We are living in times of extreme political polarization in the United States. In fact, it’s a trend sweeping the Western world right now. I’ve always considered myself somewhat middle of the road, and vote much more for the candidate than the political party. Of course, I have my own strong views on certain issues, but I’m probably the type of swing voter that parties want to target, because admittedly my voting tendency can be changed in a heartbeat if I sense a good candidate. In the United Kingdom, I voted for Tony Blair (Labour/Democrat) in two elections, and then switched to David Cameron (Conservative/Republican) for the next two—purely because I liked the candidate and believed them to be a better leader with the right policies. Having become a United States citizen a couple of years ago, this last election was my first time voting here in America.
I don’t believe it’s a good idea to only be around people with exactly the same views as yourself, and personally have a wide variety of close friends with views across the political spectrum. The general public discourse at the moment is very heated, and people rightly have strong and passionate views about the direction our country should be moving in. I find any extreme rather unpalatable: The ultra right-winger who comes across as completely lacking compassion or kindness, and the ultra left-winger who appears to have no concept of ambition and is completely happy to be living off the state (when they don’t need to). Both are a huge turn off for me.
Speaking as someone who has lived in different countries, traveled the world, and met so many people along the way, here are what some of my experiences have taught me according to how people claim they vote:
I’ve met liberals who are very set in their ways, and conservatives who are open to discussion
I’ve met conservatives who are wasteful with money and have no savings, and liberals who are very sensible with their money and manage it wisely
I’ve met liberals who own gas guzzlers and throw litter on the streets, and conservatives who are very protective of the environment and recycle everything
I’ve met conservatives who have barely ever been to church, and liberals who won’t miss a single Sunday sermon
I’ve met liberals who have hardly traveled out of their town, and conservatives who know everything about the world
I’ve met conservatives who can’t walk past a homeless person with giving them a few dollars, and liberals who wouldn’t ever give a penny to charity
I’ve met liberals who have the strongest marriages, and conservatives who cheat on their spouses
I’ve met conservatives who are vegetarians, and liberals who like nothing more than a big steak dinner
I’ve met liberals who are the proudest and most honorable military veterans, and conservatives who wouldn’t dream of ever joining the armed forces
I’ve met conservatives who are the most generous and welcoming people, and liberals who wouldn’t even have anyone over for a cup of tea after knowing them for years
I’ve met liberals who have very disciplined and hard-working children, and conservatives who have kids that are wild with major behavioral problems
Oh, the factors that determine our own individual politics are indeed very complex, and humans are multifaceted beings. That’s why it’s all about the person. Is that person in front of you a sincere, genuine and kind individual? That should be all that really matters to us in our everyday interactions. So why be so polarized with each other according to how we vote?
Suneel Dhand is a physician, author, speaker and healthcare consultant. He has experience in a number of different healthcare environments, having worked up and down the East coast and also internationally. His specialty areas include hospital QI, optimizing healthcare IT, and improving the patient experience. He is the author of 3 books, including most recently “The Ultimate Patient Advocate in Your Pocket”, designed to help hospitalized patients. He is also the founder of HealthITImprove, an organization dedicated to improving and optimizing information technology at the frontlines of healthcare.