The era of hyperpartisanship

We live in an era of rigid hyperpartisanship, the most divided and partisan era of politics that current generations in America have ever seen. It’s clear that the poison of hyperpartisanship is destroying the U.S. I’ve seen people turn up their noses when they hear someone is “a liberal” or completely disregard the opinion of a conservative peer simply because they don’t hold the same political beliefs.

As students, we can take a step to diminish hyperpartisanship by striving to understand the beliefs of others and keep an open mind, instead of writing off those with differing views or getting into a heated fight in the comments section of a post (which gets you nowhere).

This is an issue that students observe across District 128. Adam Pressley, a conservative LHS junior, encourages students to keep an open mind when discussing politics.

Pressley said that his values are clearly different from someone on the left and who aligns with the Democratic Party, but that there are things he believes the Democrats are right about and that he could be wrong about. He said that conversation with politically left-leaning friends led him to realize some similar views he shared with the Democratic Party, and that he’d love to have his mind changed about any of his values.

“Just understand that it’s okay to be wrong; [it’s] okay to change your mind. Having that open discussion and that willingness to have your mind changed is going to be a key factor in an ending hyperpartisanship,” Pressley said.

Young people are supposed to look up to those who are older and presumably wiser, but in terms of politicians, the members of Congress have failed to set a worthy example of what American youth should embody, as seen in the recent impeachment trial of President Trump.

Regardless of one’s opinion towards President Trump and his actions towards Ukraine, in any trial—from a district court trial to the Supreme Court—there needs to be evidence to either convict or acquit the charged individual.

The vote for truth and justice should never be along party lines, and the impeachment trial oh-so-perfectly showcased the toxic polarization of the two-party system. Party loyalties fogged the oath Congressmen swore to uphold when they took office, to “support and defend the Constitution.”

On January 31st, the vote for more evidence in the form of new witnesses was entirely along party lines, save for GOP Senators Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, who voted with 47 Democratic and Independent senators in favor of the measure. In the vote to acquit the President on February 6th, Senator Romney was the only Republican who broke from his party to vote “guilty” on Article 1, Trump’s abuse of power.
Senator Romney is now ostracized from his party after voting against President Trump, which so immaculately showcases the extent of hyperpartisanship in Congress. The chairman of the conservative convention, CPAC, disinvited him and said Romney could never be forgiven by Republicans. Essentially, they excommunicated the only congressional member of their party who dared to vote against the wrath of the GOP.

Americans—citizens and politicians alike—need to assess their own beliefs and vote based on that, not based on the ideals that their identified party holds, as seen in the impeachment trial, with Republicans largely siding with the president, and Democrats and Independents against him. A progressive individual does not have to agree with every single stance the Democratic party holds, and a conservative individual does not have to align their beliefs with every opinion of the GOP.

“It seems like people in both parties are voting less on principle and more on just whether it’s beneficial to their party,” said Gavin White (12), a self-identified conservative, said. I wholeheartedly agree, and this needs to change.

Samantha Arribas (10), a self-identified liberal, said she used to be prejudiced towards conservative individuals—she thought they were heartless and evil—due to the influence of the people around her.

“I used to be one path, like ‘I believe this, this is the only thing I’ll ever believe,’” she said.

However, through the media, she began to see that there were other sides to things, and issues weren’t black and white. As she started learning more information and watching more things, she began to build her own opinions.

“I’m always open to new things, and I don’t have one mindset anymore,” Arribas said. “The best option is to just accept other people, even though you may disagree with them.”

One exception, however, is that I can’t respect an individual’s belief that white people are superior to all other races, anti-Semitism, xenophobia—anything that encourages the hatred and degradation of other humans.

That being said, we must also be careful who we deem or brand certain names, like “racist” or “islamophobic”. These stereotypes do not apply to everyone under the umbrella. Conservative beliefs should not be synonymous with “racist” or progressive ones immediately deemed on par with communism. We must take care not to immediately brand an individual under a certain party with a powerful label.

I’m calling to all students to look past stereotypes perpetuated by the media towards all conservatives, progressives, libertarians, or Green Party members alike. Be more open-minded of others’ opinions, seek to understand, not win the argument. Think critically about policies and your own beliefs; strive to have a nuanced, multi-faceted viewpoint. Understanding other students’ and Americans’ viewpoints will usher in a new era of bipartisanism and open-mindedness and allow for nationwide progress to be made through new laws in Congress.