Difference of opinion refines your own opinion.
Sitting across the table from someone having a conversation that turns political can result in a wide variety of outcomes. Sometimes you find yourself nodding in agreement with every talking point being discussed. Then again, sometimes you find yourself feeling uncomfortable, or even stunned by the lack of commonality in ideas. Taking these conversations into the digital world has become difficult. Especially following the results of the 2016 election, the “unfollow,” “unfriend,” and “block” buttons have suddenly become a favorite tool for many people. As someone who comes from a small town where Democrats are about as common as Bigfoot, I have come to the conclusion that having friends who fall throughout the entire political spectrum will only help me become a more independent, and educated voter.
After surviving(miraculously) this past debate season, I have dedicated an inordinate amount of effort into honing my own debate skills, and refocused on what the purpose of political discussions should be. Going from an entirely red city, to a university that seems to pump liberals out like a factory, I have sat through more heated talks about race, gender, and situations of inequality than ever before. In a room full of strangers, it seems that only those so polarized on either end of the spectrum felt compelled to declare their stances and wait for the opportunity to go to verbal war against anyone who opposed them.
This is not the type of setting that I feel benefits me, but rather the discussions had with close friends who are looking for a much more civil approach to tackling these controversial issues. The respect, and overall friendliness between one another helps to create a space where we could discuss our political differences, civilly. Having personal connections to others with different backgrounds and beliefs, gives you a better feeling of where the other person is coming from. It also establishes a built-in connection that allows you both to separate opinions on that individual, from your opinions on their politics.
Another important reason to seek out people who differ politically from you is because it allows you to hone the reasoning behind your own beliefs. Growing up having the values I have, it seemed very obvious why others would share them as well. I am now able to articulate why people hold them with such conviction. Having listened to, and learned from, my liberal friends about their beliefs, I have become more fervent in my support for limiting government and personal responsibility.
“In a room full of strangers, it seems that only those so polarized on either end of the spectrum felt compelled to declare their stances and wait for the opportunity to go to verbal war against anyone who opposed them.”
A good friend of mine possesses a true passion for helping everyone she meets, and while she sees welfare as a way to help, I can now better explain to her why charity is the better option. Another friend of mine is a staunch supporter of the equal pay bill. Thanks to our discussions, I can now explain the difference between a wage gap and an earnings gap. Without those who have debated, argued, and endlessly attempted to persuade me, I would still be unsure about sharing my opinions in front of a classroom full of what seems to be never ending “Bernie 2016” and “I’m with her” stickers.
Pulling from a lesson that everyone should be taught from a very young age — it is important to practice what you preach. How can I expect the government to function on any level of bipartisanship if I cannot exhibit the same behavior in my life? According to the Pew Research Center, both major parties in the U.S. are now more divided than than at any point in the past 20 years.
With voters becoming more polarized, and the notion that one’s opposing political party is a major threat to the future of the country, makes it much more difficult to form connections with those across the aisle from you. Without differing opinions in your life, people are going to continue to move further apart on the ideological line. This will not solve the partisan problem American politics is facing at this moment.
Being friends with someone who does not agree with you on all social issues, local politics, or the current president, should not be as uncommon as a unicorn. As adults, and members of civil society, it is in our best interest to see both sides of an argument, so that we are able to make informed and logical decisions. It isn’t a requirement or essential to be best friends with someone completely opposite in opinion, but it does make you a better voter in many ways, and ensures that you will not run out of things to talk about.
Follow this author on Twitter: @mollie_finnegan