I have long resisted writing about politics in this blog or any of my other blogs. Not for lack of interest... indeed, I'm a hardcore political junkie who stays up late on every primary night watching returns - and will be tonight. After spending most of my adult life living in New Hampshire, politics just gets infused into your blood. I've worked on multiple political campaigns as a volunteer and spent some long hours on phones, doing mailings and at campaign events. In fact some of the first press conferences and TV/radio work I ever did was when the environmental organization for which I was the N.H. political chair endorsed a certain young, inexperienced southern governor in 1992 who went on to become president. Politics is in my blood and each day it is screaming
to come out in words and actions. There is a large part of me that wants to do things like launch a "political blog" and join the chorus of voices seeking to change the direction of this country.
Especially now. Today. In this extraordinary moment of time.
And yet I found myself agreeing with the opening paragraph of Marc Andreessen's recent post:
I've tried very hard to keep politics out of this blog -- despite nearly overpowering impulses to the contrary -- for two reasons: one, there's no reason to alienate people who don't share my political views, as wrong-headed as those people may clearly be; two, there's no reason to expect my opinion on political issues should be any more valid than any other reader of what, these days, passes for the New York Times.
I share those "nearly overpowering impulses". And I share the concern about alienation (and validity). Unfortunately, the sad truth is this:
We live in a country divided.
And those divisions strike to the heart of our nation. It's not just "Red State" versus "Blue State"... the polls are so much narrower than that. If you look at the results of the last presidential and congressional elections in terms of the popular vote, we as a nation are incredibly divided... literally in half. And worse, we are passionately polarized. The "moderate" middle seems to have continued to shrink dramatically while the extreme sides seem to have strongly gained in numbers. We do not necessarily relish and embrace the differences that have made us so strong as a nation, but rather we revile and reject those with opposing views. If you are on "the other side" you are "un-American" and someone with whom we are not to deal with. Tolerance and respect for opposing views and beliefs at least seems hard to come by. The sides have dug in and are fighting hard.
It's not a particularly great environment right now for political discourse.
In that context, the communicator in me strongly wants to keep politics completely out of my online writing. The stories I tell and the changes that I attempt to chronicle in blogs like Disruptive Telephony and Disruptive Conversations transcend politics. VoIP doesn't differentiate between Red State and Blue State. The changes of social media are impacting communicators on all sides of the great debates raging within our country. So the question is:
Do I want to potentially alienate probably half of my readers?
In that context, the (relatively new) employee in me wants to keep politics out of my writing to avoid tension with potential customers. For better or worse, I am one of the "public" faces of my employer and indeed was hired in part to be a public face through our blog site and the online work I do. Although I write here as an individual with the standard disclaimer in my sidebar about my writing ("All opinions expressed here are entirely mine and have no connection to my employer or any other person or organization.") the reality is that in the "Age of Google" anything you write can be found by anyone searching. The "Dan York" of this blog is the same one who writes for my employer's blogs. All the writing is interconnected and easily found - disclaimers to the contrary. So the question is:
Do I want to potentially alienate probably half of our customers (who stumble upon my writing)?
Now the reality is that probably the vast majority of the readers of my blogs (and any potential customers who might somehow stumble upon my writings) may not care at all what political positions I take. Even if they do, they may certainly be able to let that be and read on. But will all? Is the risk worth it?
In that context, there is still the patriot that lurks inside of me that loves this country and sees the incredible potential that resides here... and wants to speak out. The skeptical idealist who clings to the potentially naive delusion that one more voice added to the chorus can help in some small way... that it is the time for all of us who actually do care about the future of this nation to stand up and let our voices be heard. I see great challenges ahead of us... with our economy... with our relations abroad. There is much to do. I'd like to be yet another voice out there. But can I?
How to resolve the conundrum?
Do you speak out and run the risks? Or do you stay quiet and sit on the sidelines?
For the moment, my choice will be to NOT join in the global online conversation. For the moment I think I'll leave my politics out of my writing... although I'm sure patterns could be deduced from my tweets, saved links and other online info. (Well, that and the fact that I chose to move to Vermont, which just in general has a certain political view.)
Am I smart? Or scared? What choice have you made?