In times of serious political tension, it is often difficult to be heard by members of another political party. It feels like people are against other people just because they are Republicans or Democrats rather than what they really believe.
We are currently in one of the biggest political divisions in American history. From the division between federalists and anti-federalists in the Northern and Southern states to the Republicans and Democrats of today, political polarization has had profound effects in the United States.
Recently I watched a Jimmy Kimmel YouTube Video starting in 2016 where Republicans at the Republican National Convention were asked what they thought of Democrats, and Democrats at Democratic National Conventions were asked what they thought of Republicans. Some Republicans’ responses were “general contempt for God and the country”, “brainwashing” and “a crime syndicate”. Democrats said Republicans were “people with no idea,” “closed-minded,” “stifling” and “racist.”
While the video was primarily used to entertain an audience and not to convey information, the thoughts of these people were not far from a study done on what Republicans and Democrats thought of each other. According to a report written by Pew Research, about 82% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats are characterized by at least one negative descriptor among narrow-minded, non-patriotic, immoral, lazy, and unintelligent.
It’s clear with feelings like these, the political divide widens and we block each other out. From my own experience and hearing about the experiences of others, we have a harder time having productive conversations. We cannot listen to each other because of these preconceptions that Republicans are narrow-minded or racist and Democrats are unpatriotic and immoral. Listen to the person, not who you think they are.
George Washington, a founding father, the first American president and the only American president not to represent a political party, warned us about the consequences of political parties.
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension… is in itself a frightening despotism,” Washington said in its farewell speech. “The resulting disorders and miseries progressively incite the minds of men to seek security and rest in the absolute power of an individual.
As Washington predicted, the split not only brought ideas of animosity towards each party, but also a desire for power over each other. It feels like every conversation has to be won.
“In this sense, it is that your union must be considered as an essential element of your freedom, and that the love of one must make you love the preservation of the other,” Washington said.
Everyone has their own reason to believe and support what they do. Each has its own story and deserves to be heard. For these reasons, a person’s political party should not be the determining factor of who they are.