Some of My Best Friends Are Republicans

Two years ago I was at a social gathering with a few dozen women, some of them good friends and the rest friendly acquaintances. As the evening wore on and the wine went down the conversation drifted into dangerous waters: politics.

It started with a conversation about a local family that had fallen on hard times, with both wage earners out of work. While we were somberly expressing concern for them and others like them, one acquaintance, normally a bastion of politeness, spat out a comment:

“It’s all because of that o-BAM-a!!!!” The “bam” syllable launched a spray of pino grigio in my face. I wiped away the wine and the incident for the time being.

But it has come back to me over the past month, during a particularly nasty Presidential campaign filled with vitriol on both sides. People are very divided over the future of this country, something that goes beyond the candidates. Here in Massachusetts the forces are rallying for Romney vs. Obama; for Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren. As campaign signs begin to sprout like spring dandelions on front lawns, the challenge until November will be to keep conversation civil, unlike the campaign.

I lean Democratic, and my Republican friends and I care enough for each other to not let politics interfere with personal relationships. At social gatherings we try not to talk politics, especially if we are unsure of the other person’s beliefs.

But every so often we can’t keep a lid on it.

Last month was one of those times. I was chatting on the phone with an old friend, who went from near-poverty to being a successful businesswoman, and she was lamenting that her 26-year-old son was aging out of the family health insurance plan.

“Fucking Obamacare,” she said. When I reminded her that without the health care plan her son would have lost coverage three years ago, she went on a rant and said Obama was ruining the country. I decided not to argue.

Earlier this year I was driving with three other friends and we were lamenting the alarming number of people who didn’t have health care. “They should get off their butts and go get a job,” said my Republican friend. “Well, many of them LOST jobs!,” my Democrat friend chimed in, clearly ready to debate the issue. Since we were in a car I steered the conversation into safer waters before things got uncomfortable.

My Facebook page includes ads for Romney’s and Paul Ryan’s Facebook pages as “pages you might like,” based on my two dozen FB buddies who’ve already “liked” them. One FB friend — a local businessman whom we like very much — “likes” nearly every ugly caricature of the President that you can imagine, including one that denounces him as a “big fat liar.”

How can friends and neighbors who I adore and share a lot in common with feel so differently from me? Why have some of my childhood confidantes “gone the other way,” despite having shared many of the same life experiences and attitudes in the past? What makes some people Republican and the others Democrat?

I lean Democratic, but not all the way. I believe in the safety net but don’t think it should be a hammock that makes people lazy. I hate people who game the system, whether they are Medicare cheats or billionaires who pay little or no taxes. I never want my kids to lack access to affordable health care but know that some tough decisions have to be made about the cost of treatment.

I’m sure many of my Republican friends share similar moderate views. And to be fair, people with more liberal tendencies are also capable of loose talk, especially after a few drinks. My Facebook feed includes plenty of “likes” for disparaging slogans about Romney and Paul. At a recent dinner out a few of us Dems heartily trashed the other side of the aisle, to the chagrin of a dear friend and very classy guy who happened to be the only Republican present. He smiled patiently and didn’t try to argue with a bunch of tipsy Democrats. Sometimes I’ll go on a rant about right-wing wackos and gradually figure out that the person I’m ranting to is a non-wacko Republican, and just politely waiting for me to finish.

While I sometimes wonder what makes them tick, my Republican friends are compassionate, smart, hard working, always there for me, passionate about giving back to the community. Our friendship will survive this awful campaign, no matter who wins. But I’ll be glad when the elephant in the room – and the donkey — are gone. I’m watching what I drink until then.

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8 thoughts on “Some of My Best Friends Are Republicans

  1. I feel the same way. I can’t wait for the election to be over and the politicians can get back to business… I can’t believe how devisive this who process has become. Thanks so much. Meg Date: Tue, 18 Sep 2012 15:30:16 +0000 To: mmsperanza@hotmail.com

  2. I so do not understand the chasm in United States politics and up here in Canada as well — people are not just passionate (which is a good thing)–they are so one sided that it is scary–I try to see both sides–but am appalled at the way people make declarations and then expect you to agree with them–I do not think these things are black and white, good vs evil, right vs wrong — I long for the days of respect

  3. I am completely with you on this. I have many friends that I just don’t discuss politics with and others that I avoid completely during election years because I can’t stand the vitriol.

  4. Try being Catholic and Democrat and all your Catholic friends are either Republican or ‘other’. I am a Democrat for Life. And I believe that’s why for me anyway this campaign is so devisive and down right dangerous. I’ve been told my salvation is at risk if I vote for Obama. It’s about my Religion, and being told I can’t be Catholic and vote for Obama. That’s why it’s more then just being passionate about voting.

    • Pam, thank you for commenting. I am Catholic too and feel in in the minority. While nearly all of mr Catholic friends are pro-choice and pro-birth control, many still vote republican. Go figure!

  5. many of the people i love vote democrat. and those same people are genuinely compassionate people, going great lengths and giving tirelessly of themselves with determination to make things even just a little better for others less fortunate. truly intelligent, remarkable, courageous, and admirable people. and my life is richer just for having them in it. they have blessed me and countless others.
    i am catholic and intend to vote republican. and i can understand leaning democrat as a catholic on many issues. even if i disagree, i can see the intent. but, my mind has a hard time wrapping around the two when it comes to abortion and “pro-choice.” go figure. i do happen to agree with lots of other things republicans stand for also, but this gets me.
    i understand that there are a wide variety of circumstances that are beyond a woman’s control. however, for the majority of women, i think the time to “choose” was quite a while before you are sitting there contemplating to end a pregnancy. i am tired of people acting as if avoiding sex is impossible. the church teaches on that also. and if you are in disagreement with so much of the church’s teachings, why wouldn’t you find another faith that better fits you and matches your beliefs?
    to me, its like saying its impossible to not drink at a holiday party or not eat cake at a birthday party. why? because the temptation is too great? people are expected to fight temptations all the time. if you are totally opposed to the consequence of an action, why wouldn’t you go to great lengths to avoid that action, even if it means removing yourself from the situation?
    although i think it is overused greatly, i do not think birth control is even in the same ball park as abortion. (there are medical reasons that i know of personally that are greatly alleviated by the hormone regulation offered by birth control pills, whether you are in a sexual relationship or not.) and i can conceivably put that in the category as a choice for your own body.
    i have 4 children, and have probably had 10-15 ultrasounds. have you ever seen or felt twins pushing each other, or jumping with hiccups, as early as 13-16 wks? it wasn’t MY body doing that at all. it was two little boys that i had not met yet, but loved enough to die for.
    shouldn’t there be an overwhelming encouragement from all people of influence for people not prepared to parent to avoid pregnancy before it happens? and when it does, strongly consider adoption for your baby.

    • Mindy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Abortion is truly a divisive issue, and while I am pro-choice I can certainly understand why many people are opposed or uncomfortable with it. However, I agree with you on the birth control issue, and am appalled that anybody would want to limit women’s access to it. This is an area where the right and the left should be able to find some common ground. I agree with Bill Clinton that abortion should be safe, legal…and rare. There is no reason why we should see so many of them. Basic health care for all — including access to contraception — should be a right in this country, and totally divorced from whether or not you have a job. Thanks again for an intriguing post.

    • I just want to say that I am not in disagreement with what my faith teaches. I’m not voting for abortion or contraception. But for what I believe is proportionate grave reasons. I am voting my conscience. No one can tell me what that is. The Church cannot take my constitutional right to vote the way I see fit away from me.

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