As the title of this article might indicate, I believe that we are getting dangerously divisive in political rhetoric, and one need look no further than the most recent political campaigns to see how nasty people can become. Now I had hoped the Clinton and Trump crowds would settle down after the election, and move forward by discussing policy over people, but I was unfortunately proven wrong. Both sides have instead moved in an even worse direction, attacking entire groups of people based on identity (Republican or Democrat) versus belief.
This was perhaps started by President Donald Trump on the right, when he called illegal immigrants rapists and criminals, or Hillary Clinton’s on the left, with her moniker of 50 percent of Trump supporters (which we now know to be 23 percent of all Americans) are deplorables. Regardless of who started it, it’s now both sides’ top point. It would be bad enough if this stayed at the national level, with candidates engaging in mudslinging with the common American, but it has now diffused to all levels of political discourse, which has quite a few undesired effects.
As an example, whenever one tries to take any position the left disagrees with, they immediately are called racist or bigoted. The following is a list of things that Democratic Party members have accused either myself or friends of mine for being racist for supporting: Border security, voter ID law, revenue neutral spending, free speech, increased defense spending and pro-life.
On the other hand, it is not just the Democratic Party that does this, Republicans are equally terrible, using the word “cuck” to describe anyone who disagrees with them on yet another wide range of issues. These same liberal friends who have called others racist/bigoted have been called “cucks” for supporting the following stances issues: free trade, globalism, deficit fueled spending, pro-choice, decreased defense spending and ending the war on drugs.
As a result, neither side is better than the other, with both shouting essentially “you started it,” as a justification for the name-calling. This is the same argument a five year-old makes to justify something they know is wrong, and it’s pathetic that this is being used by grown adults. If it simply was an annoyance, it could be ignored, but it has created a greater problem, the removal of political discourse.
In order to grow as a society, we must first have our ideas and positions challenged, such that we can find the best outcome after an objective analysis of each position. By immediately choosing to assume that anyone who disagrees with us on a particular issue is X or Y, we psychologically shut ourselves off the argument before it can even be had.
This inhibits our ability to learn new stances or become more moderate on issues, and results in hyper-partisan candidates being elected who seldom create the most effective policy. Furthermore, these candidates know from day one they have no intention of implementing their policies, resulting in public outrage as they move towards the center in seeking real solutions.
The other issue with this level of rhetoric is not only that it stifles learning, but conversation as well. It has gotten to the point where many people are no longer comfortable discussing their opinions in public for fear of this name calling.
When people no longer discuss ideas, we can no longer discuss them. Imagine a child in Minto, N.D. being utterly disallowed exposure to neo-liberalism, simply because no person in town is willing to expose themselves and the societal stigmas that come with their beliefs, or the child in Reading, Pa. similarly barred from conservatism.
This creates a world where we can’t identify what party we sit with to serve our interests. In this world policy doesn’t matter, it’s simply us versus them or as said by an old friend of mine from New Jersey, “Never forget who the enemy is Dave, the liberals.”
This friend ironically supports basically all democrat positions, yet doesn’t realize he is probably a democrat due to never having a real conversation with one.
When we are never exposed to an opposing view, we merely follow the culture of those around us, Republican towns flush further red, and Democrat towns turn deeper blue oftentimes voting against their interests in the process.
It is time to stop name calling and start real debates with our friends on the issues that matter. Not everyone is willing to have a political conversation, and this should be respected, but for the ones that do engage in reason and compassion, rather than ignorance and hatred for your opponent.
Dave Owen is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]