Being it is February, politics is probably the furthest thing from anyone’s mind, especially the minds of students who have somehow caught early spring fever, had to use an ice scraper to dig their car out of two feet of snow or trudged to class through the snow in their sandals in order to preserve their aesthetic. However, the time is now to have politics on the brain, and, on top of this, the time is now to be thinking about changes that need to be made to our political system.
Over the centuries, our political climate has become toxic and polarized. When we think about elections today, it is nearly impossible to look past the Republican and Democratic parties. This is the exact thing our founding fathers had the foresight to fear.
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other,” said John Adams. “This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” George Washington — the first President of this nation — is just one other to share similar sentiments to Adams.
Although the words and ideas of these founding fathers have come to be a bit antiquated, they hit the nail on the head with this one. We live in a world where two parties have cornered the political market, so to speak. This creates polarization.
Politicians are forced to push themselves to the fringes of their respective sides of the political spectrum. This allows them to appeal to radical voters; however, it makes moderate voters gravitate to a side of the spectrum they may not be totally aligned with. With this polarization, elected politicians play the game of working and thinking within party lines in a vicious war against the other side. However, when politicians are fighting this war, they are not doing their real jobs — representing their constituents.
So, what can the average citizen and voter do to fight polarization? For this, I turn to Augsburg’s mission statement. It is our duty to be informed citizens. This means evaluating what candidates truly stand for instead of simply checking the box of your preferred party. This goes hand-in-hand with being a critical thinker. Critically evaluate media sources and the speeches of politicians.
Be a thoughtful steward by fighting to get the voices of those who have been silenced heard. The more voices we have joining in respectful political discourse, the better chance we have of doing what is best for the country as a whole.
Be a responsible leader. Many of us will one day find ourselves in places of power. Whether it is in the direct field of politics or not, it is important not to impose our individual views and values upon those we lead. Only by doing all of these things can we, as future leaders and current voters, create positive change in the political world.
This article first appeared in the Friday, February 9, 2018, Edition of The Echo.