The Political Divide

By Madeline Thompson

“I didn’t vote for him but he’s my president, and I hope he does a good job.” This was John Wayne’s response to a question about the election of John F. Kennedy. However, the election of JFK took place 55 years ago, and encouraging opinions of opposing parties are hard to find in 2015. Compare Wayne’s statement to a statement from Rush Limbaugh on the election of President Obama: “I hope he fails.” 55 years is a lot of time for politics to change. “Before the 1980s, if you knew which party an American voted for, you couldn’t predict very well whether the person held liberal or conservative views.” (Washington Post). That has obviously been lost; even now, if someone says that they side with Hillary or Bernie, they are liberal, and if they side with Jeb or Carson they are conservative. Clearly, something has been lost throughout the years, and that something is exposure to diversity.

Political parties have become so closed-off that people rarely hear an opposing opinion. The worst instance of this echo-chamber effect isn’t best portrayed in the White House, however, but in the daily lives of all those with even slight political interest and opinions. We segregate ourselves into groups of those who think like us, and are never challenged to compromise or think differently. If we continue to stand so firmly opposed to listening to others simply because they have different a political affiliation, strife in politics and in America will simply continue to escalate with no hope for compromise.

Trust me, I understand that it can be painful and frustrating to discuss politics with those who have vastly different views from you, but if politics remain so polarized, nothing will ever get accomplished. You don’t have to agree with the other person, but wishing for the failure of a President simply because they are from a different party is petty and self-destructive. Exposure to opposing views is necessary, and thankfully we live in a school-district with very diverse opinions, so finding a debate partner shouldn’t be too hard.

Here are some tips for talking to those with opposing views:

  1. Don’t walk into the conversation to change opinions. The point of the discussion should be exposure and understanding, not conversion.

  2. Stay open minded and actually listen to what they are saying. There is nothing more frustrating than talking to someone who only listens to what you say for the sake of attacking it later. Try to really understand their perspective.

  3. Explain yourself, don’t just give one word yes or no answers.

  4. Try not to get too angry, because I’m assuming you like the person you’re talking to on a personal level. This piece of advice is a bit hypocritical coming from me, but trying to keep emotions in check is important.

Some other tips for diversity of opinion are to play Devil’s Advocate when among those of similar political affiliation. Challenge your friends with similar opinions to acknowledge the other side. Also, watch the presidential debates for the opposing party if you have internet or cable, and watch them looking for both similarities and differences. Staying up on politics isn’t something that can be with only one source. There are 300 million people in America as of October 17, 2006. That’s a lot of different people and opinions, and no one in the country can have everything go their way. Compromises are going to have to be made, and it will be much easier to to make those compromises if everyone in the country is more accepting and educated on the positions they are opposing.

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