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Nowadays, political conversations — either in person or on social media — feature the ignorance of people unwilling to take in new information or consider new perspectives, favoring a horse-blinders approach dead set on the destination they already have in mind. Instead of attempting to reach a common ground for the sake of societal progress, they resort to charged words and sometimes offensive language that further polarizes people.
Climate change isn’t a bipartisan issue. It’s an indisputable, scientific fact. Yet, countless conservatives dismiss global warming because they don’t want to accept higher taxes for big money businesses, energy rationing and increased regulation. Consequently, the planet is left to suffer. And conservative constituents end up dismissing problems like climate change because of their loyalty to a political party.
This is not only a conservative, Republican problem. It applies to all parties, including liberal Democrats. “Liberal alarmism could be countered with arguments and with constructive policy alternatives to the administrative power grabs that the left prefers,” reports National Affairs and the American Enterprise Institute. And as I mentioned in my previous column, Democrats tend to embark in microtargeting, among other things, which spreads the party too thin across multiple groups. And Republicans hold on to their power by exploiting the filibuster and utilizing a destructive, sectarian style of partisan politics.
There are big changes happening in our country right now and the future looks pretty bleak as it concerns the stability of our nation and the dismantling of our democracy, according to experts on democracy and a recent National Urban League report. Polarization has been getting worse in the United States, culminating in the Jan. 6 insurrection. A Recent New York Times poll found 58 percent of voters believe the United States system of government does not work and needs major reforms or a complete overhaul. And 53 percent of voters believe the American political system is too divided to solve the nation's problems
But there is hope to still affect change — not just from lawmakers, but from everyday people, according to the studies of sociologist and social psychologist Robb Willer. He compares the current political sphere to that of a zombie apocalypse movie, with people mindlessly following pack leaders. The echo chambers people create on social media by only following people who align with their preconceived notions doesn’t create a space where much exchanging of ideas can occur and people will just become more cemented in their perspective instead of considering other solutions or stances on an issue.
“We find that liberals tend to endorse values like equality and fairness and care and protection from harm more than conservatives do,” according to Willer and Matthew Feinberg, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Rotman School of Management. “And conservatives tend to endorse values like loyalty, patriotism, respect for authority and moral purity more than liberals do”
So, the basis of the problem stems from different foundational ideologies. The way to move forward — and actually create progress — is to respect each other’s moral ideologies, by listening before presenting legitimate facts in an aim to at least find an agreeable compromise. This is echoed by political pundit Sally Kohn who argues that emotional correctness is crucial for true political change. By practicing emotional correctness and genuinely listening and showcasing compassion for respondents, people can transcend the boundaries of political differences and reach common ground.
“You can't get anyone to agree with you if they don't even listen to you first,” Kohn said. “We spend so much time talking past each other and not enough time talking through our disagreements. And if we can start to find compassion for one another, then we have a shot at building common ground.” The way political conversation can move forward is through the utilization of human compassion, rather than the isolating emotional detachment of reiterating points that can’t appeal to other people.
Nichole Shaw is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org