-4 one way or the other. The head scratcher was who came down on the majority and minority of the decision. Justice Kennedy came down strong against the health bill. Chief Justice Roberts swung to join the left wing of the court in upholding the bill. Even the Supreme Court is all mixed up and now we have no idea how to predict how the court will rule in future cases.
The whole system is acting in a manner that we haven't seen in decades. I believe that the strong passionate feelings that the American people have going into this election is feeding into that uncertainty. We are close to entering into a kind of philosophical civil war of the minds. The country began splitting, I believe, during the Nixon Administration, grew a little during the Carter era, and has slowing been carving a chasm in the American political spectrum at a slow and steady pace over the years until President Bush and Senator Gore ended up taking the election of 2000 to the Supreme court to be decided. The chasm deepened quickly then and has been like a run away train ever since.
I will participate in the election. I will listen to the pundits and watch the debates that are surely going to be held as we get closer to November. I will vote. I will pay extremely close attention to the house and Senate elections as well as the Presidential election. Every seat in congress will be important this year as well as the White House.
But getting into arguments over issues during this election will not happen with me. I have grown closer to friends and family over the last few years and getting into an argument over the election will not help those relationships at all.
I probably will give my opinion on certain issues here on the blog. I have in the past and see no reason not to continue to do so. But I plan on being careful to just put my thoughts out there and let people read them. They can agree or not, doesn't really matter to me. One thing I won't do however is to get into a discussion that will probably cause harm in my relationships. I can see myself joking with politics this year, but not to express myself or take an issue so seriously that a relationship is broken. People will know that I am making light or joking.
I plan on still having those relationships after the election and beyond. This year is too passionate to take any chances. There will be those that think I am ducking from confrontation. That might be a good way to describe how I approach this election.
I am taking the lesson that my Uncle Dan and I learned a few years back, and holding on to it.