“I’m going to be 100% honest with you,” her email started. “I want you there but I don’t want [her] there.” That’s the excuse I was given for why I was not invited to a friend’s engagement party. As an ardent anarcho-libertarian, she didn’t want my girlfriend in attendance. My expected guest committed the gravest of sins: she “honestly believed Romney would be a good president.” That belief might as well be the same as robbing starving children of their last scraps of food. My girlfriend also had the audacity of criticizing libertarians for both being too purist and not casting a ballot for Governor Romney when it mattered. In the libertarian world, this accusation is the equivalent of first degree murder. So she must be shunned.
When I first received the email, I stared at it for a minute before clicking off and hitting the “trash” button. At first I smirked about the declined invitation. I used to be a militant defender of libertarian non-politics. I avoided company with government workers, preferring to withhold my presence from those awful “thieves and murderers.” I understood where the disinvitation was coming from. But even still, I was hurt by the sentiment. I was being kept out of gathering of friends because of my girlfriend’s political beliefs. She’s not some bullhorn Republican, aggressively deriding everyone who doesn’t vote straight R. She’s as amicable around liberals as she is around conservatives and libertarians. This was strictly politics.
The liberal press loves to fret about the current polarization in politics facing America. Tea Party Republicans are painted as intolerant of compromise. President Obama’s aloof stance toward the loyal opposition is seen as a necessary undertaking if he is ever to get anything done. Washington, we’re told, is a town divided on ideological lines that is as cynical as it is inept. There’s a lot of truth in these caricatures. But the American polity isn’t all that venomous or divided as it was two centuries ago. In the contentious campaign between then-President John Adams and then-Vice President Thomas Jefferson, sycophants from both sides called the candidates everything from “a hideous hermaphroditical character” to a “gross hypocrite.” If anything, political discourse has cooled down to a level of respectful civility.