Should we avoid discussing politics with our loved ones?

Should we avoid discussing politics with our loved ones?

Shaken by the current political climate, the French, from all sides, now avoid talking politics with their loved ones when they think they do not agree.

On Sunday, June 9, when she learned of the results of the European elections and the dissolution of the National Assembly, Emmanuelle* was shocked. Her Cévennes, traditionally left-wing, voted en masse for Jordan Bardella (RN). “I was shocked, deeply saddened by the scale of the result,” she recalls. “I even felt a little bit of anxiety.” The following week, the forty-year-old discussed the consequences of this dissolution with her husband and teenage children. She was surprised by the silence in her village of 400 inhabitants. “Here, without necessarily being friends, everyone knows each other, rubs shoulders. We talk a lot. But this time, in the street, in front of the school, no one mentioned the current political situation.”

Are the French losing interest in elections? Not really. From the North to Hérault, from the Meuse to the Vienne, via the Yonne or the Pas-de-Calais, the vast majority of our interviewees admit to following politics more since June 9. They discuss it as a couple, with family, in their circle of friends or acquaintances… but on condition that they are relatively in agreement among themselves! If they know that their interlocutor voted far from, or even against, their convictions, or if they have the slightest doubt about their choice, they prefer to remain silent. And this does not date from this month of June: “I no longer talk about politics with my friends since I understood that their convictions and mine differ,” confirms Rosalie, a forty-something from Dunkirk. Crossed in the Calais rain, Jacques, a 61-year-old left-wing voter, discussed the consequences of the dissolution with his mother. Not with his brother. “A bit reactionary, he makes little digs at me about immigration. I don’t know if he votes for the extreme right, but to tell the truth, I prefer not to know. Because if that were the case, I might not go to lunch at his place anymore.”

Avoiding debate

Why do you avoid political debate with your loved ones to this extent? For Anne-Catherine, a rather centrist septuagenarian living on the Hérault coast, “everyone seems so convinced of their ideas that there is no longer any possibility of discussion. I have discussed this worrying dissolution with a few friends, but who think like me.” “Today, there is no longer any nuance,” laments Fabien, in his twenties, who is no longer frightened by the far right, from the Meuse. “You vote left, you are a ‘leftist’ who accepts everything; in the center, a traitor who supports Macron; on the far right, a racist. With my friends, we don’t talk about politics, it’s too sensitive. Even if I am surprised to see some clearly display their ideas… on social networks! As if there were a dissociation of personality.”

By all accounts, this avoidance of discussion is increasing as the elections go by. Franck, a fifty-year-old from Pas-de-Calais, sees it as a consequence of the erasure of the traditional right-left divide: “We had different sensibilities, but common values ​​on which we agreed.” When the visions of society proposed by the political forces seem so opposed… how can we succeed in debating them calmly? Anne Muxel, deputy director of Cevipof (Centre for Political Research at Sciences Po), is not surprised by this great silence. The sociologist had already highlighted that close friends discuss politics when positions are moderate. “At the cost of all sorts of arrangements, there is possible common ground. With this moment of strong polarization, where more than one in two voters voted for movements at the extremes of the political spectrum, the risks of conflict, around this subject which concerns the intimate identity of an individual, are greater. The taboo constitutes one of the solutions to remedy this… ».

A silence that settles in

In Yonne, Bérénice, a fifty-year-old, understood about ten years ago that her mother was now voting for the far right. “The week after the dissolution, my mother was on vacation… Luckily! She tried to bring up the subject on the phone through the financial difficulties of an entrepreneur, but I cut her off. I no longer talk about this subject with her, even if it is complicated because there is often a social and political aspect to life. Doesn’t the situation damage the relationship? Yes, a little, for sure. Afterwards, we love each other because we are mother and daughter and we agree on other things.” Family love also leads Fabien to keep quiet when his father, who is left-wing, comments on his political choices, he who oscillated between the right and the far right for these legislative elections. “My father has an argument of authority. It is very paternalistic, he plays on it, but I don’t want to get angry about it. “Not arguing, Henri has also made this his mantra, in the North, in the face of his grandson’s RN sensitivity. “At first, I tried to discuss, but he doesn’t present any arguments, his vote is based on something else.” As a result, when national politics was mentioned during the Father’s Day lunch, the septuagenarian didn’t say a word. And the family quickly moved on to other topics of discussion. At the risk that this unspoken thing will contribute to digging an ever-widening gap over the next elections.

*All names have been changed.

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