A friend of mine--I'll call her Jill--is sure she will vote Republican in November. Jill is adamantly against legal abortion and says she could not even consider voting Democrat given their support for abortion rights.

Another friend--I'll call her Jane--is equally sure she will vote for the Democratic ticket. Jane is frustrated by gun violence and feels the Republicans are too easy on guns.

Both Jill and Jane are mothers and women of faith. Both friends of mine, they don't know each other, but I am intrigued by how they explain their political views.

Jill hates guns almost as much as she hates abortions. Although she would not consider having a gun in her home, she supports the right to own a gun and does not want to do anything to restrict them, even if it means allowing people to own assault weapons.

Press Jill on the subject of guns and she will tell you she thinks violence is out of control in this country and worries about sending her children to school each day ever since the school shootings began. But Jill feels the gun violence is a symptom of a much deeper societal problem and does not want to restrict what she considers a constitutional right.

Ask Jane about abortion and she will tell you she feels it is immoral in most cases. She could never consider having an abortion herself and has worked in a crisis pregnancy center, supporting women who have chosen not to abort unwanted babies.

Jane is especially bothered by late-term abortions and believes they should be illegal. But Jane adamantly supports a woman's right to choose so is willing to tolerate an option she considers repugnant.

Jane feels we need to continue educating young women about birth control and believes in emphasizing abstinence in teen education. But Jane feels the country should never go back to a day when a woman seeking an abortion is subjected to illegal and unsafe procedures.

What fascinates me most about my two friends is how much they have in common. Mostly they agree on the subjects of guns and abortions. But each will vote for a different party because of their beliefs in the right to choose an option neither supports personally.

It seems to me that these two women represent much of what is happening in the American electorate today. While once people rallied behind an issue single-mindedly, there is a growing sophistication about the difference between social rights and individual choices. And although some people--like my friends--will vote on the basis of these issues, it seems to me that most could be swayed by a more urgent concern.

Where once these issues were easily identified with particular religious groups, this political season finds less preaching on the topics and more openness to the idea that good people may disagree in their approach.

Increasingly there is a broad middle ground on both subjects.

Some find this a sign of too much tolerance and an unwillingness to take a stand. Talk radio shows still rally folks behind particular causes and are happy to demonize those who disagree.

But neither Jane nor Jill will be listening to such shows and would not tolerate such talk. They are two average, thoughtful women who will vote for different but surprisingly similar reasons.

One of these days I intend to introduce them to one another. I am convinced that despite their opposite votes, they could become very good friends. And perhaps that is why the two political parties are beginning to sound surprisingly similar.

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