Can We Be Friends?

The other day I noticed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Governor Bruce Rauner isn’t his friend anymore. Rauner had mentioned that even though they differ politically, he considered the mayor a friend.   I wasn’t surprised.

My fear is that actions like this will make it more acceptable for majority parties everywhere to discriminate against the minority party.  There is overt and covert discrimination against Republicans in places like Chicago and Cook County.  It’s social, it’s business.  It costs you to be out of the closet.  I am sure that in places that are overtly Republican, the opposite is true.

I never worry or ask about a person’s political beliefs before I decide to befriend them or not.  I never ask before I decide to help, or not.  It’s not in the entrepreneurial “Give Before You Get” ethos.  But, even in entrepreneurial circles I am starting to see people question whether they should help or not.  Be friends with, or not. Work with, or not.  It’s just not in my personal make up to think this way.

If President Bill Clinton could “compartmentalize” his personal and political life, then any one should be able to separate work and friendship from politics.

During this nasty election, I saw someone attack JB Pritzker on Twitter for being Jewish etc.  I went after him.  I had previously told JB I had his back.  While we don’t generally agree politically, he is a nice person with a big heart.  You don’t personally attack people.  Discuss the ideas.

One of the things I realized early on as an angel and seed stage VC is that in order for me to do better, I had to be grease on the wheels.  It was the same thing I did as an independent trader on the floor of CME.  Locals were the grease that made markets work.

How do you become the grease?

You don’t have a lot of judgement. You try and get along with lots of different kinds of people.  As a matter of fact, instead of insulating yourself you expose yourself.  You might not agree.  You might even try to gently or use jocularity to persuade the other way.  But, you actively seek out engagement with all kinds of people, ideas and things.

When you run into them, you actively try to put pieces of the puzzle together.  That’s how my brain works.  Sometimes, you smash atoms together and the end result is something spectacular.

One of the things I realized about Chicago early on is that it’s a totally insular town.  Yes, it’s a big city.  But, it’s really a small town.  The synapses and networks are pretty tightly wound.  There aren’t that many degrees of separation.  Probably less than 2.

In order to build a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, introductions and networks have to be built.  If you put qualifiers like political persuasion or any other persuasion as a standard or part of a checklist, it’s not going to be built.  Professor Gary Becker proved mathematically how costly discrimination was in the Jim Crow South.  It’s costly no matter how you discriminate.

Facebook, Twitter, and blog comments have all gotten nastier.  Being connected virtually isn’t like being in the same room physically.  There aren’t the same consequences.

Someone is not a Nazi or any of the other labels that are tossed around very casually these days if they support a particular candidate.  The mainstream media has become a biased attack dog.  Today I saw an article where the New York Times criticized Sarah Huckabee over her clothing.  I thought we were beyond judging women for what they wear.  I thought we were supposed to judge people for who they were.

Trump’s election has caused even more polarization.  It’s spilling over into the real world of business and it has to stop. Statements like the mayor made, articles like the NYT and other mainstream media outlets have to stop.  It gives the edge crazies permission to take action.  It gives other people the permission to discriminate and the validation that it’s okay.

  • awaldstein

    Kvetching at times is healthy.

    This sounds like one of those for you.

    • I understand Kvetching. I speak just enough Yiddish to qualify joining a Minyan.

  • Amen.

    It’s hard to figure out how to chicken and egg this one, too. Wanting people to not be “friends” would seem to me to be a faux-drama-reality-TV trope.

    Of course that trope comes from us. (The market, lol. There’s always a market for drama.) There’s something in us that wants a story, I think that this is human and universal.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the dark side of storytelling and narrative, and who benefits from the divisive storylines out there. No answers, lots of questions.

    • We can be friendly even though we disagree politically. We don’t have to think “Oh, She’s a Democrat so I won’t introduce her to a potential customer, or Oh, she’s a Republican so I can’t do business with her”

      • Thanks, Jeff. I have been moving away from describing myself by the name of any political party or ideology — and the last 12 months have accelerated my retreat. I think it’s reductive and not useful.

        (And it’s not how I think about you or anyone at this point. Other than career politicians.)

        Onwards.

  • JLM

    .
    A friend is someone who will be there for you through thick and thin. You can spend the next five minutes defining what a friend is or should be. Go ahead.

    In your life, you will have five true friends. Maybe a few more, maybe a few less.

    Good friends are very rare. Try to marry one.

    Let’s state the obvious — the left is vicious. This is not a new development.

    JLM
    http://www.themusingsofthebigredcar.com

  • Dan Kunze

    A wise man told me long ago that if you start bringing politics into your business you instantly alienate half of your potential customers. I fully agree.

  • Michael J. Lotus

    As a Trump supporter, I assure you that this view Will never be extended to people who voted for Trump. To most of the people who voted against him he is literally something like Hitler, and anyone who voted for him is a person of unacceptably low or even evil moral character. This is the view of something like 100 million Americans. This election was unlike anything we have seen in our lifetime, and the animosity is not going to go away. So far it has been mostly one-sided, but I am starting to see some pretty ugly reciprocation.