Why you SHOULD talk politics with strangers

Don’t get in a car with someone you don’t know. Don’t ask others about their religious beliefs. Don’t talk politics with strangers.

You may have heard these same instructions from your parents when you were a kid.

Cringing as I watched the second debate Sunday night, I realized that the last piece of advice about avoiding political chatter may not be something we want to pass on to future generations. We have an opportunity with the 2016 election to change things.

The election is everywhere you look. If you turn on your television, the election is there. If you log into your computer and quickly scan the internet, the election is there. If you check your Facebook news feed or your twitter feed, the election is there.

The political headlines are unavoidable. Walking into the office each morning, there are conversations to be had. Here’s why you should not be afraid to talk politics.

President Barack Obama currently holds a 55% approval rating, one of the highest ratings of any president leaving office. He would undoubtedly defeat both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton if he were able to run for a third term.

Yet in his final State of the Union speech, Obama mentioned, “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancour and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.”

I’ve heard friends use the words “polarized” and “divided” when describing the current political climate. The word I’d like us to use is unaware.

Much of the country is unaware because the conversation usually ends right there. Someone says “America is just so polarized” and the discussion is over.

We avoid political conversation out of fear that other people might not share the same views that we hold. I don’t have to tell you that conflicting political beliefs can lead to challenging, often tense discussions. They most certainly do.

I myself can think of more than a few dinners where I anxiously hoped the waiter would quickly bring out the food so everyone could start eating and the political hostility would subside. These discussions need to happen though.

If we are to progress and come together as a country, we need to listen to what’s being said by each party and converse with one another.

Where there is already dialogue (Meet the Press for example, which always includes strategists and representatives from both sides of the aisle), we need to promote it.

Put the issues on the table, and let America educate itself on the views of each candidate and the stances of their respective parties.

Tens of millions of eligible voters won’t even bother to fill out a ballot this November. A great majority of the people that do end up stepping into a voting booth will select a candidate purely based on whether there is a capital R or a capital D next to a name.

Whether you want to say that most people are “disinterested” or “turned off” by politics, we are as a country, sadly unaware of what the greatest issues are that face our country. Much of our country does not know what Citizens United is or what TPP stands for. Much of our country is unaware of what each candidate believes.

I find these simple truths (although generalized, and not truths for the entirety of the population) to be disheartening.

George Carlin once said, “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

We jump from news headline to news headline, and then within a few days move on to the next story. The news is no longer meant to be remembered, and the core issues are hardly discussed in our debates. It’s time to change things.

For those of you who have been watching the recent debates and have been actively following this election, I encourage you to talk with others. It doesn’t even have to be specifically who you are voting for either.

Talk to people about what each candidate believes our biggest challenges are, and what their ideas are to address those challenges.

Look past the mudslinging (from both parties) and instead discuss with others what the facts really are about the current state of affairs. Tell people what you want to see happen in the next 4 years.

Now, if I am going to take my own advice, I have an obligation to offer you something to think about and discuss. In this most bizarre election, we are seeing something unprecedented in our country’s history.

Prominent leaders of the Republican party are withdrawing their support of their party’s presidential nominee, less than a month before we elect the next commander in chief. Quite simply, they do not believe their party is being represented by their candidate.

GOP congressmen and leaders including John McCain, Paul Ryan, and Condoleezza Rice are backing away from Trump.

Republican strategists and commentators like Steve Schmidt, Ana Navarro, and George Will are publicly chastising Trump.

Why do they feel that they aren’t being represented?

I mentioned earlier that I was cringing while watching the second debate. During last night’s circus-like forum, in response to a question about the recently released audio tape in which Trump joked about sexual harassment, Trump said, “It’s just words folks, it’s just words”.

In the first debate Hillary Clinton said, “Words matter… and words can have tremendous consequences”. She made that remark when asked about Donald Trump’s controversial insinuation that “second amendment people” could take care of her.

If you read my story The Power of Words, you’ll see very clearly why I think words do matter a great deal. Words can have tremendous consequences, and I believe Trump’s words have caused many Republican leaders, strategists, and commentators to back away from their candidate.

After many degrading comments about women and divisive comments suggesting Mexican immigrants are rapists, people with PTSD who seek help are weak, and Muslims should be banned from the country, it seems the Grand Old Party has heard enough.

It seems that the words he’s used in many of his statements have become too great a burden for the GOP to carry forward.

But what do you think?

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