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Monday, November 3, 2008

The Poitical Hatfields and McCoys

Unless you have been on another planet for the last year or so, you know that on Tuesday we will all go to the polls to vote for the next round of office holders; from local offices all the way to the Presidency. This election cycle has seen a level of partisanship not seen for many years, maybe ever and this partisanship has spilled over into our every facet of our lives. From work and school, church and civic groups, and yes even, maybe especially into our families.
While it can be a source of stress in a family to be divided over something as personal as political party or policy position, I argue assuming the family handles this challenge well, this is a sign of strength and healthy function. If everyone in a family seems to agree politically or on social positions, in addition to being highly unlikely, this could be a sign of a patriarch or matriarch who has failed to encourage independent thinking in their progeny. However, if you are bemoaning your family’s abundance of independent thinking allow me to suggest some tips that may restore your sanity, at least for this election cycle.
1. Don’t take it personally. Much like people can when rooting for a favorite sports team, sometimes we are too invested in the victory of a particular side.
2. Argue fairly. Try to keep the debate on topic and avoid belittling or calling names. Telling a child, “When you get older you will know better” or a parent, “You are just too old to understand”; is both outside the rules of debate and demeaning.
3. If one party believes the debate becomes acrimonious or hurtful, then both parties should agree to avoid talking about politics at least for a time.
4. Our nation seems to favor switching between the two major parties, especially at the national level; however, we see this phenomenon at every level and it is probably a healthy thing for our system.
5. Remember that our political system has survived bad office holders at every level of government. If the “wrong” candidate wins, don’t be overly alarmed as most office holders end up better than our fears and worse than our hopes.
6. Keep in mind that even more than our nation and communities, your families have more in common in terms of ideology and experiences that bring you together than divide you.
For all of us, voting is both a right and a privilege that we wish to pass along to our children. As parents our hope should be that our children exercise their rights even if they come down on the other side of issues or candidates than we do. Please vote on Nov. 4 for the candidate of your choice.

Mark Altman is a speaker and leadership consultant with the Altman Leadership Center. Mark has completed graduate work in Marriage and Family Counseling and is working on a PhD in Leadership studies at Texas A&M University. He is happy to speak or provide a workshop for your organization and can be reached at

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