We’re all Americans
Over the past few weeks Student Life has received and printed a litany of opinion-editorial pieces from Republicans and Democrats arguing about the ethical imperatives behind each of their positions and arguing about how both sides frame each other and treat each other. While many of these pieces make arguments about policies, many also make arguments about what kinds of people the opposing party consists of. It is striking how easily many of these authors are able to completely dehumanize their opponents and accuse them of being immoral or unintelligent because of their political beliefs.
Making moral judgments about people who belong to a certain political party because of their party membership is not okay. It is not okay for our country. It is not okay for democracy. And it’s a completely irrational response. I know we all feel strongly about our political beliefs; they’re important. But our country will never move forward if we can’t find a way to have honest conversations about policy without casting aside our opponents as people.
It is not okay to say someone isn’t patriotic because they believe we should withdraw from Iraq, and it is not okay to say that someone is immoral because they don’t support universal health care. It is not okay to hate conservatives and to treat them as different people who do not deserve respect, and it is not okay to hate liberals and treat them as a different species of people who do not deserve respect. We are all Americans here. We all want a strong country and the best lives possible for ourselves and for our fellow citizens. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We need to be talking and discussing—not arguing and looking for any possible way to discredit our opponent. Our country faces serious problems and it is going to take both conservatives and liberals to come up with the best possible solutions.
This partisan view of politics is a significant reason why our elections tend to focus on lots of ridiculous scandals and misleading ads and information. In our rush to paint our opponent badly in any way possible, we seem to have forgotten that politics should not be a battle. The goal of politics should be to present Americans with different options for their future. Our patriotic duty is to consider the policies of our opponents in the best possible light, think about them deeply and explain why we prefer a particular route for America. We should not be working to create doubts about our opponents’ patriotism or morality; neither of these are facts we can evaluate—they’re feelings.
Let’s take a reality check for a moment. Our feelings are not very rational. A good current example at Wash. U.: Some conservatives feel that liberals are intolerant. Yes, some liberals act that way in certain situations and we have seen that here at Wash. U. In many places in the country, some liberals feel that conservatives are intolerant. I grew up in Nebraska and saw conservative intolerance all the time. We need to recognize that liberals and conservatives are people who are not defined by their political beliefs, but by a number of qualities and experiences. And all of us, (liberals and conservatives) have flaws and failures as people, but they are not linked to our political beliefs. It is not because someone is conservative that she is intolerant—it could be because she’s feeling emotional or her passion was overzealous, but intolerance is not caused by a political ideology. Neither is patriotism. Neither is morality. And we’re running out of time to realize this.
This is not to say that a discussion of intolerance isn’t needed. Intolerance and an inability to identify with people in opposing political parties is a significant part of the reason why politics is rarely about reason anymore. But intolerance is a general problem; you are kidding yourself if you think it is linked to a specific political party.
All of us are working for the same core values. All of us want the best United States possible. And the best United States comes from the best political discussion. Let’s stop attacking each other and embrace the idea that our multiple opposing political views and philosophies are all necessary for the deep political discussion that is vital to our democracy and our nation’s health.