Cast a Vote, Lose a Friend

Early voting begins in Tennessee today. I’m headed to the local polling station as they open, because I’m not interested in long lines and waiting on a work day. I won’t reveal who I’m voting for, as I’ve learned this election cycle it’s best to keep your personal political preferences to yourself. However, last night I wanted to conduct an experiment. Would people cut ties with me if I voted for someone they didn’t like as a candidate?

The people closest to me use Facebook as their social media platform of choice, so I asked the simple question: “If I voted for a candidate you didn’t like, would you cut ties with me?” Out of those who chose to respond, the resounding majority said “no.” Two indicated they would laugh at me if I voted for a candidate with whom they disagreed. That’s fine. Their validation has no bearing on my self-worth.

This is good news in some respects, as people have called this campaign the most politically divisive in their lifetimes. We’ve seen a major party candidate have support pulled from his own party. Locally, friends and families cut ties with each other over political support for one candidate or another. Behind a keyboard, individual people with some prominence have said things very similar to the following.

If you’re a Trump supporter, I hate you. Go kill yourself. I hope you die horribly, because you deserve it.

If you stand with this candidate you stand against me and my family.

If you think Donald Trump should be President, then get out of my life. Unfriend me. Unfollow me. You mean nothing to me.

Those are incredibly strong words from people claiming publicly to be “tolerant,” “inclusive,” and “respectful.” Those quotes represent a cross-section of America right now with hatred in their hearts for others just because their political beliefs may be different from their own. That’s a strong indicator of what folks really believe, as opposed to what they¬†profess to believe. It says they really plan to follow a path of hatred, fear, and anger with those closest to them over simply shrugging and saying “it’s all politics.”

It’s too early to see if people will follow through with their threats to sever ties with friends and family. And one can’t really get in the head of a person to see if they’d truly like to watch someone commit suicide over an election. It is clear, however, this election’s produced a level of intense anger most are afraid to admit ever existed.

Someone recently firebombed a North Carolina GOP office. They also spray painted a swastika and the words “Nazi Republicans Leave Town” on the side of the building. It was comforting to see politicians on both sides of the aisle condemn this act of sheer hatred. In a lovely display, a Democratic group got together and started a fundraiser to help rebuild that GOP office. Good intentions aside, it’s hard to tell if this was an example of virtue signaling or sincere support. This is what happens when a major political candidate tells her support base half of the other guy’s supporters are “deplorables.” When you link a major political party to a racist movement, and then tell people their candidate is dangerous for supporting someone who won’t explicitly disavow someone in a racist movement, it’s natural to expect violence as a result.

Who I vote for will remain with me. Before he passed from this earth, my grandfather told me “Keep your political preferences to yourself, kid. You’ll keep more business partners and friends that way.” I like my friends and those with whom I do business, so in this case I choose to remain silent.