>What should we do with family and close friends who share so many of the same values in life but differ sharply when it comes to politics? They support Barack Obama and you support McCain and Palin. Perhaps you agree on a wide range of theological matters and are even members of the same church. Maybe you agree, for instance, on approaches to raising to children, the value of hard work, or other similar matters. You are alike in so many ways, how could they support the other candidate?
The reason for the disagreement is probably due to the fact that you have differing macro values even while sharing many values on a micro level. Macro values would be things such as your view of mankind: is humankind basically good and able to be perfected through human progress or is humanity depraved and in need of spiritual transformation? Adherence to the first view can lead to support of utopian visions and a focus upon strategies such as transforming the environment around people so that the inherently good person may flourish rather than inner transformation. Adherence to the second view leads to a pessimistic view of mankind and skepticism of utopian dreams of healing all the world’s ills. Friends and family members may agree on a great deal on the micro level but differences on the macro level can lead to drastic differences as you may be currently experiencing during this election with those close to you.
The first thing to do is to avoid repeating the mistake of the Left which is to begin with the assumption that your political opponents want what is bad and they want this because they are bad. Many on the left continually assume this of their opponents on the right so you see conservatives portrayed negatively as people. Conservatives, generally speaking, tend to not see their opponents as bad but wrong. Their policies may result in bad things but we believe they desire what is good. They are just wrong. This is why you have liberals claiming that conservatives want children to starve and the elderly to go without medicine (see the welfare reform debates of the 90s). Conservatives may think their opponents are wrong, incorrect, misinformed, or even deluded or stupid but we do not assume that they are bad or want bad things for the country. Remember that your friends and family disagree with you, not because they are bad people, but because they have different ideas concerning the issues of the day. And the reason they have such different ideas even though you share so much in common is probably because you have different values on the macro level.
The second thing to do with family and friends who are voting differently than you is…nothing. Do not talk about it. That’s about it. You probably can talk about it to a small degree, maybe in general terms on a surface level. Maybe you are lucky enough to have a relationship with a close friend or family member that can handle debating and discussing deep political differences without any negative consequences for the relationship. Oftentimes, though, political differences can be explosive. It is not worth ruining a close relationship. Find some other things to talk about until the election is over.
[I am indebted to the practical wisdom of Dennis Prager. This post was adapted from similar advice on this same topic.]