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I've always had close friends of different political stripes. It's enriched my life, and enabled me to have empathy for people who I may disagree with, but still able to continue to have a cordial relationship with.
Your first question, I am sure, is "so, are you a liberal or a conservative?" The next question I predict is "Are you a Democrat or a Republican?" Like most Americans, I'm neither completely to the left, nor completely to the right on the political spectrum. I think of myself as a liberal on social issues and conservative leaning when it comes to economic issues. I'm an Independent that tends to vote Democrat during presidential elections years. I vote for both Republicans and Democrats during the midterm elections, it just comes down to candidates' personalities, and specific stances on issues as opposed to ideology. I've been very conservative when it comes to issues of national defense.
If I must choose, I'm more of a Democrat than a Republican. I have close friends that are very liberal, middle of the road, and friends that are very conservative. My political analysis skills have continuously improved from year to year, because every year, I make it a point to interact with people who are of a different political stripe than I am, and have different perspectives on issues. My conservative friends have challenged me, and forced me to examine my own preconceptions and assumptions in amazing ways, ways that my middle of the road or liberal friends could never do, because we tend to agree on more issues. Since I became a businessman, I've become more conservative on economic issues, and some of the ideas my Republican friends tried to explain to me in years past, now make complete sense. One idea in particular: the need for corporations to enjoy low tax rates, so they have an incentive to invest in the economy and create jobs. While I reached the conclusion on my own, I began considering the idea over the course of years of conversations with conservative-leaning friends. Another idea that’s been challenged by my Republican-leaning friends is the government’s obligation to provide a safety net for those citizens who cannot help themselves. While I still believe that programs such as unemployment insurance and food stamps are necessary to help our citizens that are in dire circumstances, it is important that these programs be limited, so that the recipients are motivated to get back to work as soon as possible.
I believe that government has a role in creating economic conditions that are conducive to investing, but at the same time individuals must take advantage of all opportunities that are available in order improve their standard of living. These beliefs have been cultivated by having vigorous and respectful debates with Democrats, Independents, and Republicans, and I believe, have made me a better businessman. Whenever I have respectful discussions with friends, I vigorously disagree with I always walk away with more empathy for people that think differently from me politically, while still maintaining my basic beliefs. This would never happen if I only had conservative-leaning Democrat friends.
If there is anything I've learned from clients, of all races, and who I can safely assume span the political spectrum, over the past three months, it's this: they don't care what my political beliefs are. All they want is for me to be neat, professional, and complete the task they hired me for in the time they want, while delivering the highest quality product or service.
Turn off the TV, get to know your neighbors! If the neighbor brings up politics, and you have opposite views, keep an open mind and continue to cultivate a respectful relationship.
You never know, that person may end up turning into an acquaintance, buddy, boyfriend or girlfriend, (or even a spouse)!
Peace and love,