Raposa’s Ramblings

 

Election season calls for more discourse

One does not need to be an expert on etiquette to understand that politics, along with religion, is not a polite topic of discussion at the dinner table. Everyone is entitled to have his or her own opinions on these sensitive matters, and we mustn’t allow our guests to feel discomfort.

With all due respect to etiquette rules, I disagree. The current election is too important to ignore, and we cannot allow our civic duties to fall by the wayside for the sake of avoiding a potentially uncomfortable conversation.

Many of the polls and data currently available show the staunch divide between Democrats and Republicans. It seems that we as a nation have gotten to the point where one group has to be either completely right or completely wrong with no room for compromise.

Just this week, the presidential debate showed the candidates as diametrically opposed on most issues. Of course they’re opposed. If they were to concede that the other party was right on any issue, it would be seen as a weakness. They would lose credibility within their party, not to mention the inevitable media field day.

The chance of rational agreements and conversations has gone out the window, and all we are left with is the giant elephant (or donkey) in the room.

I fear that much of the lack of political debate arises because people are so caught up in their own views that they refuse to listen to opposition. Politicians today give little example of what a productive discussion looks like. Following their lead, many Americans simply pick a side and stick with it. They become so indoctrinated in their own party that they feel they could never accept the other side, which can lead to a few less-than-ideal outcomes.

The first outcome is ignorance. When people become too comfortable under their party umbrella, they stop thinking about what they actually believe. If a person’s views are never challenged, they are never strengthened, and politics becomes less of an opinion and more of a simple force of habit.

Why bother reading up on the candidate’s policies when you can just check for the letter “R” or “D” after their name? Elections are becoming more and more like a sporting event where no one cares about the rules, and everybody just wants to back the “winning team.”

The second outcome of this blatant lack of compromise is what I refer to as “informed ignorance.” In the age of selective consumption, people can choose to become informed on issues only as presented by their party-affiliate.

Granted, these people get credit for trying. People who read the news will almost always be more open to discussion than those who do not, but the focus needs to shift from the re-affirmation of old beliefs to the willingness to work together to find common ground. Now is the time to step outside of our comfort zone and be open to hearing that with which we may not agree.

The outcome we really need is political activism. The only way we can find answers to the many issues that face our country is through reasonable discourse. By opening ourselves up to more political discussions, we will be forced to articulate our own views. We won’t need to rely on the media to provide our opinions for us.

Most importantly, we will realize that between all of the division, there is much middle ground. When American voters sit down and think about what really matters to them, they just might see that democratic and republican views aren’t as starkly contrasted as they seem. Compromises can be reached; it just takes a few awkward dinner parties.