With each day that passes, the 2020 election draws closer and closer. We continue to see political ads, celebrity endorsements of presidential candidates, “get out the vote” campaigns and, most recently, the presidential and vice presidential debates.
It’s been a couple of weeks since the first presidential debate between current president Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden, and the second is rapidly approaching.
This debate, along with the vice presidential debate between Democratic candidate Kamala Harris and current vice president Mike Pence, sparked Twitter wars and numerous hot takes. These debates also provided additional soundbites for Americans to take and spin in their favor so that they could then “own” their opponent on Twitter or in commentary clips.
I admit these hot takes are fun to watch, especially when you agree with one of the candidates. However, they also prove a very sad fact. American politicians, somewhere along the way, lost sight of the true definition of debate. No longer are our candidates talking about productive solutions to real-world, real-time issues that are extremely important to people’s livelihood. Instead, they are taking their two minutes to say rehearsed phrases that will make the punchiest moment with hopes of going viral.
Why is this?
For the last several years, American politics have quickly been spiraling into the mayhem that came to life in the last couple of election cycles. Both the Republicans and Democrats have drawn hard-line requirements for what it takes to belong to their party, and demand totalitarian-like devotion once you’re a member. Each party has leaned so much into their trademark stances on issues like gun control, abortion, police brutality, COVID-19, climate change and the economy that they have morphed into caricatures of themselves.
The problem with this is that belonging to a party means you have to be fully devoted to the candidate and the positions of that party. It gets harder and harder to admit your side could be wrong about something. This also leads to us feeling like we can’t admit that the party we “oppose” may have valuable thoughts and ideas too.
However, the world is a wildly complicated place. It is an impossibility that one group could possess all of the right answers. No one has all the right answers, we’re all only humans. Additionally, it is most definitely the case that in order to make progress in the complex age we live in, we’re going to have to start working together. Problems like COVID-19, automation, climate change, homelessness and police brutality are overwhelmingly daunting and don’t seem to be disappearing any time soon.
The debates made it apparent that our modern politicians are not prioritizing coming together as two parties to make the world a better place. In fact, it proved that the candidates seemed to be doing the exact opposite, and dividing us so that we will rally behind just one of them.
Luckily, however, America is a free country and as individuals, we are free to make our own decisions and state our own opinions on political issues. So what can we do as individuals to move forward, rather than further into division?
There are three simple things.
Be empathetic in your approach to ideas, prioritize nuance in political discussions and always focus on issues more so than you do candidates. If we do these things, we are sure to make more progress as a nation than those disastrous debates did. Progress is undoubtedly what our country needs right now.
It’s never too late to rise above the chaos and start listening to each other.
Anna Schmidt is a junior in mass communications and the opinion editor for the Collegian. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.