The collective blood pressure across campus seems to be slowly returning to equilibrium now that the midterm elections are in the past. Not unlike the most recent presidential election, the midterm election was quite polarizing, and tensions across party lines were far more pronounced than normal day-to-day life.
Voting season naturally surfaces points of dissension across party lines among friends and peers, often leading to tension and social dissonance. However, students should work to combat the toxic, divisive forms of discourse characteristic of the modern political world. We should instead work to exclusively engage in mature, civil discourse. In other words, we should agree to disagree. More importantly, agree to disagree agreeably.
The negative effects of toxic politics are countless, many of them quite present in modern American society. Constituents often assume similar or perceived attitudes of their political party’s leaders. This can have extreme implications, depending on the politician’s rhetoric. Only two years ago, one of our own Baylor Bears said she was pushed off a curb in an act of racist political activism. Shortly after the physical transgression, the perpetrator reportedly said, “I’m just trying to make America great again,” reciting President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
Regardless of whether or not the act is a genuine reflection of the president’s worldview or moral standards, the divisive election, steeped in offensive rhetoric from both the Republican and Democratic campaigns, may have compelled that individual to act out in a racist, violent manner.
Instead of allowing our outlooks and actions to be dictated by those in power, the Baylor student body should work to create emotional distance from our political leaders. We should work to become as politically knowledgeable as we can and discuss our values with one another in a productive manner that allows both parties to feel heard and respected.
Though it may lead to cowering or concession, yelling loudly or employing fallacious arguments never truly wins a debate. If you’re really interested in changing the mindset of the person with whom you’re discussing, a few communication tactics you might want to utilize include: genuinely listening to the substance of the other party’s arguments; empathizing with the experiences of the other party; staying calm and collected, avoiding a raised voice or angry tone; and, when all is said and done, making peace at the end of a conversation, leaving as friends.
Though American politics may be more turbulent and divisive than ever before, voters still have free will and should behave in a way that reflects their own values rather than blindly adopting those of the political leaders they support. By engaging in civil discourse and disagreeing agreeably, students will be able to form more developed and knowledgeable beliefs. As our age group rises into positions of power, we have the opportunity to change the current narrative of American politics by limiting ourselves to civil discourse and, as a result, form a more peaceful and open-minded body of voters.