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The Politics of Friendship

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as a cause for withdrawing from a friend." Thomas Jefferson

Somewhere in the last 40 years, mostly in the last 15, we have lost the ability to separate friendship from politics. We have come to a place where politics is the litmus test of friendship; and friendship demands political loyalty.

In small towns in rural SWVA, this problem can become particularly troubling. Many people have known each other all through school or have raised their children together. Those long term relationships are often the basis for lifelong friendships, as well they should be. But what happens when one of those friends runs for public office? Does the friendship mean you have to vote for each other, whether or not you're the best candidate for the job? No.

That's why we have a secret ballot in this Country. It allows us to separate the personal relationship from politics. Just because a person is a good friend doesn't mean they are the best person to administer public affairs, which is what government does. It's not personal.

People have stepped up to defend some of the candidates running this year because they consider them friends. Everyone can appreciate that instinct, but when it comes to public service the instinct is misguided. As long as the criticism of the candidate isn't personal, but pertains to their judgement or the ability to administer public affairs capably and evenly, a personal defense is both unnecessary and unproductive. Each candidate deserves to be judged on their qualifications. Public service is not, and should not, be a popularity contest.


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