GOP debate (Getty Images )
Psst! Hey, you! Look over your shoulder. Now move somewhere out of sight of the boss and bring your voice down to a whisper, OK?
I want to talk politics.
Seriously, people. It's the day after Super Tuesday, and the Illinois primary is less than two weeks away. As a story in Tuesday's RedEye pointed out, it's only natural to want to say something about this year's political hoopla to the people you work with for eight hours a day.
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So why do so many people avoid those conversations altogether—lumping in politics with taboo topics such as religion or personal relationships? In some workplaces, all that's "acceptable" is mindless blabber about sports, movies and the weather. Yawn.
It goes without saying that more people in Chicago are registered Democrats than anything else. So Republicans like me may feel even less comfortable opening our mouths, lest we be ostracized by our colleagues for showing we have an "R" next to our names.
But you'd be surprised how many of your co-workers are interested in such things. The truth is, discussing politics and news around the water cooler is just as acceptable as anything else you saw on TV last night. You just have to know how to do it right.
Here are my three simple rules for discussing politics in the workplace.
1. Know your audience
Don't look to pick fights with anybody in the workplace. That's just a dumb idea in general. I once worked with a hard-core liberal whom I'm still good friends with today. Anytime he had a political ax to grind after reading something some Republican said that he didn't like, he would shoot straight for my desk. It's as if I were the only conservative person in the world he knew. I didn't mind discussing such things on a coffee break or over lunch, but during regular works hours, I don't have time to conduct debates at my desk.
2. Keep it civil
This rule really shouldn't be difficult to obey. Look at how many jokes Jon Stewart and Jay Leno crack every night about what's happening on the campaign trail. That alone should demonstrate how much comedic material politics provide the world. I wouldn't recommend discussing counterterrorism policy or abortion with your co-workers—that's just exercising common sense. But Mitt Romney's "weather man" looks and personality or President Obama's rendition of Al Green are fair game.
3. Get off your high horse
Unless you're an elected official working in the state legislature, you're not at work to solve the world's problems. And unless the politician under discussion is one of your parents, don't take any crack about them seriously. If we've lost our ability to laugh at such things, then the terrorists have won! (Just kidding.)
Stick to these guidelines, and you won't have to feel like you're hiding from the office political police just by asking your colleagues whom they voted for. And Chicago Democrats, cut you fellow Republicans some slack: We didn't like Bush either.
JOHN GIOKARIS IS A REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR.