Editorial: Stop Legislating, Start Listening

Why has partisanship come to dominate every aspect of politics, from elections to appropriations to pandemic relief? Should it have to continue this way? Let’s find out together.

Graphic+courtesy+of+Pixabay

Graphic courtesy of Pixabay

The partisanship that we greet so often on the evening news or in the latest online articles seems to pervade every aspect of national politics. Even ten months in a pandemic was hardly enough to bring both sides together to hammer out a deal on provisioning economic relief to those across the country in dire need. Yet the dynamic of political engagement should not have to pit both sides against each other as it does on the most fundamental questions. So why does it persist? One would have thought that after two hundred years of striving for a more perfect union, battling through a civil and two world wars, we would have at least developed more common ground than from when we started. One look at the most recent headlines and you’d find that a far-fetched reality, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t have to continue this way.

Partisan ideology has been with us since the beginning, and we would be neglecting history to say that we live in the most bitter partisan era of our time. But we should know better than to use the past as an antiquated metric to measure progress. In a time and age when Congress has grown bigger, bolder, and more detached from the constituents whose voices it purportedly represents, the people who are left out from the bigger picture are the ones who seek to reconcile both sides with the United States they know and love. From social media to cable news networks, only the loudest and most acrimonious voices escape the noise and clutter of current events to reach our ears, leaving us with the impression that we must make a choice between two inconsistent systems of thought.

Yet the dynamic of political engagement should not have to pit both sides against each other as it does on the most fundamental questions. ”

Yet those “systems” are founded upon people, and people, unlike prevailing ideology, are subject to change. When it comes down to a choice between livelihood and rhetoric, those who espouse the latter to further the former must come to a decision on which matters more. At the beginning of the summer, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared his party would refuse to pass any coronavirus relief bill that did not protect businesses from lawsuits filed by workers or customers who contracted the virus. Yet, the fact that a $900 billion bill without said “protections” has just passed a Republican-dominated Senate is casting doubt upon the notion that two recalcitrant parties, instead of one hundred freestanding individuals, rule the Senate on every decision it makes. It should not have taken so long for both sides to come to an agreement on provisioning basic and essential support during a pandemic, but the choice of individual lawmakers to forgo partisan allegiance for once and force party leadership to give ground is least a glimmer of proof that political independence will carry significant weight in shaping our future as a nation.

So why does this matter? Won’t parties still persist regardless of what our opinion is? That may be the case for now, but choosing the right future starts from everyday decisions now. Instead of viewing your ideological opponents as sworn adversaries, see them as individuals with both flaws and fortes. Instead of listening to what conveniently happens to be playing on TV, come to your own conclusions by diving deeper and finding sources you can trust. Finally, as you enter the political realm in the coming years, instead of simply voting for your preferred party in elections, look specifically for the right candidate to do the job. Search for the qualities and skills you want at the helm of your communities on both a national and local level. By choosing individualism over partisanship and intuition over rhetoric, you ensure every vote goes to where it is deserved.