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Discussing politics with family and friends

I’m old enough to remember a time when people with opposing political views could have a spirited discussion about the candidates they were supporting. Although minds were seldom changed by the end of the discussion, the parties, more often than not, remained on friendly terms. That no longer seems to be the case in our current emotionally charged political environment.

Thinking back to the Stevenson-Eisenhower (1952/1956) and Kennedy-Nixon (1960) presidential contests, I don’t recall anything approaching the level of vitriol in today’s political climate, when the subject of discussion is Donald Trump.

Having witnessed the wreckage of long-term friendships and intra-family relationships, I routinely avoid political discussions concerning Trump. I’m happy to state my position on President Trump (very pro!) but won’t engage in an argument with the goal of changing minds. Aside from not wanting to alienate friends/family I realize the futility of attempting to win them over to my position.

First of all, as in any discussion/argument, Ego is very much involved. For the person to concede an issue, i.e. “you’re right,” axiomatically renders them “wrong.” Nobody wants to be “wrong.” Tough to come away without a bruised Ego. To avoid “losing” the argument on the basis of logic and facts, the Ego can always shift from logic to emotion, name calling, personal attacks, etc.

Second, the other person is often coming from a different place on the issue, getting information from different sources and understandably arriving at a different conclusion.

One of the most contentious issues of the day is the matter of whether the 2020 election was stolen or legitimate. I’ve come up with a simple method to determine whether a fruitful discussion is worth the effort or will likely be a waste of time.

I ask the other person to consider which of these three positions most accurately represents his starting premise. (He can just answer it honestly to himself).

1. “I don’t care! I’m just not interested in politics. I can’t control anything they do. They do whatever they want so why should I waste my time on any of it. They’re all the same anyway.”

2. “Trump is so evil! He’s a combination of the Devil and Hitler! I don’t care if the FBI, the CIA, the Chinese, the Russians, Iran, or the Deep State rigged the election. He had to be stopped at all costs to save our Country. If Hitler had been taken out early, the world would have avoided WWII. I’m all for stopping Trump by any means possible. He is such a menace!”

3. “I may not agree with everything Trump does or says and whether I ‘like’ him or not really doesn’t matter. I believe in our system which is set up so that each (legal) citizen can evaluate the candidates and vote according to his own criteria/conscience. All sides have the opportunity to make the case for their candidate. Ultimately, We The People are the only ones who are authorized to choose the candidates and government to represent us.”

If the other person’s premise is either 1 or 2, it’s obvious that there is no possibility of a discussion. If it’s 3, the possibility exists. Perhaps we can begin by comparing our sources of information.

In lieu of the above, it’s easiest just to avoid controversial topics (i.e. politics, religion, Covid vaccines) and keep interactions on a more superficial level.

Jeff Paley


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