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Can Politics Ruin Friendships?

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I’m really struggling with this right now. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have any friends that I’m ready to say “good-bye” to just because of political differences – but I will say that sometimes it’s hard to understand one another.

When I was younger, and I voted in my first election, I was naive. I was attending a Catholic, conservative university. I was living away from home, and I was influenced by the talk going on around me. I voted like my peers, and how I THOUGHT my parents were voting. (Turns out I was dead wrong on the latter.)

When I was nearing the end of my 4 year education, and the next election was coming up, I was more interested. I was paying more attention. I was watching speeches, debates, news. I was HAVING debates with people I knew. I was talking. I was more involved. I was more passionate. I wanted to vote the president I wanted into office. And I did. And boy, did that feel good. I felt like things were going to change for the better.

The next 8 years we had my candidate in office, but then something happened. The other guy won. And he won again. For 8 years we had “the other guy” in office. Someone I really didn’t want in office. Someone I didn’t feel was qualified. Someone I felt was leading our nation down a path of destruction and folly. Someone who was making our country less respectable in the eyes of other nations. But clearly, more than half the USA voted him in office, so other people had confidence in him. Or at least they had less confidence in my candidates.

The next time there was an election, I had had it. I was ready for some action. I put the sign in front of my house, I wore buttons, t-shirts, and even drove to another state with 2 friends and went door-to-door to campaign. When our candidate won, it felt like we were a part of it. I felt like things were good – things were turning around.

Things in our country aren’t so good right now. I don’t know whose fault it is. The fault lies with many, I think. The economy is bad ALL OVER. Greece is bankrupt, several countries in Europe are doing very poorly economically. It’s bad all over.

I know people are looking for someone to blame, and there will be debates on how to get us out of this mess. This is politics. I get that. This is fine.

What bothers me, and what has me scratching my head and really questioning my republican friends is the candidates they have chosen, and the speakers they listen to of late. The Rush Limbaughs and the Kirk Camerons, judging everyone else and not looking inward. The Newt Gingrichs, going through wives like tissues- leaving them while they’re at their most vulnerable, or Santorum, who seems to be anti gay, woman, and even college.

When I see a friend or family member who’s a republican, I usually just see the friend or family member. Until I start hearing the vitriol from the party, and then I can’t help but wonder if they truly believe what some of their party stands for and then I feel so conflicted. I try to separate the person from the politics, but it gets muddled. How can we truly separate from our fundamental beliefs?

Can you separate your friends from their politics?

How do you do it?

I’m asking on a serious level? I’d really love to know, so that I can get past this hurdle.


22 responses »

  1. The best way I’ve found to separate friendship from politics is to realize that, aside from what you’ve been taught, politics isn’t as important in life as politicians and the media would like you to believe. Why waste time even talking politics, when there’s so much in life you and others can celebrate together? Only half the population even votes! People have far more in common than their differences. Focus on that. Share projects and activities. Build things. Mentor the young. If nothing else, take walks together and just enjoy the outdoors.

    In my grandparents day, it was always considered impolite to discuss politics, religion, or money matters outside the family. Perhaps they were on to something.

  2. Hey Gen,
    The way that I look at it is that if someone is involved politically and follows speeches, current issues, economic conditions, etc., then that’s a good thing, NO MATTER WHO THEY VOTE FOR. I have a mutual respect for those that believe differently than myself politically as long as they are informed on the issues. People who are swayed POLITICALLY by the latest Saturday Night Live skit, or get their politics from Op-Ed columnists is the problem more than people who choose the Republican route or the Democrat route.

    You need to look at both sides equally though… why is it ok for Sarah Palin to be called the “c” word and ridiculed, but Rush gets crucified for calling someone a slut. In my opinion it’s ALL wrong, but in politics people have a way of looking the other direction for their side and then calling the other side out for “dirty” politics. I’m a conservative and get highly offended when I get asked to justify some High Profile Conservative’s statement. I’m my own person and just because Kirk Cameron, Rush or Hannity make a statement publicly doesn’t mean it’s my opinion, my political view, or a basis for something I have to justify. Just because someone is a Conservative speaker doesn’t mean I listen to them or believe in everything they say. I have my own mind and get offended when it’s insinuated that conservatives are brain washed or tricked into believing a particular way. I personally don’t like the way liberals make political statements as “facts” and if a conservative doesn’t believe it, then they are just “stupid” and “uneducated”. We are constantly called “dumb”, “uninformed”, and “crazy” for our beliefs.

    In reality, the two main political ideologies see the fix to this problem in different ways. It’s not that we are that far off from wanting the same thing — it’s just that we see a different way to fix it.

    Politically, I too have been frustrated because I have been disappointed with the candidates that the Republican party have put forward. It’s more of a vote that works out as a lesser of 2 evils. I have not felt that there has been a candidate where I could get behind 100%.

    Ok, here’s where I have a problem and don’t understand – socially, I get it that some people are pro-life/pro-choice, pro-gun/anti-gun, etc. — Why should either side “win”, so to speak? By forcing one side to pay for abortions, or take away someone’s right to bear arms, then one side “wins” and the other side are told their beliefs don’t matter or they are “wrong”. I think a lot of issues can be decided within the individual states so that the people can truly have their own political difference and vote for the way they want life where they live. Forcing a whole nation to pay for things they don’t morally agree with isn’t the answer for me. I think that we need to have a consideration for ALL people, even those that have Christian morality issues. Both conservatives and liberals have a right to believe what they believe whether someone else thinks it’s “right” or “wrong”. Anything else is hate. From both sides.

    I think if BOTH sides stopped saying that the other side is coming from places of “fear”, or “hate” or “ignorance”, then I think we’d find more common ground. Anything else is just childish and promotes more hate. And both sides do it, but it’s hard for any of us to admit where we’re wrong. That’s human nature. Blame someone else. If we stopped and listened to where we categorize, name call, insinuate, and stereotype, we’d realize that we aren’t as open minded as we all think we are. We all come from our own ideas, beliefs, etc. and we hurt each other when politics is involved. Don’t hate people because they think different than you. Even if you can’t fathom where their philosophies come from, accept those differences. Isn’t that what it’s all about anyway? Accepting the differences is something liberals say they do, but they sure don’t want to accept a conservative thinkers ability. It’s constantly trashed, made fun of, and ridiculed. I would just like to see all the namecalling and categorizing to end from both sides of the aisle and concentrate more on the HOW to politically compromise for the common good.

    ~ Jen

  3. Jen, I appreciate your feedback. I actually agree with you on a lot of points. I think that we need to listen to each other more. I think less sweeping generalizations need to be made. I think that even in your last paragraph you’re sweeping liberals with a broad brush.

    I think what has happened in this country, unfortunately, is that the “leaders” of both parties and the ones who are the loudest, are not necessarily the ones who make the most sense or the ones who speak for the masses. I think that the Rush Limbaughs and the Bill Mahers of the world aren’t necessarily the spokespeople for everyone in the party (though it does frighten me a little that someone we both love does listen to one of them on a daily basis).

    I think that having debates, having REAL political debates without mudslinging, character defamation and personal attacks is the right way to go about things.

    As far as pro-life/choice pro/anti-gun, that’s a whole other discussion, but I think there’s a big difference between allowing women to be able to have safe, legal abortions and PAYING for them, and there’s also a difference between allowing people to own guns and to restrict the gun ownership laws.


  4. Invisible Mikey –

    Thanks so much for your input! I think you said it well!


  5. Oh, and Jen, for the record, while I openly think that Sarah Palin was the worst choice John McCain could have made, and someone who has no place in politics more than I belong in politics, I never called her any profanities, nor do I condone anyone who does or did.

  6. Gen, I also think that even if someone listens to those commentators every day isn’t that awful – it’s Entertainment and not necessarily marching orders. I like a lot of Entertaining shows that might not uphold my value system. I also read liberal writings even though I’m a conservative. I’m not saying people aren’t influenced by media (heck, I’m a marketing person by trade, trying to influence people all the time!) And sure, people who listen to Bill Maher and Rush on a daily basis usually sympathize with their points and there is nothing wrong with that. Rush’s recent comment was wrong and he shouldn’t have said it, but that doesn’t make everything he says wrong and hateful.

    What makes our Country great is the ability to have the free speech, the differing opinions, and the debates. Just because someone has a different belief doesn’t mean they are coming from a position of hate. Just because a commentator appeals to one sector of an audience doesn’t mean they should be taken off the air. I think it could be handled by debate, challenging position, listening to everything they say and not just the sound bites, etc.

    Just because someone who know (friend or family) is daily listening to a Commentator that differs from your beliefs (or watches a television show you think is filth or unrealistic) doesn’t mean you should be frightened. Most people want the same thing but have a different means to accomplish the goal. I have had first hand political discussions with the person you are referring to in the comment above.

    So, in going back to your original question about whether a friendship can be ruined over Political differences, it can if one can’t separate differences of opinion from hate.

  7. I’m not frightened by HER or anything she would do. I misspoke. I just still think what Rush can do and how he can empower the masses has the potential to be frightening. She is someone whom I love with all my heart.

    I do my best to separate political beliefs from who my friends and family are as people.

    There are, however, some people I know socially who have bumper stickers with all sorts of silliness on them about birth certificates and the like. I’m having a much harder time with that.


  8. Anyone in the media has the means to empower the masses, which is both scary and awesome all that the same time, depending on what side you are on at the moment. Hope and Change had a powerful movement 3 years ago. The masses were empowered. And that’s ok. That’s what we want. The freedom to be able to do that.

    Now, what’s so hard about friendship and politics is that both are and can be emotional. It’s hard when your emotions aren’t lining up as pretty as you’d like them to. Ultimately, the best advice is to avoid the political discussions, but if there is bumper stickers involved, the conversation has kind of been placed out there. Maybe that is your little reminder not to talk politics with them specifically. πŸ˜‰

    But, you are always welcome to my house for dinner and we can discuss politics, get emotional, and then hate each other for awhile! πŸ˜‰ J/K after discussing politics with your brother, we moved on to a better discussion — wine tasting! πŸ˜‰

  9. And as far as I know, thanks to the Hyde Amendment, no taxpayer money goes toward abortions.

  10. The Lame Ranger

    I think the important thing in navigating any sort of friendship divide is this: can you set aside the butt hurt you feel in order to take someone else’s feelings, thoughts, or actions into consideration? If you can’t, you’d be best off surrounding yourself with like minded people or keeping your friendship on the fluffy side where you simply discuss the latest Grey’s Anatomy or the current color of your toenails. πŸ˜‰

    There’s nothing “wrong” about that approach, really. It’s less stressful. It’s less thought provoking, too. I do believe a good way to hash out your own beliefs is to be around people who have different beliefs than you do.

  11. I’ve learned the hard way that I simply cannot talk about politics with friends and family members who see things from a different perspective from mine, and that is sad. It is not so much the different views that bothers me, because we are all entitled to our own views and ought to be able to express them without someone thinking less of us, but the hostile atmosphere that almost always develops.

    I have come to the conclusion that the political atmosphere in this country has been poisoned by people like Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and yes – Bill Maher. There simply is no excuse for attacking women the way these men have. How can that possibly lead to civil political discourse? How can it not infect the minds of some listeners? How can it bring us together as Americans?

    I gave up on Rush Limbaugh years ago when he was going on rants against women he disagreed with, calling them ugly names that had a sexual connotation. I don’t call that entertainment. I call that ugly, disgusting rhetoric. Unfortunately, television and radio talk shows, with sound bites repeated over and over again, have made it difficult to sit down with someone and have a real discussion of issues. Every time I have tried that, I get sound bites thrown in my face. Sound bites are political tools, used to sway opinion and build prejudice. They are not a deep analysis of the issues, and they usually contain loaded phrases. They are meant to attack and divide. They do not represent any kind of analysis of real issues, and are not meant to solve problems, of which we have plenty in this country. Which is why, even as they are called “entertainment,” they are dangerous. I don’t think it’s the least bit entertaining to listen to any man scapegoat women and call them ugly names just because they disagree with them politically.

    Maybe young, thoughtful people like you, Jennifer and Genevieve, can encourage a real honest discussion of issues and a search for common ground, leaving people like Limbaugh, Beck, Maher and other “entertainers” out in the cold where they belong. I hope so. I really would like to see the days of this kind of rhetoric behind us.

  12. I actually got to this page by googling “Friendship, ruined, politics” because that is what I have been going through. I have a blood condition and require monthly blood transfusions. Due to this being a pre-exisiting condition, I can not get insurance ANYWHERE. I am using COBRA now but that only lasts 18 months. I am waiting until Obamacare fully kicks in 2014, so that Insurance Companies can no longer deny me treatment. I had a friend who I cared about, and he was always Republican…and we got along fine. But now, I simply can not even be friends with someone who is going to vote for a guy that will get rid of my healthcare. This election has become so serious….because I am literally fighting for my life. I have many republican coworkers…and with them I know I have to work with them, so I just remain silent….but I can’t go out to movies/dinners with people, and ultimately they are supporting my denial for health insurance. I never was political before….but all these rejection letters from the Insurance Companies have sparked something. When people tell me they are voting for Romney, and they know my health insurance struggle….it’s a double punch to me. It’s almost as if they are saying they don’t value my existence….even though I know they aren’t thinking this….but actions do speak louder than words. Any advice on how to deal with this?

  13. Detroiter – I also found this page by googling “politics ruins friendships” because I have been going through the same thing. I have decided the only way to save my friendships is to drop out of political debate altogether. This is not worth sacrificing a friend over. On another note, I completely understand your position and healthcare is one of the main reasons I am voting democrat. Our healthcare system is screwed.

  14. Detroiter, I still haven’t figured it all out. One of my issues is that almost my whole extended family stands on the other side of the political fence as I do. I’ve learned in the past year that in order to not harbor ill feelings and question motives, I need to let this argument go, because ultimately I love my family and don’t want to fight. However, when it comes to friends, and I hear them tell me that women’s rights (whether it’s equal pay or reproductive rights) are smaller than the “bigger picture” I feel like it’s a slap in the face to all women.

    For ME, I have to remember (or perhaps convince myself) that we all want the best for ourselves and our families. All of us want the America we think we should have. If I start taking things personally, my feelings really get hurt and the bitterness grows.

    Daniela – I think sometimes that’s the only thing to do with some friends – to drop out of the debate altogether. Unfortunately.

  15. Obama sucks, I don’t know why you voted for him but he does, I cant even get a job because of him! Should’ve gotten one when I was 16 before he went into office. I hope you voted for him because of a good reason, not because he was “black”, handsome, or had a nice charm or smile. I certainly hope it wasn’t because he was pro abortion (I hate abortion), and I hope you didn’t vote for him just because you were a democrat. Some liberals love to use the media to they’re advantage and sadly they won this time, but Obama screwed our country up, I’d rather vote for a 10 year old than stuttering, can’t keep his promises, obama again. Plus haven’t you watched the debates, Obama got schooled by Romney! You know why? CAUSE HE FAILED! Thats why he didn’t have a good argument. And I know when you say 8 years you mean Bush (I’m sorry I don’t really remember much about when he was president because I was a kid) but he didn’t seem so bad…. my dad certainly wasn’t having a stressful time… but seriously, why do women like Obama so much? Gosh I hope it isn’t because of something stupid, otherwise I’d be embarrassed to be a woman. I don’t know what your reason is, and I don’t hate you, but I really hope the reason why you voted for him before wasn’t because of something stupid or because you watched too much T.V. You now know that Obama is the reason China is laughing at us. Time to get that debt decreasing and bring back the importance of hard work, which Obama has ruined. If I can’t get a job or if health care is too expensive in the future, or if my hard earned money is gonna go to some lazy a** unemployed fool, I’m not gonna work hard anymore, whats the point? My aunt was unemployed, what did she do? She. Got. A. Job. Most do not do that. And yes, you can lose a friend because of politics. Reason? Well it depends, if you voted for someone for a stupid reason and just wanna be lazy, they’re gonna think of you as such. If it was for a good reason they’ll forgive you (I would and I don’t hate you). Now you know that voting for Obama was a mistake, and many young people are too stupid to realize whats wrong with him. He just isn’t fit for this country.

    Not trying to upset you, oh gosh I hope I didn’t, but I’m just stating what I feel, it’s a debate not a hate verbal conflict, I hope this time, you don’t vote for Obama again.

    Thank you.

  16. Kidversion, I appreciate that you have a different viewpoint than I do, but I don’t appreciate you questioning my reasons for voting for my candidate and assuming I did it for some ignorant, racist reason. I also don’t appreciate you saying our president sucks. I DON’T think I made a mistake and I am NOT young or stupid. Perhaps you should do more research on both candidates before you start making incorrect, sweeping generalizations.

  17. Kidversion, let’s deconstruct your important statements so everyone knows precisely what you’re saying and the value of your point of view.

    “Obama sucks, I don’t know why you voted for him but he does, I cant even get a job because of him.”

    Obama sucks what? I believe he gave up smoking, so he doesn’t suck cigarettes anymore. Maybe he sucks lollipops now instead? By “sucks” do you mean he is an inferior or uncool person? Many people disagree with you on this. It is not a “fact” per se, it is an opinion. Maybe your opinion that he sucks is based on some kind of fact?

    It appears that you can’t get a job, and that would seem to be a fact. That is a very unfortunate fact! But let me ask you: Do presidents create jobs normally? Just like wave a wand and create jobs? If so, then why didn’t George Bush wave his magic wand in 2006 when 6 million jobs were lost due to the Great Recession? Anyway, I thought it was small business and private businesses that created jobs, not government bureaucrats. George Bush certainly believed this, and decided to cut taxes on wealthy people so that they would create jobs. Weirdly, they still have their tax cuts — they have been extended, even by President Obama — but they still have not created any more jobs, even though nothing is really standing in their way to do it. Weird!

    Maybe what you really mean is that you wanted to get a job at the White House working for Mr. Obama, and didn’t. Did you apply???? Did you send a resume??? Weirdly, there have been twice as many jobs created while Democrats were presidents than while Republicans were presidents in the past 40 years. Weird!

    “If I can’t get a job or if health care is too expensive in the future, or if my hard earned money is gonna go to some lazy a** unemployed fool, I’m not gonna work hard anymore, whats the point? My aunt was unemployed, what did she do? She. Got. A. Job. Most do not do that.”

    This is a frightening and disturbing thing to say. You are basically saying, ‘Most people who don’t have a job do not go out and get a job because they don;’t want one. It’s more fun being unemployed.’ Are you saying that most Americans are lazy and don’t want to work? Of all the people I know, about 100% are like your Aunt — they want to work and would prefer having a job to not having a job. You must live in a strange place where you can assume that most people around you are bad, lazy people trying to “leech” off of a small number of good people like you (even though I assume you are not currently paying taxes, since you don’t have a job.) . Since you already said you aren;t able to get a job, I assume you must be following your aunt’s example, and you must be on the verge of Getting. A. Job. Or are you being lazy and just blaming someone else??? Like, are you maybe blaming — I dunno — President Obama? What’s wrong with you that you can;t get a job? Don’t you know that government is the PROBLEM, not the solution?

    I’m not sure you have your story straight, kidversion.

  18. Hank, I think I love you.

  19. Hi Genevieve, I came here after listening to an episode of This American Life on personal relationships being spoiled by politics (which I would highly recommend to you!). As heard on the program, I googled the words relationships, ruined, politics and somehow arrived here. haha! Anyways, I enjoyed your article and reading the above comments (even the one with very charged political beliefs). I decided to write an article on political arguments myself, why they escalate, and how to keep them to the civil and to the point.

    I have had my share of heated and tense political battles, but in the end realized how trivial it was to get angry. It wasnt easy of course. It required a lot of self reflection and humility. I had to constantly ask myself, “Am I being just as unfair as the other guy is?”

    In the end, I gradually learned not to take things personally, learned to approach debates not as opportunities to demonstrate intellectual superiority, but as opportunities to learn new facts, improve my debate and communication skills and just plain understand where a person is coming from. I now engage debates by framing the discussion through otherside’s best arguments first and foremost and go from there. That way they are a lot more willing to listen to you, and your points come across much more convincingly. The situation now rarely ever ends with bitterness. So yeah, hope that helps and best of luck with future political discussions!

  20. Hi there! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, daveysthunderpegasus. I am so thankful that the election is over, because the argument – for the meantime – is stilled. I try to see things on the other side, but I admit… I have a really hard time understanding it most of the time. I did listen to This American Life, and at least none of my family members or friends has banned me from eating at their house. πŸ™‚


  21. I have a friend who is a republican. And by republican, I mean it! He has had lunch with Karl Rove. He has endorsed Mitt Romney. He has met John Boehner. You name it. And when I was in college not so very long ago, he was so involved with politics that it actually kind of scared the rest of us in our group of friends. Because as college students, most of us had better things to do than be involved to the point of meeting nearly every official of your own political party that is currently in government.

    But here is the catch to all that. Although he is my friend, politically we are not on the same page. I myself am a democrat. But I am not involved in politics as much as he is. I have never met any officials, nor do I intend to (unless it is by accident), because politics are not my cup of tea and quite frankly, it drives me crazy. My point is, because my friend and I have different beliefs, I have always been cautious not to bring up politics in front of him. And to be clear, I have never told him my political party, and I don’t think I ever will for sake of ruining our friendship. Because not everyone will agree on the same thing, and politics are no different. He is still a nice guy to be around, and that is what is important.

  22. Pingback: Can Politics Ruin Friendships, Part Two | Genevieve, Unraveled

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