In a tumultuous political climate, don't let opposing views tremor through the fault lines of your friendships
My best friend came over on Saturday night. We ordered a Deliveroo, guzzled several bottles of red wine, and watched X Factor: Celebrity. The judges sent Martin Bashir home, and we both agreed that it was (beyond) his time to go. There was less harmony, however, when the conversation turned to politics. Given that we emphatically disagree on 90% of it, we usually steer clear, but the looming general election drove us into a meandering, baseless, and at times, scathing conversation. Ah, our very own pseudo-political, head-to-head, sponsored by Merlot.
There was no winner, and not just because there was no Nick Robinson. We heckled each other like cackling backbenchers. We ignored each other’s salient points, and acquiesced on none of our own that were less so. The resolve of her political philosophy made me sad. And mine, apparently, made her seethe for its illogical (ok, socialist) sentiment.
It’s not just platonic relationships that are affected by politics. Romantic relationships suffer and are stifled, too - unsurprising given the inextricable link between compatibility and shared morals. Indeed, confounding the notion that opposites attract, dating app Hinge incorporated ideology into its algorithm to enable users to skip on political adversaries. A shrewd move too, as a US Tinder survey found that 71% of online daters deem political differences a deal breaker - ‘swipe left if you voted Trump!’ - while Plenty of Fish reported that 59% of singles won’t so much as start a conversation with someone in a different camp.
While dating might not be the most fertile, or fruitful ground for such parley, debate is of course, hugely important. Though it should be an opportunity to listen and learn, not show off or gloat. The learning part is especially true when millennials exist in such deafening echo chambers - it’s estimated that 61% of us consume news primarily from social media, a sphere that we, by and large, curate to sustain our own sentiments.
But what happens now? Are we never to mention politics again? Or should we continue in our erstwhile attitudes, celebrating our wins in the face of each other's losses? Are we to grieve the inevitable end of our friendship, for surely, we’ll never have anything in common again? No, we'll simply join the long line of folk whose friendship transcends party lines. There’s Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who despite sitting at ideologically opposite ends of the Supreme Court bench, shared many a New Year’s Eve: “Scalia kills it and Marty [Ginsburg, Ruth’s husband] cooks it,” recalled a former Bush solicitor general of their celebratory suppers. Speaking of, Bush and Ellen DeGeneres, a liberal lesbian, hung out - and laughed! Quelle horreur! - on more than one occasion. Closer to home, Labour Party politician and member of the House of Lords Shami Chakrabarti is bosom buddies with conservative Baroness Warsi. Yes, on her way back from a wedding t'up north Chakrabarti called in on Warsi at her Yorkshire home. If they can do it, then we, best friends who are telepathic on many more pressing topics, like restaurants, bedding and books, certainly can.
Like after every other time we’ve talked shop, we’ve botched the cracks with Polyfilla. I’ve resolved to listen more and judge less, because my views - like hers - are a melting pot of biases, some that I've inherited from my parents, others that I’ve gleaned for myself, but all of which I bolster with the cherry-picked media I consume. And hey, at least we agree on ramen over pho, and wine over water. Always.
cover art by tyler spangler