– Five approaches for talking politics & election at home without hurting family relationships during Thanksgiving & Christmas.

#WeAreBetterAngels

The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are occasions for families to be together. If your family is like mine, with Democrat and Republican voters, how do we handle partisanship at home?  Before I address my five approaches, I’d like to share common ground with Republicans, Democrats, Independents alike. Whichever party you voted for, we are all experiencing fatigue:

Unfortunately, none of the above will go away any time soon.

Fatigue & stress are here to stay

We thought the most stressful presidential election was over, but as lawsuits are filed to challenge the election results, there is not yet certainty in the news, at least for a while. On January 5, 2021, there will be the Senate run-offs in Georgia, perhaps the most watched, funded, and contested nationwide, between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock, and between Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. Both parties will be campaigning in a tug-of-war to secure control of the Senate majority. It will be intense.

You’d hope that there would be some measure of peace and normalcy after January 20, 2021. But the transition to the Biden Administration is only the beginning; think about the Tea Party Movement, the ugly partisan bickering, the numerous threats to shut down the federal government in the past …

The past 30 years of bitter partisanship has already taken a heavy toll on our national well-being, prosperity, and our national and citizens’ psyche.

IF we all continue to play the same destructive game of politics as usual, ALL will lose, ALL will suffer – OURSELVES and OUR COUNTRY.

America is our ideal, our home, our children’s future

A house cannot stand if divided within. As a branding expert, a brand cannot survive without unified structure, strategies, and stories.  America stands as a united brand. Each family is a unique brand. If we are not building harmony but continuing discord, both a family and a country will be dysfunctional, and will eventually disintegrate. 

It is up to each and every one of us, individually and collectively, to strive for a united and wholesome country, or a divided and fallen democracy.  We, as one people and as one country, can hardly endure the same vicious cycle.

Either we start to change for the better, or we all continue the downward spiral

I know it can be hard to achieve harmony in heated political disagreements, but if we can tell our kids “you are not your mistakes”, what prevents us from extending compassion and humanity to those who think differently? Demonizing each other will only set us further apart.

Instead of projecting all wrongs and all evils onto others who think and vote differently, we can stretch our hearts, increase our capacity to understand, respect, and love, like in the stories “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”.  

(1) Quit: “You are wrong and I am right.” Or: “The other party is all bad, and my party is all good.”

Start: “I want to understand you.”

(2) Quit:  Projecting all evils onto the opposite side.

Start: Expanding your understanding of the world with an open and curious mind and a compassionate heart, while standing for what you believe in.

(3) Quit:  Sticking to a comfortable, black-and-white, increasingly withdrawn and defensive position.

Start: Overcoming fear and stepping out of your comfort zone, to entertain different views with care and respect, to appreciate the beauty of a more diverse and fuller world, and expand your own inner world while embracing a truly fascinating world you never knew before.

(4) I used the word “entertain” for considering different views, rather than “fight”, “argue”, “invalidate”, because that’s the only relaxed, non-defensive, non-argumentative, neither-flight-nor-fight approach to both whom and what we do not agree with. If you are listening to and trying to understand others’ different perspectives with genuine curiosity, you may be pleasantly surprised that you can learn about and appreciate different ways of perceiving the same facts and truth, and expand your own world without compromising what you stand for.

However, when there are blatant lies, disinformation, misinformation, manipulation of truth, or total disregard for facts, decent people have a duty to stand up for truth and fight for what is right, no matter what party you register under.

Why are we so divided?  What can unite us?

We are the only country in the world with a relatively mature democracy, albeit only 244 years young. Democracy is new and fragile compared with many thousands of years of dictatorships, monarchies, and all other forms of non-democratic governments in human history.

While the level of complexity of a democratic system keeps growing, the education level of the masses is declining while the population is increasing, and the tribalism and the deeply divisive partisanship is at its all-time high, it only takes a few other simultaneous elements, such as natural disasters, plagues, economic depression, and a controversial president (to say the least,) to destroy the democratic system.

Even though the system and processes are imperfect, in the past year we endured the impeachment hearings. We waited in line to cast our votes and patiently waited for the mail-in ballots to be counted. 

We demonstrated to the world that even in a pandemic, amidst bitter partisan division, we had a record turn-out to exercise our sacred right to vote in peace. Our democracy is still the envy of the world. This alone shows that we Americans CAN and WILL come together, duty-bound to do the right thing. We are proud to participate in our transparent and fair voting system. We the people all want our democratic system to function in spite of our different party affiliations. 

(5) Respect, not disparage; Debate, not demonize 

Even though I am a proud registered Democrat, I am blessed to have friends and clients who are both Democrats and Republicans and whom I genuinely love, trust, and respect. I never wanted to “convert” them, but chose to see their humanity, characters, values, and how they live their lives.  Over the years I have learned that a blanketing generalization such as “all Christians are good people”, or “all those who voted for Trump are evil” are both untrue and dangerous. 

For four years I have shared my strong opinions about the character traits of the 45th, and I would do this NO MATTER WHICH PARTY TRUMP CLAIMS TO BELONG TO – Democrat, Independent, Green, Republican, or otherwise. 

Among those whom I admire, some are Republican leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and many others. They all share these traits: character, integrity, vision, intellect.  Time and time again, they put our country first instead of their own personal agenda, such as winning an election at the sacrifice of their own better angels. They proved these two words: trust and competence. Character matters.  When a person without a moral compass leads a country, that country is in danger of moral collapse. I will never think twice about standing up to any abuse of power, where the above “let me first understand you” empathetic approach does not apply. 

Remember John McCain refuted a woman’s racial bias toward Barack Obama, to defend Obama’s integrity and personal honor during McCain’s campaign against Obama?  

Remember Mitt Romney’s lonely vote to impeach Donald Trump on the ground of abuse of power, fully knowing the consequence of alienation from his own Republican party? 

Political party affiliation has not played a part in my befriending anyone. What first touches me is the humanity in each friend. To me, their characters are far more important than their affiliations with their parties or religious organizations, or any other arbitrary criteria. I allow myself to get into a healthy debate about politics with a Republican friend only after my initial assessment that 1) we both are interested in seeking truth rather than defending our positions, and 2) we are more or less on the same level of intellect. In other words, reasonable. With mutual respect, we both come out of our exchange of different views feeling that we each have learned something new from each other.

By the way, my older son is a Republican and a single-issue voter along the Second Amendment right, as of now. The 2020 Election was his second presidential election. As a military serviceman, an expert shooter, and a gun hobbyist, he votes against gun control while I am for reasonable gun control.  I told him that I never vote on a single issue but on a combination of issues such as a candidate’s integrity, abilities, experience, and where the candidate stands in regards to climate change, sustainable energy, economy, health care, middle class, education, racial justice… My son and I sometimes have heated debates. We try, but not always with success, to resort to intellect and trading of facts instead of opinions. 

As a mom, I’m grateful that my son is interested in hearing different views from me, and that he wants to engage in dialogues instead of avoiding them. It takes trust to do that. Though our political views differ, I accept where he is. I persuade when he wants to listen. I listen when he persuades, and respect his choice while standing by mine. Honest disagreements sometimes lead to better understanding and more mutual respect, which has brought us closer instead of driving us apart. My love for him has never diminished. This could not have been the result had we attempted to convert each other, or use “you are wrong, and I am right,” or worse, called each other names.

America is always a better angel in the making, with each individual’s choices

If we each evoke our own better angels, and view each other as fellow Americans first and foremost, we will heal, prevail, and thrive. But if we each put partisanship above what’s best for our country, we as a country shall surely fall.

For the United States to weather any storm and continue to stand tall as the beacon of light for the entire world, we must unrelentingly safeguard our institutional democracy, the rule of law, the independence of judicial, executive and legislative powers, the checks and balances, and prioritize WHAT IS BEST FOR OUR COUNTRY over our own political party’s winning or losing.

Fellow countrymen, can we try to reach to the other side–those who did not vote like us–and let them know that we respect, honor, and value them as ourselves?  

It is a choice, for each one of us.

Our democracy, and our country’s fate is truly in our own hands

Republicans, Democrats, Independents:  Let our shared love for home and country appeal to our better angels, and project NOT all evil onto any candidate or party, as said by Abraham Lincoln: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Your vote, my vote, our votes have played a fundamental role in rescuing and sustaining our democratic principles, more than for any candidate or for any political party.

As more political turmoil surfaces in the next 70+ days before Jan 20, 2021, every one of us will be privately wrestling with our own angels and demons. I know how hard it is, to bite my tongue and choose the higher purpose before stating my mind. It is especially hard for me, but I want to do the uncomfortable, to be my own better angel.  May our passions and impulses be subdued to what is best for our country, and may we be proud of our daily choices, for ourselves, our children, and our beloved United States of America.

May your holidays be blessed with peace, love, and hope.  If this article in any way has helped protect your family relationship, you have given me the best holiday gift I can ever dream of.

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Written by Joanne Tan, Nov. 10, 2020.  Joanne is the Founder and CEO of 10 Plus Brand, Inc., a full service branding and brand-marketing agency. We build and digitally market brands for B2B companies and professionals on websites  and LinkedIn, by decoding brand DNA, creating strategies, structures and stories, and amplifying with AI-enabled content marketing technology. 

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Edited by Susan Olson.  © Joanne Tan, 2020, all rights reserved.