I spoke with someone yesterday about the November election when I knew that person and I are not going to vote for any of the same candidates for literally any office. I’m trying hard to listen and understand more than simply fulminate, and this conversation was a useful come-down after four nights of one-way DNC messaging that I found satisfactory, at times even compelling.
Speaking of the DNC, my friend quipped: “I’ve read the platform. I can’t vote for that.” Now, I’ve not read the platform. I don’t think she really has read it either. I expect she’s read missives about it on her preferred media outlets. But I checked it out, and it’s hardly notable, at least not to anyone who has a basic understanding of the broad priorities of our country’s two main political parties. And yet, it is, for my friend, this cycle’s disqualifying evidence. (I’ve since learned that the party she’s committed to support won’t be writing a platform at all at their convention. Will that cause my friend a problem?)
I’m really torn right now between my desire to listen to and understand the convictions of my ideological opponents and a gut-churning discomfort with that the fact of who they’re supporting. That is mostly because in conversations with some of these opponents in my formative years, character mattered more than anything on a ballot. That shifted four years ago–and largely hasn’t moved–to “the platform,” though hardly anything changed about the platform to make it any more loathsome to them than it would have already been, presumably.
Watching that change in them with my own eyes has filled me with anger and sadness. It also makes me a little bit afraid. Because, if their convictions about character turned out to be so thin, then how confident should I be in my own convictions–about character, but also about fairness and justice and equity and how we prioritize all that stuff?
Maybe a benefit of listening to understand is that it goads us into taking stock of what we’re telling everyone we believe and what we value. Because those things will be tested, almost certainly before we’re ready.