If you’re like me, you were already exhausted with this election in 2015. I voted in the New York primary today and I still can’t believe there is basically the entire election to go. But one of the things that’s making it harder and harder is watching all my friends announce on Facebook who they will be voting for. It’s just strange, and it makes me long for the days when making such a proclamation was incredibly rude.
I remember once asking a neighbor who he was voting for, because I was seven and I had recently learned what voting was. I was quickly reprimanded, either by my neighbor or my mom, because asking and sharing who you’re voting for was just not done. For a long time I didn’t get why. I thought it was similar to the “don’t talk about politics, money or religion” at the dinner table rule–what the hell else are you going to talk about?
But as I watch these proclamations devolve into arguments, or read blog posts about “Why I’m Voting For So and So” that provide no positive reasons to vote for their chosen candidate, only reasons to vote against the opponent, I realize why that rule made sense. Publicly stating who you’re voting for creates pressure. You may not intend that. You may just say you’re stating a preference. But it encourages a response, which is either yes, the person you’re speaking to agrees with you, or no, they don’t. And if they do, the conversation can easily turn into whether or not they’re as passionate as you, and if not why not? And if they don’t, well, now you’re disagreeing when that conversation didn’t have to happen.
There are exceptions here. If you work for a particular candidate or party, by all means promote them. Or maybe you just feel so passionately about one candidate that you’re devoting the entire election season (so like, four years at this point) to their platform. And, if somebody is actually misinformed about a candidate (they think Ted Cruz is pro-choice, or Hillary Clinton didn’t vote for the war in Iraq), you can absolutely, politely correct them. But otherwise, you’re likely not going to change minds.
This last bit is what I think is the most important, especially among friends. I am 100% into talking about politics among friends. If you know me, you know I am pro-choice, I care about the environment, I care deeply about institutionalized racism and sexism and classism, I want more gun control, and I want to welcome refugees to America. So, if you trust me as an intelligent person, you should trust that I have thought through these issues, researched the candidates, and chosen to vote for the one I believe best represents those issues. If not, you’re either undermining my intelligence, or just think that your assessment of these issues is better than mine. Which, unless you’re a professional political analyst, is probably not.
If you can’t tell I have a lot of personal feelings about this! Maybe I’m just generally the type who supports issues, not candidates. But I’ve seen too many friends, friends who are smart and thoughtful and agree about 95% of issues, get into legitimate fights because they feel the need to proclaim who they’re voting for without prompt. And I’ve had too many people ask me who I’m voting for who won’t take “I don’t feel like saying” for an answer.
So, best practices. Don’t ask people who they’re voting for. Don’t tell someone who to vote for. And maybe think twice about announcing who you’re voting for unless the conversation really calls for it. Or just stop telling me, personally.