The true divider of the American people: Politics

May 19, 2017

Two conservative Dougherty students speak out about their views

We hold a conservative ideology and support President Donald J. Trump. After reading that sentence, did you immediately associate us with sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and other vilifying traits? Did you think of us less as people based on our political beliefs alone? If you knew us personally, but were unaware of our political stances, did learning this dramatically shift your view of us? Well, if you answered yes to any of those, it’s just more evidence of the extreme political divisions within our nation. But what is really the cause of the growing split of the American people? Ultimately, what is fueling this division is the lack of rational political discussion caused by political prejudices, a lack of true unbiased media and the hampering of free speech.

Political prejudices, especially against conservatives, are at an all-time high. It has become socially acceptable to belittle and berate President Trump and his supporters, something we have commonly witnessed from students at this school. Many well-known celebrities and athletes have also joined in this widespread opposition of the president. Of course, it is important that we, as citizens, hold our president accountable for all he does. President Trump certainly is not above criticism, and much of the criticism of his behavior is justified. However, the problem occurs when prejudices become so deeply rooted in people’s minds that they are no longer willing to listen to opposing viewpoints. This breakdown in communication has made reasonable debate a near impossibility.

The media also has played a part in these divisions. While the media is certainly not the enemy, as President Trump has suggested, it has not done an adequate job in fairly portraying him. The media has consistently portrayed Trump in an overly negative light, leading to his lashing out against them. A Harvard study on the media coverage of the two presidential candidates over the course of the 2016 election reported that Trump’s news coverage was negative 77 percent of the time. It is important to note that Hillary Clinton’s news coverage was negative 64 percent of the time, showing media bias against both candidates. As the study’s author, Thomas Patterson, put it, “The mainstream press highlights what’s wrong with politics without also telling us what’s right.” Now that Trump is in office, his media coverage has skyrocketed in an extremely negative manner. A study conducted by the Media Research Center found that in the first 30 days of the Trump presidency, the tone of Trump’s coverage was hostile 88 percent of the time from the “big three” cable news outlets: ABC, CBS and NBC. It also found that these networks focused attention to quotes and stories from outraged citizens, and devoted little coverage to Trump supporters. The media’s primary role should be to provide easy access to information for the population so that the public can form educated opinions and decisions. Opinionated pieces should take a backseat.

Finally, free speech, an integral process to a functioning democracy, has been under attack as of late. An obsession with political correctness and safe spaces has inhibited many from speaking out on controversial issues. Because of the fear of being labeled sexist, homophobic, racist or other dehumanizing terms, people tend to keep quiet about opinions, even those that are not logically considered offensive, so as to not suffer the wrath of intolerant liberals. For example, take the riots that took place in Berkeley, Calif. that occurred in response to famous right-wing speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos. Love him or hate him, Yiannopoulos, according to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, has the right to express his opinions and political beliefs and should not have been silenced by an intolerant mob seeking to censor the public discourse through acts of violence and intimidation. As the platitude goes, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” This quote should be applied to the thinking of every person. We are not a society that should have to fear speaking what we believe — if we truly want to be tolerant, we should start with tolerating opinions, even those from conservative thinkers. This violence still has not calmed down, extending to anyone holding a conflicting opinion. An elderly man was attacked on Mar. 4, for attending a pro-Trump rally in Berkeley.Violence ensued and many people were bloodied and bruised, all because they were trying to exercise their freedom of speech. The phrase “punching Nazis” was coined on the internet after alt-right white nationalist speaker Richard Spencer was sucker-punched during an interview, and many glorified and praised this action against the “Nazi” — even though Spencer has explicitly rejected Nazism and fascism. The word “Nazi” was used by some to justify the violence carried out against a different political ideology. Promoting violence against people who do not share one’s political sentiments is not just morally wrong, but counterproductive.

Though we have pointed out multiple flaws found in assumptions about conservatism, we must acknowledge that flaws also exist within our own ideologies. However, the purpose of this article was not to change your political beliefs; rather, we wanted to dispel the notions often held against conservatives. Diversity of opinion is one of the things that has made America great. When differing political ideologies are viewed as enemies, politics becomes a competition that distracts from a government’s true purpose: to serve the people. George Washington, who explicitly warned against political parties in his farewell address, was able to make informed decisions because of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton on his cabinet — two brilliant men with wildly different ideals.Liberalism should not be suppressed, but neither should conservatism. We aimed to address why America is so divided politically, and it really boils down to a lack of listening. What occurs in politics affects us all, and thus for the benefit of the people, differing political sides should not attempt to silence or disparage each other, but rather communicate and reason through tough matters. If both sides could rationally discuss matters, less hatred would be spread and no blood would be shed. However, change must come from within, at the individual level first. Be the person who is willing to listen. Be the person who uses logic and facts. Be the person who rejects irrationality and overreaction. And maybe, just maybe, politics would no longer be an area of repeated clash and conflict, but rather a space to discuss and find solutions to the real problems facing the country.

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