(RNS) A friend of mine -- I'll call her Jill -- is sure she willvote Republican in November. Jill is adamantly against legal abortionand says she could not even consider voting Democrat given their supportfor abortion rights.
Another friend -- I'll call her Jane -- is equally sure she willvote for the Democratic ticket. Jane is frustrated by gun violence andfeels the Republicans are too easy on guns.
Both Jill and Jane are mothers and women of faith. Both friends ofmine, they don't know each other, but I am intrigued by how they explaintheir political views.
Jill hates guns almost as much as she hates abortions. Although shewould not consider having a gun in her home, she supports the right toown a gun and does not want to do anything to restrict them, even if itmeans allowing people to own assault weapons.
Press Jill on the subject of guns and she will tell you she thinksviolence is out of control in this country and worries about sending herchildren to school each day ever since the school shootings began. ButJill feels the gun violence is a symptom of a much deeper societalproblem and does not want to restrict what she considers aconstitutional right.
Ask Jane about abortion and she will tell you she feels it isimmoral in most cases. She could never consider having an abortionherself and has worked in a crisis pregnancy center, supporting womenwho have chosen not to abort unwanted babies.
Jane is especially bothered by late-term abortions and believes theyshould be illegal. But Jane adamantly supports a woman's right to chooseso is willing to tolerate an option she considers repugnant.
Jane feels we need to continue educating young women about birthcontrol and believes in emphasizing abstinence in teen education. ButJane feels the country should never go back to a day when a womanseeking an abortion is subjected to illegal and unsafe procedures.
What fascinates me most about my two friends is how much they havein common. Mostly they agree on the subjects of guns and abortions. Buteach will vote for a different party because of their beliefs in theright to choose an option neither supports personally.
It seems to me that these two women represent much of what ishappening in the American electorate today. While once people ralliedbehind an issue single-mindedly, there is a growing sophistication aboutthe difference between social rights and individual choices. Andalthough some people -- like my friends -- will vote on the basis ofthese issues, it seems to me that most could be swayed by a more urgentconcern.
Where once these issues were easily identified with particularreligious groups, this political season finds less preaching on thetopics and more openness to the idea that good people may disagree intheir approach.
Increasingly there is a broad middle ground on both subjects.
Some find this a sign of too much tolerance and an unwillingness totake a stand. Talk radio shows still rally folks behind particularcauses and are happy to demonize those who disagree.
But neither Jane nor Jill will be listening to such shows and wouldnot tolerate such talk. They are two average, thoughtful women who willvote for different but surprisingly similar reasons.
One of these days I intend to introduce them to one another. I amconvinced that despite their opposite votes, they could become very goodfriends. And perhaps that is why the two political parties are beginningto sound surprisingly similar.