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Shut Up, I’m Right: The United States’ Lack of Civilized Political Discourse

By Willie Nuttall ’24

President Trump and former VP Biden at the first presidential debate (Photo Credit: New York Times)
President Trump and former VP Biden at the first presidential debate (Photo Credit: New York Times)

During the past decade, the United States has seen a deterioration in civilized political discourse so dramatic some have compared our current disconnect to the period leading up to the Civil War. Although I would not go as far as to say we are on the verge of part of the country seceding, I do believe this lack of discourse is a problem that has become seriously detrimental to the country’s progress and functionality of the Federal Legislative Branch.

The root of the problem stems from a serious lack of diversity of opinion we experience daily. Either through social media or daily conversation, we very rarely encounter opposing beliefs. With social media, the algorithms built into these platforms like those of Twitter and Facebook take into account the people you follow and tweets you like and will find similar content and feed it back to you. For example, if you follow the Twitter accounts of people like Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump, and most of the tweets you like have a pro-Republican message, next time you log into Twitter, you are not going to see tweets from Bernie Sanders and Chris Cuomo, you are going to see tweets similar to those of which you have liked, therefore confirming your beliefs and never challenging them. In-person conversations with someone who has opposing political views are now extremely rare considering how the country’s geographical layout corresponds with its citizen’s political leanings. I believe conversations like these are not only important but useful to everyone, no matter what side of the political aisle you lean towards. I have never had a useful conversation with someone who agrees with me. The only way to confirm your political beliefs is to challenge them, and the best way to challenge them is to sit down with someone who fundamentally disagrees with you and have a lengthy conversation discussing and debating those topics. It will force you to defend your beliefs and even reconsider them.

This polarization leads to the vilification of those with opposing beliefs, therefore discouraging discourse even further. We, as humans, very easily dismiss things foreign to us as inferior or less than. This impulse is the cause of all prejudices (against different races, sexualities, etc.). We know this impulse has proven to be extremely dangerous, yet when we vilify half the country because of their political beliefs, we make the same mistakes we made in the past. Thinking someone is a racist just because they are conservative or that someone is uninformed and overly emotional because they are liberal is not only a prejudiced mindset but is harmful to the country. Yes, there are racist Trump supporters, and, of course, some Bernie bros don’t have any idea what they are talking about, but you can’t take the qualities of a few and apply it to the entire group. That sort of generalization is ridiculous and counterproductive.

Next time you decide to put that post on your Instagram story saying, “If you voted for Trump, unfollow me” or an “If you vote for Biden, you hate America,” think about how you could instead open up your messages for a polite political conversation with a Trump supporter or a Biden supporter. By doing this, you might be able to understand them better and will think twice before you generalize.

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