In Defense Of Not Saying Who You’re Voting For

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.

How To Talk About The Election Without Murdering Your Friends

I believe there are two types of people in this world–people who love a good debate, and people who would rather set their fingertips on fire than engage in any sort of disagreement, even if it’s presumably respectful and among friends. I tend to be the latter, though I’m trying to own my opinions more. But nothing sets off the latter type like election season. Even if you ostensibly agree with a loved one on which candidate to support, your reasons for support may differ and lead into a whole thing.

However, even though I hate arguing, I don’t necessarily agree with the old adage about never discussing religion or politics at dinner. These are big parts of our lives and should be discussed, but as always, respectfully. So here are some tips on surviving election season, which seems to last forever now.

  1. You will likely not change anyone’s mind. Unfortunately, studies have proved that even in the presence of facts, a lot of people will not change their minds about pressing political issues. Many truths can exist at the same time, contradictory to each other. So yelling in someone’s Facebook feed that they’re stupid if they think everyone should have guns (or, similarly, that they’re stupid if they think no one should have guns) is just going to make everyone mad. If you’re dead set on trying to change minds, focus on why you believe what you believe, not why they shouldn’t believe what they do.
  2. Not everyone debates like you. As I said above there are two types of people, and problems start when they get into political conversations with each other. I have left conversations in tears, confusing friends who thought we were just having a rowdy, friendly debate. Try to read the crowd. If you’re the type who hates arguing and senses the person you’re talking to really wants to go a round, try to excuse yourself. If you love to debate, watch for hesitance in whoever you’re talking to, and back off if you see they’re getting upset.
  3. It’s okay to call out people when they’re really wrong. Okay, the idea of an objective truth may be murky, but there are times when people are flat out spewing lies. You should absolutely call someone out who is being prejudiced, offensive or otherwise wrong. Just make sure that it remains a rebuttal to what they said, not their character. “No, abortion doesn’t cause breast cancer” is much different than “You’re stupid if you’re anti-abortion.”
  4. Keep the conversation to a minimum. While I think talking about politics is fine, too much can get exhausting, and also up your chances of actually getting into a fight with someone. Touch on the subject when you must, but try to change the topic so you don’t get into an hours long conversation about foreign policy.
  5. Why not do something? The thing that bothers me the most about lengthy political debates is that they often take the form of people complaining without action. And politics have a way of making us feel helpless. But if an issue is bothering you so much that you’re bringing it up at every party, try seeing if there’s something else you can do about it. Otherwise, surprise! You may be one of those people who talks about politics just to sound smart! Nobody likes those people.