Talking politics with friends and family

Published October 16, 2021, 12:12 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz

Way ahead of the actual campaign period which starts in February 2022, our Facebook timelines and media reports are already full of them: Friends and families in full combat mode over the different politicians they support, tangling with each other with gusto.

Not a few have been turned off though, as the discussions have  been focused mainly on personalities.

Regardless of the candidate of the candidate we support, there are ways to push the discussions forward and make them more welcoming and relevant to everyone.

First, ask friends and family what’s really important, urgent and compelling to them. They want to be heard. 

I’m referring here to issues, concerns, and problems. It may be about work, school, or business. Or maybe about their health and mental health, aspirations for the future, and what not. 

What are the top-of-mind issues? Do people want change or more of the same? Do they want democracy or dictatorship? Why? The only way to know the answers from people’s point of view is to ask them.

Politics has long been a boring or even an alien topic to most people, because the discussions often go above their heads and almost always pertain to partisan squabbling among leaders. But if our own discussions seek out what our friends and families actually think, that would be a refreshing change. 

Then, let’s do ourselves and the people we talk to a favor. If there’s a disconnect between our support for candidates and what we get to hear from our friends and family insofar as their real-life issues are concerned, that’s a signal for our candidates to fix their campaign and make it relevant and responsive. Tell your candidate what you hear, and the candidates must listen.

Second, look for what unites us, not what divides us. 

True, we have a lot of differences, but there are certainly more matters that unite us.

This sounds difficult especially in this hyper-partisan time and in an election season, but that’s what could set apart a winning campaign from ones that’s bound to lose. Politics is about numbers, and it is any decent politician’s objective to reach and win over as many people. 

If we cannot find an agreement on one matter, move to another one. If that fails, continue to seek out other matters where you could agree.

We are a country with more than 100 million people, and we could be certain there would always be differences. Even husbands and wives, couples, siblings, and best friends have those fights. But that doesn’t mean they never get to agree on anything. We need to find those areas of agreement — common ground — in politics.

We’ve seen posts about “non-negotiables,” which some describe as too sacred or too important to be glossed over. The thinking goes, if another person does not consider them in the same way, then the discussion is over. But such thinking begs the question: If those matters are really sacred or important, why give up that easily or quickly?  What’s stopping you from persuading and convincing others? 

Lest we forget, nobody said politics is easy. 

Finally, the third: Demand more from candidates, especially those you are campaigning hard for.

The trouble with political discussions is that candidates and parties are not engaged with the public whose votes they wish to win. Many candidates claim to be “pro-people” or “pro-masses” but we don’t see them listening to people or including people’s concerns in their programs and platforms.

Traditional politicians also don’t have a tradition of town halls and consultations with Filipinos. They consult only fellow traditional politicians. 

Most don’t even consult and seek the nomination of their own parties. The practice has been to declare their own candidacy and shop for their own parties. Parties meanwhile are only too happy to accommodate them. 

If your candidate or party only has little to nothing concrete to offer in terms of platform and programs, and the only selling points are their personality and life stories, that’s a sign of the “politics of personality.” That’s not a good sign. Personality politics brought nothing but disappointment for years and decades now. That is simply not enough. And that would show in supporters’ attempts to spark a conversation: topics are limited and descend to character assassination of foes. 

We can achieve better politics only if we have better candidates. 

Follow me on Twitter: @tonyocruz