Categorized | Viewpoints

Ideological obstination

Ben Taylor

During the past few weeks, I attended two politically-oriented meetings, one from each side of the ideological spectrum. The first was the Planned Parenthood discussion “Rights Under Fire” hosted by the College of Wooster Democrats and the second  event was the Wayne County Republican Party Executive Committee Meeting. Despite the vast differences which likely separated the majority of the members at each of these two meetings, there was an alarming similarity in the nature of the discourse which occurred at both, a similarity which I feel is representative of the wide divide which currently exists in the American political system.

The first alarming incident occurred during the speech at the Planned Parenthood meeting. Before starting her discussion, Stephanie Knight, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Ohio, asked if there was anyone in attendance from what she referred to as “opposition groups.” As I am opposed to the practice of abortion, and Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the U.S., I raised my hand. However, it went unnoticed, even as she asked the question again. Satisfied that no one in the room would take issue with anything she said, she made the following comment: “Good. Now we can have a safe and open discussion”.

Before I address this comment, let me turn quickly to the Wayne County Republican Party Executive Committee Meeting. I did not attend this meeting by myself; Casey Claypool (who is currently assisting in the re-establishment of the College of Wooster Republicans) and Maddi O’Neill (Voice staff writer and College of Wooster College Democrats member) attended as well. The assumption made by those in charge of the meeting was that the three of us were all Republicans. When it was brought to their attention that Maddi was not of the same political orientation, comments were made like “Well, I hope you’re not a lost cause. My sisters are all lost causes,” and “We’ve been infiltrated by the enemy.”

There is a reason I relate these two incidents. I believe that they demonstrate the inability of both sides of the political spectrum to be fully open-minded toward individuals of different ideologies or beliefs. All of us know the lack of such rationality in political discourse is a problem, but it’s not typically an issue which we are willing to associate with our own side of the political divide. “Those other people” may have an issue with being able to give every idea a fair shake, but surely we don’t.

Here’s the problem. If that’s the case, then why is it only possible to have a “safe and open discussion” when everyone agrees with the cause you’re promoting? Shouldn’t it be possible for Republicans to discuss issues of reproductive health reasonably along with Democrats? Why are people who don’t share your political views labeled “a lost cause?” Isn’t there (and I’m sure most of you won’t need much convincing on this one) a great deal about the Democratic Party and its agenda which is able to be appreciated even if one does not affiliate with the party or disagree with its goals?

I contend yes to both questions (and the many like them that exist). If America wants to improve on the way it currently does politics, individuals on both sides would be wise to focus less on the ways they disagree and more on how “safe and open conversations” can be had with individuals from all beliefs and backgrounds. Only then can America’s politics become less partisan and far more reasonable, a goal upon which I’m sure we can all agree.


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