Fixing Bipartisan Relationships

"In today's society, it seems that a politician's job is to find the most creative way to insulate someone across the party aisle."

It's no secret that the political scene is disturbingly divided.  In today's society, it seems that a politician's job is to find the most creative way to insulate someone across the party aisle.  It can be depressing to see. We don’t see each other as people anymore. We see a person who disagrees with us as an enemy, a person to hate just because they have different views and beliefs. I think about that a lot and what I can do to try and bridge this gap.  So when the opportunity arose in my writing class to study a different culture, I chose the College Republicans.

As a political science major, my party (Democrat) is not something that I try to hide, but I also don’t try to always talk about it.  If it’s brought up, I say it like it’s just another fact. Because to me, it is. My party does not define me, and I don’t define it. But I also know that people judge each other based on their party affiliation.  There are stereotypes about both parties. Democrats must be tree-hugging socialists who just want free handouts all the time. All the Republicans are gun-toting racists who only care about themselves. Buying into the hate is easy.  We all believe in some part of it at one point or another. But what happens if we try to reach across the aisle and approach the other party as people, as opposed to just as adversaries?

This is not a new concept, and I certainly do not take credit for it.  But I thought I would try it out in class. So when asked, I went to the front of the class and explained my idea.  As a Democrat, I wanted to study the culture of the College Republicans, and get to know their ideals and why each person, as an individual, believes in these ideals.  I had no intention of attacking them in my research. I also listed some insider language I thought they used, and customs I thought was involved. I prefaced this heavily by saying that these were my outsider thoughts, and there was a very good chance that I was wrong.  I didn’t expect any sort of reaction from the class; it’s a boring topic for most people, and I wasn’t expecting half the class even to be paying attention to me.

Instead, I got a different reaction.  Some of my classmates, who I knew to be Republican, looked furious at me.  They were sitting there shooting me daggers as if I had just offended them in every single way possible.  And my political peers’ reaction was no better. People that were not only Democrats but people I considered friends were laughing at me together.  As if I had just walked up to the front of the class and announced an embarrassing secret. I went back to my seat, confused and frustrated. Wasn’t I doing the right thing? I had made it clear to the class that all I wanted was to get to know the people within the club in a small attempt to ease partisan tensions.  I still plan on doing that, regardless of what everyone's initial reaction was. I hope that what happened in class is just an anomaly and not the general consensus. But then again, if it is, I guess my project would go in a different reaction.

In the end, my experience is just one small example of the negative effects this culture of infighting that has been created.  It is not just one party’s fault. The blame can be spread throughout. That’s not the point. It’s time we start to heal the relationships that have been broken and lost.  I am sure that people have felt harsher effects than just my one classroom experience. Trying to fix these wrongs should not be seen as funny or offensive. I have no idea why it seemed that way to my class.  I can only hope that their sentiments are not shared.