This last year, one Democratic friend stopped speaking to her own brother after learning he’d voted for Donald Trump. Another said that’s why he’d ended a 30-year friendship with the guy who’d been the best man in his wedding.
An 85-year-old Republican declared herself ready to drop out of the book group she’s enjoyed for years over critical remarks a couple of members made about the president. And these estrangements are in no way exceptional.
In ever-purer and more self-segregated communities of the like-minded, both online and in our brick-and-mortar neighborhoods, we really do increasingly live in different worlds, served by different news outlets. Two in five of both conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats say they consume strictly partisan news coverage.
Culturally, we have given new meaning to the phrase, “not my brand of vodka,” politicizing our taste in everything from music to shoes to groceries. And yes, people: A recent Pew study found a majority of Americans say they have only a few close friends in the other party, or none at all.
Sixty-four percent of Democrats and 55 percent of Republicans told pollsters that. Only 14 percent of Republicans and nine percent of Democrats said they had many pals across the aisle.
We posted that study on Facebook, asking online acquaintances to please tell us this was not really the case. What we heard instead, chiefly from left-leaners, was that Pew had gotten it right.
“Being in a red state,’’ said one Democrat, “I'm surrounded by people from the other party. I may be friendly to them, but not many are considered friends. This was not the case 20 years ago. The extreme positions many take on key issues that have serious impact on the lives of others show a person's character. If your views hurt others, I don't need you in my life.”
Another said she once had Republican intimates, but “not any more. Not since the last presidential election.” Which is right in keeping with another Pew study that shows “it’s ‘consistent liberals’ who are more likely than anyone else to ‘block or defriend’ someone on a social network — as well as to end a personal friendship — because of politics.”
One Republican willing to befriend liberals suggested his own left-of-center friends might be a cut above the norm. “I have tons of Democrat friends. And guess what? They don't spend 99.9 percent of their time yammering about slaughtering fetuses or how to express the hatred filling their hearts for Donald J. Trump. They're just hard working, dependable friends trying to make a go of it like everyone else. Well, almost everyone else.”
Maybe because of what we do for a living, we all have dear friends of all stripes, and few with whom we agree on everything.
But to any of you for whom Thanksgiving is one of the only days of the year you’ll spend with those who don’t share your fundamental views, what we really want to say is: Don’t blow it. If you listen, you may learn something about why your so-called crazy uncle disagrees.
And if you don’t, should you really get to complain about the intolerant views that other tribe holds?