I recently left an environment where almost everyone has the same style of dealing with political differences, and the same purpose in political discussion. Now I'm having to deal with entirely different ones, with friends and loved ones, and it's causing conflict. Who's right? Is anyone right? And how can I minimize the problems?
For several years, I worked at a very diverse organization, where people of all types, backgrounds, and original geographic locations joined together. We had very different ideas about politics, but because we varied /so/ much, we learned that we had to kind of accept everyone's differences in order to get along.
This did /not/ take the form of not talking about the differences. In part because our jobs were often long hours with monotonous work, we would cheerfully argue about recent political developments, or our own political differences, to keep ourselves alert and engaged. These discussions were for our own pleasure-not really formal debates or serious attempts to change someone's complete perspective. Often, people would play devil's advocate, switch sides, argue hypotheticals, etc. This wasn't a problem-even the most extreme liberal could be chummy with the most extreme conservative while hashing this out.
A few years ago, I left that job and went back to my original hometown, re-establishing and strengthening friendships. But many of them, including my fiance, talk about politics in a much more heated way than I am used to, and with much more intent. They also seem to be much more used to a bubble of people who agree with them, and so they seem to find it frustrating and personally upsetting to be disagreed with. In addition, sometimes, they only want to continue the conversation if they can "win." I am confused by this, and not sure how to handle this.
In many ways, this is only exacerbated by things like Facebook, where people are posting political links and arguing on them, and all of your other friends can see the argument. It often means that the next time they see me in person, they want to talk about the politics, but in an attacking manner or one designed to try to completely and forcefully turn me to their viewpoint.
This problem is also made worse by the fact that I'm neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring-neither left nor right nor in between, but with a hodgepodge of ideas that seem to suit me. I think often, part of the problem is that people feel personally betrayed, when I agree with them on X, but disagree with them on Y, and feel that they need to "convert" me, for my own good or what have you. Or, they think that all people who believe Z are jerks, so they need to convert me quickly so as not to have cognitive dissonance.
This previous metafilter post
lists another problem I have, but from the opposite side: people who want to force me to read a variety of data in the certain knowledge that I'll be convinced on ethical topics ("Why X is Morally Right") by said data, when in fact, we fundamentally disagree on core values that no statistics can budge.
What do I do about political conversation? Am I crazy to think that people with different ideas about politics can ever be friends, and ever discuss those ideas? Are these friends reacting strangely? Is this a large-city thing? A geek thing? And more importantly than all of these, what do I do about this, both in the short term and long term?