Being a first-time candidate for elected office, this spring has been my first real exposure to the bitterness that surrounds the political process. It seems that everywhere I turn it is “Republicans vs Democrats,” “us vs them,” or “we vs they.”
Hitting the campaign trail this spring has proved to be a reality check on how bitterly divided we have become regarding politics.
A few weeks ago, I had an amazing conversation with a voter regarding my ideas to improve Medicaid and create a children’s mental health system in the state. I learned so much, and remember thinking “this is what democracy is all about,” only to be told to move on after this voter found out I am a Republican.
Here’s the thing, though, I believe in our ability to come together as a state, and I know it doesn’t have to be this way.
For example, earlier this spring, I was invited by a group of progressive Iowans to have coffee and get to know me as a candidate. I won’t lie, I was a little concerned about what I may be getting myself into. I was going to be meeting with people I didn’t know very well, who held views that varied from mine. What’s interesting is that they were also concerned that I may not be respectful of their ideas, and that my political identification defined who I was or how I acted. Both my and their concerns stemmed from the fact that on Election Day, I will have a tiny “R” next to my name. I learned so much from these people, I continue to receive emails and texts from them with new ideas and perspectives, and am so happy I didn’t let my preconceived notions get in the way of our discussion.
Stereotypes assigned to Republicans and Democrats are killing the possibility of informed, intellectual and fruitful political discourse to move the state confidently into the future. The stereotype that Republicans hate poor people and entitlement programs, are rich, and are overly religious, is just as dangerous as the stereotype of Democrats as “moochers who want to take away the Second Amendment.” When one sticks to these surface-level falsehoods, it is impossible to move past them and consider crossing party lines to move our state forward.
We educate our children to look past stereotypes and see people for who they are, individually. Politically, it is time we look past those “R”s and “D”s, and vote based on ideas and convictions, not party identification.
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Like I said, it doesn’t have stay this way. A January 2018 Gallup poll indicated that 54 percent of Americans prefer political leaders compromise on issues. The General Assembly is supposed to bring everyday citizens from across the state to work together in the best interests of Iowans.
• Teresa Daubitz of Cedar Rapids is a candidate for the Iowa House in District 66.