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Family and Politics in the Aftermath of the 2016 Election

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Family and Politics in the Aftermath of the 2016 Election

Donald J. Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States.

Analysts didn’t think it was possible, pollsters are in shock. Trump and Clinton supporters the world over are reeling in their collective views of what our country stands for, and how we see ourselves in the world. Things are about to change, for better or worse.

As of this instant, 59,542,846 voters are over the moon. And 59,758,585 are horrified.

These gargantuan numbers really hit home when you talk politics with your politically different extended family, or wake up next to a partner who voted differently than you. The thousands of votes stop mattering. It becomes personal. And because the election results were so unexpected, almost everybody is reactive. The polarization of our nation is at an all-time high.

How can we reconcile political passion – whether it’s fearful disappointment or exaltation – with the very human need to maintain relationships with friends and family who voted in a way we do not understand or respect?

Can there be a common ground between family and politics?

 

Have Conversations, NOT Troll-athons

Clearly there has been a lack of communication in our country.

That is the only reasonable explanation for such a shocking electoral vote. Clinton supporters have been outspoken and prominent in the media, while Trump supporters have been keeping to themselves. As a result, no one knew just how many people out there supported Trump enough to earn their votes.

The only way to keep disagreements about this election from seeping into relationships with friends and family who have different views is by opening a dialogue.

I said dialogue. Sitting in the same room and discussing the issues in a calm manner.

That has absolutely nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter.

As we process the results of this election, I implore the masses to look inward instead of composing rants on social media. There is a flaw in the way our society processes anger and frustration. Social media is one big giant exhale – we spew out one opinion and react to others – without ever taking a moment to breathe and reflect. If the recent decline in Facebook stock means anything, perhaps the beast of social media is seeing the flaw in its own design.

 

When It Comes To Family and Politics: Ask Questions

In the final hours of the vote count when it was becoming clear that Trump would be the U.S. President-elect, I was struck by the media commentator conversation. Reporters were struggling to make sense of the results. They were trying desperately to understand why so many people would vote for a candidate who has been, by all accounts, a political wreck.

One reporter began speaking about history. How the results of this election were similar to that of the years just following the Industrial Revolution. Sociopolitical upheaval of this magnitude must be in part a result of a working class that is fighting against feeling left behind by the more modern Digital Revolution.

Of all the words that were thrown around last night, those stuck with me. These were votes of desperation.

I understand desperation. I understand wanting to return to a way of life in which one used to flourish. I understand fear of being forced into participating in a government structure you do not believe in. I get it.

The only way to find common understanding between people is to listen to another person’s reasoning. It means taking turns listening and speaking. It means not judging, pointing out the flaws in a person’s rationale, interrupting, and commenting on their reasoning. It means listening to where they’re coming from. And speaking your truth as well.

The only way to understand one another is by asking questions – and letting the answers be.

 

Have a Mediator

All of that, of course, is easier said than done. Sometimes it’s all but impossible to have a civil conversation when issues of such magnitude are at stake. And especially when half of the nation is still so raw in their loss of a result they thought was a sure bet.

Inviting a licensed family counselor to moderate political discussions within the family is a useful way to work through the issues stirred up by the election. It’s often more complicated than it might appear on the surface.

 

Remember, You Love Each Other

Once we open our ears to our loved ones and try to understand their motivations for casting the vote that they did, the process of reconciling family and politics becomes a simple task.

Why does a Trump supporter feel the need for barriers between nations? Did they lose their job and income to outsourcing?

Or if, for example, a woman expresses deep concerns about Donald Trump’s treatment of women, instead of seeing it for the huge social issue it is, just look at the person. Why does she feel afraid? Is there a trauma in her past that might shed some light on the issue? How can you help her feel safe?

All of this of course is just simple compassion.

The political landscape is always shifting, and right now it is especially tumultuous. But the whole issue with our election process is that two parties are pitted against one another. In reality, as President Obama so wisely reminds us in his post-election address, we’re all on the same team.