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No battleground, still a battleground

According to CNN, I don’t live in a battleground state. But it feels like I do.

Politics is in the air and in the middle of every conversation. It usually starts like this, “So, who do you think will win the election?” There is no right answer to the question, because it all depends on who is doing the asking. Just hearing this question causes me to stop dead in my tracks.

I’ve known for years that politics and religion are topics sure to create an uproar, but this year is proving particularly uproarious. With an electorate split down the middle and good people on both sides behaving like the Hatfields and McCoys, I wonder if there is any way for a business person to navigate the battlefield without taking a few shots along the way.

Among my clients are Bush supporters and Kerry supporters, each equally passionate about their candidates and their causes. My job is to manage their money in the best way possible, regardless of the outcome of the election. It’s not my job to choose sides. In fact, these days, my job is more about keeping my mouth shut regarding my opinion. Talk about a battle!

Whether you are selling machinery or groceries or advice, the conversation is bound to turn to November 2nd. None of us can escape the slings and arrows flying through the air in this politically soaked atmosphere. When this happens to me, immediately, my radar starts pinging. A signal goes off in my head, “Danger! Danger!” I know I’ve just entered a minefield. One misstep and BOOM! I lose business.

So, I smile. I nod. I agree with everything they say, because my business depends on my ability to stay neutral through this trying time. Most business people don’t have the luxury of dealing only with customers who agree with them. That’s not the real world. Every day, we cross paths with folks who think and act differently than we do. When those folks turn out to be our customers, we grin and bear it. That’s what free
enterprise is all about.

Don’t get me wrong. Staying neutral doesn’t mean doing business with someone involved in criminal or unethical activity. You do have a choice, but if you limit yourself to those who share your personal opinions, you’ll find you have few customers.

For someone as opinionated as myself, this election year has proved challenging. Sometimes, I feel like the Swiss, looking the other way while the Germans storm across Europe. But I know that staying neutral on a Presidential election is different than staying neutral while the world is in flames.
This forced silence can be educational, as well. Having to listen to someone else’s opinions, while stifling your own, can open your eyes to other perspectives. Who knows? You may even change your mind.

Still, I’ll be glad when November 3rd arrives. Okay, maybe I’ll have to wait till January 3rd and a Supreme Court decision to end the fighting. This balancing act is exhausting. I just want to get back to business as usual. While I plan to exercise my right to vote, I also plan to bend to the will of the majority, trusting the system which has benefited my business for so long, then maybe we can all go back to talking about more pressing issues, like who will win the SEC football championship this year.

In the meantime, I’ll nurse the wounds on my tongue and hold to my conviction that, when it comes to my business, my political choices are nobody’s business but my own.

Nancy Lottridge Anderson, CFA, is president of New Perspectives Inc., in Clinton. Her e-mail address is nanderson@newper.com, and her Web site is www.newper.com.

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