No, I Will Not Be Friends With Republicans
I don’t care about your reasoning for voting for Trump.
So many times, I have been told by parents and older relatives who have friends with differing political beliefs to their more center-left or moderate ones that “politics shouldn’t ruin friendships” or that “it doesn’t make sense to give up good people for one wrong belief.” I initially thought the same thing, to be honest, when the 2016 election hit. I was just starting college, and when one of my friends told me he was actually a Trump supporter, I felt hesitant to completely call off what could be a great friendship. Expectedly, though, he turned out to be a literally horrid and amoral individual, and I also didn’t realize a crucial fact at the time due to my own privilege in being politically inactive:
Politics are inextricable from morals.
For many people who have the privilege of “putting politics aside,” it’s easy to say that disagreements in opinion shouldn’t change friendships. In that regard, they’re absolutely right: disagreement shouldn’t preclude a loving and long-lasting friendship. I have friends who absolutely hate my music taste and I hate theirs. Some of my friends watch TV shows or love to study and do things that I would literally put after “watching paint dry” on the list of things I enjoy. However, what these people don’t understand is that political belief is not just something that can be compared to a hobby or interest that you don’t enjoy. Interests tend to have limited to no moral implication, like reading or riding a bike. Politics, on the other hand, is a direct expression of your moral compass.
Now, I’m aware that if a friendship is ruined, the culprit is not some nebulous entity that is “politics.” As we’ve seen develop throughout the span of Trump’s presidency, the covert and not-so-covert supremacist structures and ideologies that have been enabled by the president and his administration created a more conducive environment to racists being very open about their beliefs. When people voted for Trump, whether consciously or unconsciously, they sponsored open racism, rollbacks on LGBTQ+ and reproductive rights, and so much more injustice that should be on its way out.
When thinking about the results of the election, it’s obvious why many people who support Trump or those who will just be complicit and avoid talking about politics with Trump-supporting friends and family would think that disagreeing about politics is okay because they have nothing to risk if their favorite candidate loses. For example, my family is white, and most of them are well-off to at least stable. When the results of the 2016 election came in, many foolishly said (including me) that though it may be bad, it might not be as bad as we think. Some even said they didn’t care who won and refused to vote for Hillary just because they hated both of them. That’s their right, but what many richer and white voters tend to ignore is the fact that there are people other than them in the country that will be severely negatively affected by the people elected. Black people, other people of color, sex workers, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people- so many other people are going to get, pardon my French, fucked over. When you’re insulated in a bubble of privilege, you’re not going to get touched by politics’ effects, so it’s harder to see outside that bubble. This is not an excuse for inaction, though, and that includes chastising, or at least questioning, relatives and friends who still support Trump.
This is not to say that I don’t disagree politically with some of my friends- some are more radically left than I am (which is hard!) and some are slightly more right. However, the difference is that we all agree on basic issues such as fundamental human rights, universal healthcare, and equality for all. On the other side, the far-right Republican party followers do not believe in any of this. Even if they do, though, and they voted for Trump just for the economic reasons, they’re still complicit in the marginalization of millions just for their own economic gains. This is also not to say that I won’t forgive people who have changed their minds from supporting Trump (though I still will dislike them if they’re Republican), but I will still rightfully be resentful as they indirectly have committed violence against many communities with their vote.
Let’s think about it this way. The closest major holiday to today is Thanksgiving (whose problematicness is worthy of recognition but will not be unpacked), where plenty of people dread getting together with family members that are on the opposite side of the political spectrum. What will dinner look like for both sides?
The worst are the types that parade their prejudice around, inciting arguments or casually throwing in how much they love Trump. My grandpa sometimes spiraled into a QAnon level diatribe when politics was barely mentioned (we don’t talk anymore). There are also those who are quiet bigots, not voicing their beliefs but still participating in the polls.
I personally may have to interact with some Trump-lovers who won’t ever talk about politics at the table, though I’m not sure if they’ll come. I imagine myself, seated across the table from them as my mom and her boyfriend laugh and banter with them, creating that fuzzy, light holiday mood that usually accompanies the day. If I wasn’t told, I might not even know they love Trump- they’re so “nice” and “polite” in every other aspect of life except politics.
I, on the other hand, will have a lot to worry about. Will I be able to wear what I want? Will they misgender me? Will I correct them, or will my mom correct them? Will they be prompted before? Will I need to make small talk? None of that matters, though, because I know what they did. They put one bullet each into a giant game of Russian Roulette, with me, my friends, and communities we stand in solidarity with on the other side of the barrel. They can be as “polite” as they want, but they won’t ever be “nice.” Maybe in 2016 that could’ve been an excuse- misinformed, misdirected, undereducated voters who voted Republican to have a fresh start and better economy. But after seeing how everything has turned out, with blatant lying, cover-ups of misinformation, attacks on the press, not even condemning white supremacy when asked- how can you possibly have the gall to call yourself a nice person after sponsoring that with your vote?
How can I and anyone else who’s on the other end of a giant gun powered by the systemic white supremacist ideology be expected to sit quietly and play nice when they wouldn’t care if someone like me or my friends were killed because of a system they put in place had they never met me? Why should I be one of “the good” trans people after meeting them? Why should I be demanded to appease the very people who are trying to destroy me? And I’m one of the lucky ones! My immediate family is accepting or at least silently tolerant of me being trans, and most of them agree with my social politics (while some are still on the libertarian side of things). There are people who are tormented and abused by their families and even kicked out for being gay, trans, mentally ill, etc. There are families and friends who even (sometimes inadvertently) manipulate them more by pretending to be on their side. For example, two Trump-voting acquaintances tried to hug me and give me alcohol (which I did finish- it was election night) when Trump won, while they were the whole reason I was so distraught.
Obviously, it’s much easier said than done to confront or cut off family members and friends. Often, there are obligations and financial support systems involved that people can’t live without. Even without any of that, emotionally it can be extremely difficult to make your voice known and show others you care about that their behavior is extremely harmful. Odds are, you might think it’s not even worth it, so why not let them just live in their conservative fantasy world? It may be hard for you, but you can’t use your emotional discomfort as an excuse to be complacent in a system that oppresses and results in the death of people of color, LGBTQ people, disabled people, and other marginalized groups. It might not be possible to cut them off completely, for emotional or practical reasons, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to challenge their beliefs if you can. Sometimes, people will change their minds.
I don’t have any Trump-supporting friends because I cut them all off. The country may give you the right to free speech, but it also entails the consequence of facing the repercussions. If I did have people whose minds I wanted to change, I would try. However, I’m not going to make any more friends who said they voted for Trump. No matter how much they say they love their family, their friends, or whoever that it is that they don’t agree with, they’re lying, whether they know it or not. Friends don’t go out of their way to hurt each other. Friends don’t support people who want their friends dead. Friends and family don’t beat you and then say they love you. At least, real family and friends don’t.
If you’re not part of a marginalized community and don’t have friends who are, have some empathy. I doubt, though, that you’re not friends with any gay people, any women, or any people of color. Put yourself in other peoples’ shoes. A vote is something so indirect, a seemingly innocent show of support for a candidate. Let’s make it more direct with a thought experiment. Imagine it this way: your family, friends, or whoever gets to press a button, with the consequence that a marginalized person may die. If they voted for economic reasons, they’d make money, but possibly in exchange for the life of your marginalized friend. Would they do it? Try and make it personal, make them understand that what they’re doing and thinking is selfish and wrong. If they’ve voted already, ask them why.
Love is something complicated. It’s not all positive, but it can create deep bonds. However, real, authentic love is based on mutual respect and the recognition of the value of the other person. Knowing who would vote for someone who wants me gone, whether they’re aware of it or not, or being complicit by remaining friends with someone who would vote for my demise has put that into perspective for me. I know that no matter how much my grandfather may have said he loved me, for example, he apparently wouldn’t hesitate to put my head on the chopping block.
I know that it’s not necessarily that simple, but in some ways, it is. If you still support all the immorality, double standards with legal and political practice, and disgusting behavior this administration has executed, it’s obvious that you have a reprehensible moral compass. Even if you’re voting strictly for economic reasons (which is also not smart since the Democratic policies will only affect the uber-rich), you’re sending the message to loved ones that you would rather be rich than ensure that they’re protected under the law.
So no, don’t expect me to be friends with anyone who is wishing for the destruction of me, my friends, marginalized people, and any of the civil rights progress we’ve made.