Talking politics at home, especially in a divided family, can potentially lead to a messy landmine, as these young voters can attest to.
The word politics can trace its roots to the Greek word politikos, which means “of citizens, civic, of a state.” In essence, politics is communal, where one talks to people within a group or circle about ideas or policies that have the potential to affect them. But while it is one thing to talk about politics, it’s a whole other thing when it comes to making people agree on one thing. In today’s partisan world, people sometimes prefer to recoil when presented with an idea or opinion that is against their own and lock themselves in their echo chambers. This is something that you can easily do on social media, but less so in real life, especially among families.
As much as we would like to be in a family who all share the same political beliefs, the reality is that is not the case for many. Politics can often lead to heated discussions to the point where it can destroy relationships. While some discussions can just be ignored, it’s not so easy when you live in the same household. It’s a dynamic that can lead to complicated situations, such as young voters who hold strong beliefs and their families who are on the opposite side. We reached out to a few young voters to ask them their experience talking about politics in a family whose politics aren’t on the same page. While their stories aren’t universal, they do offer an insight into how one can possibly navigate divisive political topics at the dinner table.
ALONE IN THE FAMILY
Pat found herself motivated to vote for the first time this May thanks to the 2019 midterm elections. “We had good candidates who were capable of bringing change to the country yet the people who won were the same incompetent trapos. I realized how important voting was.” She has been active this election season, using her love of K-pop to convince others to vote for her chosen presidential candidate. That convincing extends to her family. “I sometimes feel alienated from my family because of how different their views on politics can get.” While things have not escalated too bad at home, there were moments of heated discussions during family meals and gatherings.
Some in her family are open to hearing her pitches, but others need a little bit more convincing. “My parents can get dismissive at times. Like, they’ll hear what I have to say, but not really listen to it or really think about it.” While it can get frustrating, Pat has hope, and that’s because both sides come from a place of respect. “It’s not a bardagulan at home, which I like. While I don’t agree with some of my family’s political stances, I still respect my family. I know too that they want a better life for me as I enter adulthood. Our idea of getting to that better life is just different.”
As for those who are also in the same situation as Pat, she advises that you should talk, not fight, with your family. “You’re here to have a discussion, not one up each other. If you’re family isn’t too close minded and you come from a correct place, you can get your point across eventually.”
GEN Z VS. BOOMER
This will be Steff’s first time voting in a presidential election and his excitement is palpable. While his sister and mother are more or less on the same boat, the same can’t be said for his father. What Steff has noticed when talking to his dad about politics is a noted difference between the younger and older generational mindset. “I want something new, something to bring about positive change. My dad on the other hand wants a steady and experienced hand to lead the next administration.”
At times, Steff’s dad has shot down his ideas or conversations because of the fact that he’s still young. But that won’t stop Steff from bringing up certain conversations at the dinner table. “I’m very, very happy that my dad doesn’t fall for fake news or misinformation. But, minsan sinasabi niya na bata ka pa lang and stuff like that. We actually agree though on quite a few issues and doesn’t dismiss the fact that we both want the same objectives in life.”
In particular, they agree on how bad traffic is in the city and Steff uses that common ground to hopefully sway his dad to his side of the debate. That, he believes, is a way to enter politics into the discussion. “I think you need to find common issues or concerns that affects most, if not, all in the family whether that be traffic, public transportation, or what have you. Use that as your baseline and try to go from there.”
OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE SPECTRUM
Gio considers himself close with his family. He feels like he can talk to them about anything, expect for well, politics. And that’s because his family has an opposing past. “My dad was part of the EDSA Revolution and helps organize rallies for a presidential candidate. My mom comes from up north and used to work for another presidential candidate for years.” At times, Gio feels like it can be two different households, especially with how heated the elections have been. “Me and my sister are on dad’s side, but I don’t want to disrespect my mom, so I usually just don’t talk about politics with her or try to mediate potential arguments.”
What complicates the situation for Gio is that unlike fake news that he can hopefully debunk, his mom is coming from real experience. “My mom worked with the guy and saw what he could do up close. She genuinely believes in her pick and that’s something I can’t deny or dismiss because that’s her lived experience.” While Gio foresees a stalemate at home, he advices others to approach conversations with a little bit of understanding. “Take it from me, when we encounter people who do not agree with your beliefs, don’t always make them the bad guy. Some of these people come from a genuine place. Do not automatically antagonize them and instead try to understand where they are coming from.”
PERSONAL CONVICTION OVER FAMILY TIES
Due to the collectivist culture of the country, family dynamic, especially from those at the top, can greatly shape the family’s actions. This is something Abby knows all too well as she grew up following what her parents told her to do, including in politics. There’s also the fact Abby and her whole family are part of the INC. “I remember when I voted for the first time in 2019, I voted for everyone the INC endorsed, no questions asked.” Her political alignment though began to change due to the pandemic. “I was frustrated and angry with what I was seeing on the news. It didn’t feel right.” Her journey led her to understand her own inherent biases as well as indifference. “I used to just fully do whatever was told of me to do. But I know now that can’t always be the case.”
For her, it comes down to stepping out of her privilege. “I think I’m generally coming from a privileged standpoint, knowing na kahit sino naman maging elected, I know that my comfort will more or less stay the same. I think my vote is for the people who don’t have the same experience. With that in mind, I know na whoever ‘yung mauupo, ‘yung decisions nila will greatly affect the lives of people, especially those who depend on the services provided by the government. Knowing that, I chose candidates who truly serve the public and who genuinely want and will work towards the improvement of the lives of those people.”
While Abby is secure with her vote, talking about it with her family is a non-starter for understandable reasons. “I think I will be kicked out if I do.” She does bring up certain pocketbook issues from time to time, but advocating for her candidates is something she doesn’t she herself doing so far. “I sympathize with people who can’t be open about your personal politics in the family. But my advice for others is that if you can, do so because the last thing you want in an election is regret.”