Democrat? Republican? Are we really all that different?

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By Robert Mann

Would you be troubled if your son married a Republican? What if your daughter married a Democrat?

According to a 2010 national survey, 40 percent of us would be “upset” with such a marriage. That’s worrisome, but almost as interesting as the historical trend. In 1960, when a pollster asked a similar question, only 5 percent said they would be “displeased” if a child married into the opposite party.

Doesn’t it feel some days that the entire, polarized country is obsessed with politics, down to the political affiliation of our children’s spouses?

Of course, there are some – political junkies, like me – who are paid to fixate on politics. We inevitably focus on the sins and omissions of elected officials. We quibble over policy. We quarrel over ideology. We spar over campaigns, sometimes with strong words. Frequently, we’re outraged about the way this party or that politician does business.

To the casual or apolitical observer, it might appear that such criticism springs from a deep well of animosity and disgust. Sometimes, honestly, it does. I can’t, of course, speak for every writer or political operative, but I can attest to my experience. That experience teaches me that politics is worth caring about deeply. Engagement in public affairs is satisfying and often leads to lasting friendships and, even, weddings. (I’m married to my wife because I worked in the 1990 Louisiana U.S. Senate campaign.)

I also understand that a life motivated only by politics is a sad, pathetic existence. Choosing friends based only on their politics is pathetic, too. There’s so much more to people than ideology and political labels.

Every Sunday after church for almost 10 years, my family has gathered for lunch with a family we met in a Sunday school class we all once attended. The father of this family is as conservative as I am liberal. You might assume we avoid talking about politics, but you’d be wrong. We often discuss political matters and, because we respect each other, we have never uttered a harsh word during our debates. We often find common ground; sometimes, we don’t. But our common values have preserved and deepened our friendship.

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