Talking politics with friends feels like a minefield to me. Many of my friends have strong views, which fall all along the spectrum of political thought. My own positions are idiosyncratic—I don't adhere to one party line. Perhaps because of that, I'm almost always nervous about discussing politics.
I'm basically a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. Sometimes that puts me in sync with moderate Republicans, other times with centrist Democrats. I like to think I'm a tolerant, moderate person, but also one who believes in free markets and fears too much government. Sometimes my views lead me to support Democratic candidates, other times Republicans. Being from Massachusetts, that independent inclination has usually put me in the minority, until recently at least.
Over the years, I've felt compelled to explain that even though I don't believe in some government entitlement programs, this doesn't mean I don't care about the poor and disadvantaged. Actually, most of my explanations have taken place in my mind. I'm almost always too uncomfortable to reveal my views openly, lest I be judged uncaring.
President Obama has said that his health care bill should be enacted because it's the "right thing to do." I also really want government to do the right thing for the country on this issue. Virtually everyone I know feels strongly about health care, but in some cases that means they support the bill and in other cases they're opposed.
One friend who knows we may disagree has nevertheless urged me to discuss health care reform with her. I appreciate her receptiveness and I've even shared some of my thoughts with her. In general though, I like to avoid conflict, so find political conversations awkward—there's almost always a mine lurking somewhere in the discussion, ready to explode in my face.