Thoughts on political acceptance
BridgeND | Wednesday, October 21, 2020
As a BridgeND member, I thrive on having civil political discourse, and I have learned the importance of understanding different perspectives on political issues, especially in the heavily polarized time that we are in today. Something I have noticed recently, though, is many people on the left claiming that if someone supports Donald Trump, they can no longer be friends or associate with them. I’ve seen what feels like hundreds of tweets saying “If you support ‘x,’ unfollow me” or “if you like ‘y,’ we can’t be friends.” I think this raises an important question: Is there a line to be drawn where civil discourse can no longer be acceptable? Is there a point that supporting a candidate or an issue causes so much unrest that having well-mannered conversation can no longer be expected?
I don’t think that all situations are the same in regard to this question. If you are a left-leaning person with friends who support Trump, this may be the perfect time to intervene with some good, old fashioned civil discourse. Your first action should not be to stereotype that person by reflecting Trump’s ideals onto them. So, if someone who only supports Trump say, for the economy, and is also politically disengaged, they may not know the racist, xenophobic and misogynistic claims he has made throughout his presidency. Having a civil conversation with someone who claims to support Trump because of fiscal issues, by all means, should be expected and encouraged.
That being said, I understand why and how some people are so harmed by Trump’s rhetoric and do not want to associate with anyone who further perpetuates his bigotry. However, I still believe in the power of conversation and explaining how Trump is wrong. Obviously, it is up to each individual person as to how they want to go on with this relationship after this, but I think a civil conversation at least allows you to make an informed decision about a person’s viewpoint rather than homogenizing assumptions
I do not think that it is acceptable to automatically judge someone based on whether they support Donald Trump. Invoking civil dialogue can help you understand why someone supports the candidate they do, and not until this point can you put a fair judgement on someone’s character. In fact, a political candidate does not reveal the full extent to someone’s character at all.
If we believe that we are at the point that political dialogue can no longer happen because of the assumptions we make about people who support a certain candidate, then I fear for the future of politics in this country. This is the ultimate test of American liberalism, and we must prevail.
I’m not saying that everyone has to agree or that you have to keep someone in your life who blatantly disrespects you or your views. It’s just worth having that conversation before you end a relationship over politics.
Rachel Stockford is the director of operations for BridgeND, a non-partisan political education and discussion group that seeks to bridge the political divide and raise the standard for political discourse at Notre Dame. BridgeND meets at 5:15pm in the Notre Dame room in LaFortune. You can contact the club at [email protected] or learn more at bit.ly/bridgendsignup.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.