Political Peace in Pieces

Lucy Tu, Opinions Editor

It’s a Friday night. You’re in a booth with the worst first date of your life. Not only are they chewing with an open mouth and yapping about an ex, but they’re talking about politics, which is a huge red flag. Before long, you two are fiercely debating a random political point, yelling in each other’s faces, and pounding the table. You are positive that you will not be seeing them again.

Whether you’re on a first date or just out on the street, politics are a heated topic and one of the quickest ways to get into a fight. In fact, many people are willing to get into arguments with near-strangers over politics. Political affiliation has become a huge part of who we are and is now a brutal point of contention.

In the last few years, there has been a recurring theme of extreme political tension. On both sides of the political spectrum, dissenters are at risk of being punished for merely having a different opinion. One must appear to solely adhere to the beliefs of those who surround them, lest they become a political pariah.

Take, for example, conservative commentator and television host Tomi Lahren. In mid-2017, after announcing her pro-choice beliefs, Lahren was suspended from her talk show on TheBlaze due to her boss’ pro-life stance and significant outrage within her party. Similarly, when former senator and Democrat Jim Webb announced he wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, he received considerable backlash, including death threats.

This rhetoric of being ruthlessly shamed for simply stating one’s opinion can be disastrous. The idea that one must vote according to their party rather than what they believe is right has risen. This can be seen within our government when representatives fear reprimandation by party leaders. However, this effect is not limited to politicians. Rather, the impact expands to the everyday person, especially due to our increased interconnectedness.

In his novel, The Big Sort, author Bill Bishop discusses how 48% of voters live in a county where at least two-thirds of the population vote for the same candidate. In 1976, this number was a mere 27%. Despite there being more political detachment between parties than ever, we have entered an age of rising political homogeneity.  

Because of this, many people are often surrounded by a majority with one political view, and it is difficult to step out when it seems those around you will not understand. Mob mentality and a fear of being shunned silences the voices of those who may not agree.

Rising political animosity has also contributed to this decrease in calm communication. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in March of 2017 showed that 91% of Republicans and 86% of Democrats view the opposite party as very unfavorable. Both these numbers have increased by around 30% in the last two decades.

It is clear that the true issue lies in the fact that a large majority of people are unwilling to hear the other side. While it is certainly important to stick to what you believe is right, it is also vital to let others do the same. Only then can there be a true democracy that represents the wishes and needs of the people.

Ultimately, differing opinions and debates exist to find the best solution. Perhaps it’s time that we put down our swords and realize that, in order to maintain stability and allow our country to flourish, we must agree to disagree. No matter our beliefs, in the end, we are all striving for the same goal: to create something better, not just for us, but for the next generation.