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Viewpoint

An appeal to reason and civil discourse in the wake of our election

The Washington Post famously advertises the phrase, “democracy dies in darkness.” Undoubtedly this is a commentary on our unique ability in America to say what we wish, and believe it has meaning. And so today, in the face of a changing federal landscape, I see an opportunity for all of us on this campus to come together to say what we wish, and say it civilly. 

Since the election of Donald Trump, the state of American political dialogue has gone from slightly polarized, to opposite hemispheres. Even when amongst my best friends across the aisle, I feel a pressure to conform, to hide my views, to say things I don’t mean to avoid conflict. In a sense, that freedom of speech that Americans should take pride in, has been lost by our own doing. No, it’s not a legal matter or one party’s platform that is inhibiting our free speech. It is our social climate, one dominated by the inability to make concessions to alternative reasoning. 

There is an expectation that political discussion these days cannot, and should not be casual, let alone civil. Whatever happened to debate, and middle road? What ever happened to kitchen table discussions? Whatever happened to being undecided? I am sure that many students come from families like mine where parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all have a distinct distaste for a certain donkey or elephant. But why should we as a new generation of intellectuals at a leading University, fall for such shallow party propaganda as they have done in the past? Why should we allow party politics to define our free thought, and our relationships? I truly believe that every time we get angry with our peers across the aisle, we are doing a disservice to our country, to our democratic process. Frustration is a strong emotion, but the pride of cooperation is stronger. 

It is therefore wrong of us, and dare I say shameful, that we have let the inflammatory tweets and speeches of 80-year-olds dictate how we treat our fellow voters. It is a further disappointment that we as a generation of mass media have not found a way to discuss things more civilly than aging boomers and millennials. Very soon, this country will be run by our age group and our values. We cannot afford to fall into the same trap as our predecessors and further spiral into a state of disunion. In an ideal America, there are no political parties dividing us, nor cult of personalities defining us: just policies, values and a large heap of community and conversation.

There are many on this campus who will most likely feel sad today. Maybe their congressional district, senate seat or governorship went across the aisle. It is fine to be upset. Emotion should be a springboard into conversation with the winning party about why you care so much. What policies should we know about? How can we work together? How can we all find hope? This is how we make progress: through discussion, and through listening. It is OK to disagree. In fact, I encourage you to disagree with people. We’re not robots after all. Yet it is a matter of how we disagree that I bring to your attention today. We must learn to disagree, better.

Whether Republican or Democrat, we have a duty to participate in the political process no matter how strongly we feel about our current government. So I urge each and everyone one of you to take a deep breath, and embrace the concept that our political process is free and just. Democracy did not die overnight, nor would it die should the entire chamber become blue or red next cycle. It dies when we stop talking to each other about the things that matter most. Remember: we live in a republic, which means representation. Believe in that representation, vote, and above all discuss your ideas with respect. Our country was founded on the lofty aspirations that a government should be of the people, by the people and for the people; but until we hold ourselves to a higher standard of discourse, we will remain divided. We fail to fulfill the founder’s great vision when we cannot disagree with dignity. 

We have it in us to be the change in this toxic world. I truly believe in that. Our generation will shape the future of the United States, good or bad. It can start here at Notre Dame, and it can start today. So whether you’re on social media, or South Quad, in the DH or in the bleachers, take a stand for civility. Take a stand for our political future. Take a stand for unity in this country so that we can mold America into a safe place for all ideas. Open your mind and your heart to your fellow man, and with some luck, maybe we can make our republic work for all the people moving forward. 

Jack Heatherman

senior

Nov. 9

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News

University groups hold student engagement opportunities on Election Day

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, the midterm elections will be held for all 435 seats of the House of Representatives, 35 out of 100 U.S. Senate seats and thousands of local elections in each state. With many students voting for the first time, the midterm elections are an indication of where the nation will head towards. 

However, many students try to avoid political conversations — and those who don’t prefer to engage in political conversations with those from their political preference.

As NDVotes co-chair Grace Scartz wrote via email, “We have seen that ND students often shy away from conversations seen as political, or will only engage with people they know believe the same things as they do.” 

Additionally, Scartz said she believes students feel as though they cannot make a significant impact in the political world and are discouraged from engaging in politics altogether.

“Lots of students also feel that they cannot have an impact on politics and feel disaffected by the acrimonious political environment all around us,” Scartz said. 

Many clubs around campus will host events for students on Nov. 8 regarding the outcome of the midterm elections and to increase political engagement on students. 

NDVotes, in alliance with the Student Latino Association as part of the ‘Nuestro Voto” (our vote) campaign, will host a Pizza, Pop, and Politics in 1050 Nanovic Institute from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The meeting will host professor Ricardo Ramirez, director of the Hesburgh Program in Public Service, to discuss civic engagement from Latino voters in these midterms. 

The College Democrats will host a meeting in the Montgomery Auditorium at LaFortune at 7 p.m. to discuss any concerns regarding the midterm debate last week. The meeting will be an open forum among club members to discuss any concerns they had over last week’s debate, co-president Anne Guzman said.

“[O]ur club has taken actions to keep our community on campus safe,” Guzman said. “We created a full plan of action to make sure that what was said during this debate doesn’t go unaddressed because of how harmful it is to the campus community at large.” 

The College Republicans will host an Election Night Watch Party in 155 DeBartolo Hall at 7 p.m. The watch party is set to serve Chipotle catering and drinks to its guests, as they watch the results of the midterm elections.

“Tomorrow will mark the beginning of a new day for America,” president PJ Butler wrote in an email. “For two years, the Democratic party has done everything that they can to bleed this country dry. But the bleeding will finally stop when red prevails.”

Students whose permanent address is in St. Joseph County can vote in-person tomorrow. Voting locations can be found on the St. Joseph County website.

Contact Sam at sgodinez@nd.edu.

Categories
Viewpoint

The midterm elections: voting rights and gerrymandering

With the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, drastic climate disasters and increasing political polarization among U.S. citizens, the midterm elections are essential in determining our government’s ability to take on these issues. As Amber Phillips said in her article about the importance of the midterm elections, this election has the power to reshape our country. 

For context, the midterm elections determine what representatives will have a seat in Congress. Senators serve six-year terms making ⅓ of the 100 seats open for candidates. The way our government functions is entirely dependent on which political party fills the majority of the seats in Congress. Usually, Americans vote for Congressional representatives based on the popularity of the president. Biden’s 53% disapproval rating risks the potential for a loss of majority Democratic rule. However, with the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, the popularity of Democratic candidates for Congress has increased. When looking at the differences between a Republican and Democrat-controlled Congress, it is important to consider the top concerns of the American people and how efficiently a political party’s majority rule would play in creating solutions to a wide variety of issues. 

According to Phillips, some of the key issues — in order of importance — are the economy, abortion, inflation, education in schools, immigration, climate change and crime. While the overturn of Roe v. Wade is helping Democrats stay on the winning side of public opinion, Republicans are attempting to shift the focus from this issue to other areas where Democrats are lacking efficient policies such as gas, groceries, crime and border crossings. Essentially, the majority rule of the Senate will significantly impact which issues get attention from the government and which ones get ignored. 

The most critical element of the midterms will be paying attention to how gerrymandering will impact the outcomes of the election. Every 10 years, states redraw district lines to ensure that districts are equally populated. However, Senators, particularly in the South, have been using this practice to draw boundaries to influence who gets elected, otherwise known as gerrymandering. Essentially, gerrymandering empowers politicians to choose their voters. According to an article written by the Brennan Center for Justice, this undemocratic practice takes place in two forms: cracking and packing. Cracking splits people with similar characteristics apart to divide voting strength and make it more difficult to get their preferred candidate elected. On the other hand, packing crams certain groups of like-minded voters into as few districts as possible to minimize the number of districts and the overall influence of a certain political party. Gerrymandering makes elections less competitive and enhances the common feeling embedded in Americans that their vote doesn’t matter. Additionally, gerrymandering targets communities of color to advantage the party that controls district restrictions. The tactic of packing is used to push minorities into one district in order to prevent democratic minorities from voting in other districts. In an article, Kim Soffen describes the harm in packing majority-minority districts beyond the threshold for it dilutes the overall representation of the interests of people of color. Since minorities are more likely to favor Democratic candidates, packing minorities has the same impact as packing Democrats: Both instances cause the district map to favor Republicans. In addition, strategic restrictions on access to poll booths in majority-minority districts take away the fundamental right to vote and silence minorities’ political opinions. This unjust practice is both racist and undemocratic; it limits the diversity of voting in districts, restricts voting access for minorities and undermines the democratic system by separating equality from voting rights. 

This November, it is essential that every person who has the ability, option and opportunity to vote does so. Voting is a right, but in our present-day democracy, it is a privilege as many voices are being silenced through legislative restrictions. While existential dread is a common feeling among Americans during times of crisis, we need to examine the infrastructure of our society to strengthen it. Unjust policy that favors personal political interests and success over equality is undermining our democracy. By using the power of a true, authentic democratic system, we can begin to make institutional changes that will create room for the critical concerns of American citizens to be heard, acknowledged and addressed. While strategies like gerrymandering restrict voting access for minorities, everyone must continue to draw attention to this issue by speaking out about our government’s failure in upholding equal voting rights for all U.S. citizens. Use your vote to make political change and your voice to make social change; both matter and are powerful ways to make an impact. 

While the deadline to register to vote has already passed, you can check your registration status, vote by mail (absentee ballot) or find a polling place near you here.

Grace Sullivan is a first-year at Notre Dame studying global affairs with a minor in gender studies. In her column I.M.P.A.C.T (Intersectionality Makes Political Activist Change Transpire), she is passionate about looking at global social justice issues through an intersectional feminist lens. Outside of The Observer, she enjoys hiking, painting and being a plant mom. She can be reached at @gsulli22@nd.edu.