The importance of the upcoming primaries: The dangers of polarization
BridgeND | Monday, March 2, 2020
On Sept. 13, 2017, a gunman opened fire at Freeman High School in Spokane, Washington. The alleged suspect, a 15-year-old sophomore, brought an AR-15 rifle and a pistol, killing one student who attempted to prevent the shooting from taking place. Three other students were injured and taken to the hospital. This is not an event that has garnered much attention, as school shootings are becoming more commonplace. Students in Spokane, Washington rallied for some sort of change to happen: They petitioned their representatives and senators, and some went to the capitol in the hopes of drawing attention to their pleas.
As expected, change is something we never got.
Our generation has grown up believing that our voices won’t make a difference in the life of politics. However, the design of our government calls for the exact opposite. It was implemented for the protection of minority groups. Why aren’t we seeing such change? Polarization.
In Washington state, following the Freeman shooting, legislation was put forward to implement safety measures within the schools: training for teachers, security guards and new bullet proof doors. It was denied. New legislation was then proposed to limit the access to firearms in Washington, which likewise failed to pass. Ultimately, nothing happened, and the story of the Freeman shooting began to fade. One side of Washington is heavily conservative, while the other is heavily liberal, creating an inevitable gridlock. Our unwavering identification based on parties has prevented compromise and productive discussion. Now, Washington has become the paradigm of a recurring problem that we have faced in the last two presidential administrations.
With the next primary, we may be faced with voting for two complete opposites: a far-right conservative and a far-left liberal. This can be very dangerous for any possibility of change for two specific reasons. First, the policies of both candidates are marketed as intriguing and “flashy.” However, by design, it will be hard for any extreme policies to be passed through both the House and the Senate, leaving America to become, once again, a gridlocked country. For a country begging for immediate policy change, the increase of polarization will only exacerbate the failure to compromise. Secondly, following the 2016 election, America became increasingly divided: Citizens rallied behind one of two extremes and left no room for civil discussions. The middle ground was perpetually disintegrating. If a far-left leader is elected as the democratic primary candidate, this divide will grow even further.
What practice, then, can possibly hope to unify the country? Voting.
It is necessary that we find a candidate that members of both parties can rally behind. This can unify the country to create the change that we have been dying to see. Someone who understands the importance of representation for all groups and can incorporate them into practical governmental policies. On Tuesday, March 3rd, the Super Tuesday primaries will take place, and will prove essential to the outcome of the Democratic primary.
We need to get back to the America in which real change is accessible and where political discussion is praised as necessary, rather than frowned upon. With these increasingly negative and polarized perspectives fed by our own emphasis on party factions, civil conversation will never come to fruition. The only way to begin the process of reunification in the American people is to identify and support a candidate that promotes unifying policies representative not only of both parties, but of the multitude of voices seeking to be heard in our country.
Sierra Stinson is a freshman involved in BridgeND. She can be reached at [email protected].
BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in the McNeill Room of LaFortune Student Center to learn about and discuss current political issues, and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @bridge_ND.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.