The 2020 presidential election is creeping closer and closer, and during this time of political extremities and heated debates, we need to ask ourselves how we got to this point. How did our two most prominent political parties become so polarized? Liberals are labeled as snowflakes and conservatives are labeled as bigots. No matter our beliefs, how can we move forward as a country when we won’t even listen to each other?
It seems, in an effort for politicians to differentiate themselves from the others, they move further and further away from the center of the political spectrum. One apparent trend caused by this polarization of parties is the polarization of voters. The idea has become that one party garners support from minority groups while the other garners support from the white majority, but if we look deeper, is that all there is?
We’ve separated these political parties, issues and controversies into two categories: black and white, right and wrong. What people refuse to understand is that many things in life aren’t black and white; they are grey and they are nuanced.
Jett Hooker, a senior at Virginia Tech majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in political science shared her opinion on the matter.
“The left believes that the right is tearing the country apart, and the right believes that the left is tearing the country apart,” Hooker said. “There’s a sort of head-to-head battle between conservatives and liberals that is pushing the parties further and further away from each other. People align their values and their identities to their political parties, and that is where their loyalty lies. A person’s individual values and individual identity ultimately becomes unifying values and a group identity within the confines of their political party.”
Hooker believes the road to rectifying the nation’s division is taking each other’s thoughts and opinions into account, rather than casting them aside as invalid.
“It would be helpful for people to start listening and trying to understand when people have views other than their own,” Hooker said. “Too often I see tweets and posts where people make jokes like, ‘If I see someone wearing a MAGA hat it’s on sight,’ or something along those lines. It’s like people are at the point where their first instinct is to retreat and retaliate the moment that someone’s political opinion is different than their own. That’s ultimately a huge reason why the country is in the shape that it is now. It shouldn’t be like that. You can’t preach equality for all or diversity and then threaten to hurt someone just because they have a different political view. It’s hypocritical.”
We too often hear an opinion that is different from ours, and instead of trying to understand their perspective, we immediately label them as a bigot or an idiot. Like Hooker said, our political opinions are rooted in our own personal beliefs. Even though some may feel that their counterparts hold hateful ideas, we shouldn’t respond to hate with more hate; that only escalates the issue.
We all have a right to our own opinion and we all have a right to disagree with someone else's opinion, but if we refuse to even try to see the other side, how can we expect to move forward as a nation? How can we expect to solve anything at all if all we do is scream at each other?
I’m not saying we have to agree on anything; in fact, I believe it’s healthy to have different opinions. What’s not healthy is refusing to listen to our fellow brothers and sisters, insisting that our opinion is the right one. We don’t need to agree, but we do need to compromise.