OPINION: Political beliefs are valid criteria for choosing friends

A group of people divided in half, one half red, one half blue, representing their political beliefs.
(Waverly Wang • The Student Life)

Both during Donald Trump’s presidency, and particularly during the recent election, one sentiment I heard over and over again was that you shouldn’t dislike or judge someone based on their political views. They said that whether someone supports Biden, Trump or someone else entirely, it shouldn’t stop you from being friends with them. 

I always thought this was sort of an odd idea. We often choose our political parties and candidates based on how they represent our personal values or beliefs — sort of like how we choose friends. Of course, choosing friends usually is more a question of liking someone rather than agreeing on everything, but I think you often end up sharing some beliefs and morals. 

I don’t quite get why many separate political beliefs from all other parts of a person’s identity. It’s just as important and influential as any other facet of one’s personality, so I think it’s perfectly acceptable to judge someone based on it. 

This has likely always been a point of some contention, but I think the political polarity and tension highlighted by the Trump administration are reasons why this issue has become so much more talked about today. That polarity isn’t just a product of differing political views, however, but rather a product of the often offensive or hateful language and policies Trump used against certain groups. 

For example, he said some really demeaning things about women, which has led me to believe that he doesn’t particularly respect them. As such, when I think about Trump supporters, I feel that while they may not actively discriminate against women, sexism isn’t a dealbreaker for them when choosing politicians, which I find hurtful. The same reasoning can be applied for any of the other offensive things he’s said against people of different ethnicities or religions.

For a lucky few, politics can just be another conversation topic. Regardless of who is elected or what policies are put in place, they will continue on in their lives with little change. But for most people, politics can have a tangible impact on their lives, like how they live and whether or not they’re allowed to exist as they are. 

Consider people in the LGBTQ+ community: Prior to just a few years ago, same-sex marriage was not legal in all U.S. states, which is essentially to say that they did not enjoy the same legal rights that straight people were guaranteed. It’s often those two different kinds of camps that comprise the two sides of the “to be or not to be friends with someone based on who they voted for” argument when a political belief is that some people’s inherent identity is not allowed. 

Of course, not being friends with someone based on their political beliefs does not mean alienating that person. Like I said before, we’re at a point of high tension in politics, and now more than ever, we should value civil discourse and the exchange of ideas. Just because someone isn’t your bestie doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have conversations about your differing ideas and help them understand your point of view. 

We’re at a point in our country’s history where some problems are moral rather than political —  think about systemic racism, the treatment of immigrants at the border and the urgency of the climate crisis. I feel no discomfort in judging someone if they support a political candidate who says racism is no longer an issue, and I would feel no shame in not wanting to be friends with that person. 

Ultimately, who you’re friends with is up to you. But don’t feel pressured to ignore aspects of someone’s identity just because they’re packaged as “political beliefs.” We vote for politicians who largely share our same vision of how the world works, so if your friend supports someone whose vision excludes you, don’t feel obligated to tolerate them. 

Emma Mansour SC ’24 is from Wilmette, Illinois. She enjoys spending time with friends, watching movies, exploring California and writing (obviously).

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