I have good news for all my fellow Americans: there is less than a month to go until the elections are over! Yes, this time four weeks from now, the elections that have been going on for well over a year (seemingly since at least 2009, as it appears that first-term Presidents spend more time rerunning for office than, say, serving as President) will finally be over, and we’ll have at least a brief pause in the constant political hullabaloo before the 2014 midterm election campaigns pick up in full force (I figure mid-January, 2013 for that). I don’t know about you, but as someone who’d rather see the politicians we doing something like, say, taking care of law-making rather than simply trying to get re-elected (often for the tenth time or more, but that’s a complaint for another article), it’ll be nice to get a reprieve.
Before we reach that point, though, I thought it would be appropriate to share a few more helpful hints on politics to help get you through the next four weeks of polling, complaining, arguing, and claiming that the world will end if [fill in name of politician on other party] gets elected. There’s some things to keep in mind as the political fervor in this country hits its fever pitch:
1. Those Who Don’t Agree With Your Political Beliefs Aren’t Evil (Or Idiots): There is this tendency, particularly in our American two-party system, for people (or at least, political commentators) to align themselves with a single political party and act as if everyone on the opposing party is one step away from high treason every time they cast a vote. I hope I don’t need to say this, but I will: it’s not true. As I’ve said before, the fact of the matter is that the vast bulk of people who support the opposing party are sane, logical, reasonable people, who simply happen to disagree with your view on one or more political issues (more on that below).
The people who support other parties aren’t evil, brainwashed, or idiots. They aren’t trying to purposefully destroy the country or take away your freedoms, contrary to what many political commentators claim. They also aren’t delusional or ill-informed on the issues, so jumping into chat rooms with long lists of reasons why their candidate sucks is unlikely to get any new supporters for your cause. (Let’s be honest, unless someone comes looking for it, commentary like ‘the candidate you currently support sucks, check out my candidate instead’ is only going to increase their opposition to you, and by extension, your candidate.) While we’re talking about putting all your opponents in one category:
2. Not Everyone Who Supports Another Political Party Are The Same: There is this tendency to assume all the members of a political party are the same, all having the same traits and characteristics, with no difference between them. All Democrats are ivory tower liberals with no understanding of the real world, ready to tax the hard-working middle-class to provide money for all the lazy slackers they have sucking on the government’s teats. All Republicans are rich plutocrats, destroying the environment and devastating our children’s health while appealing to the most racist, redneck part of the country. Either of these sound at all familiar?
Here’s the truth: not only are those characterizations highly offensive, but they are gross oversimplifications. Both parties have supporters of all income levels, education levels, races, creeds, and genders. Yes, there are trends present, where certain traits lead to a person supporting a particular party (or perhaps more properly put, certain traits make it more likely that a political party will try to support policies that appeal to a given group), such as older people tending to be more conservative, but that’s hardly the same as everyone older than fifty automatically being a Republican, while everyone under thirty is a Democrat. Different people from all walks of life have different reasons to support a given political party. After all, here in the US…
3. In a Two-Party System, the Number of Reasons to Support a Given Party are Almost as Numerous as the Supporters of That Party: Here’s an unfortunate fact about the US political system (or really, any political system with a limited number of political parties, although the two main parties in the US are perhaps the most pronounced): you’re probably not going to find a party that supports ALL of your political beliefs. If you’re pro-choice and fiscally conservative, pro-life and pro-environment, eager for increased immigration and more military involvement with foreign countries, or any number of other combinations of positions on the dozens of political issues out that don’t fall neatly into the categories of ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’, you’ll be in a pretty tough spot.
You’ll find yourself forced to make a decision about which issues are the most important to you, and thus, what party you’re going to support. Will you set aside your liberal leaning social views to support a fiscal conservative? Will your support for a more progressive social program mean you’ll put aside your desire to have a balanced budget and more limited government? (And if so, what issues are the ones that draw your focus: abortion, gay marriage, equal pay for women, etcs, and which are the ones you’re willing to vote for someone with whom you disagree?) I could go on, but you get the point: it’s hard to find a politician, let alone a political party, who agrees with you even on the big picture items (like being socially conservative or liberal), let alone on all the individual issues out there.
(Side Note: You might argue that I’m ignoring third parties, like Libertarians or the Green Party, and only focusing on Democrats and Republicans. But I’ve yet to see a third party that met my personal political beliefs any better than the major parties. I like the Libertarian’s desire to decrease government control on social issues and cut down on foreign military involvement, but I want more of a social safety net than they support. While I like the Green Party’s pro-environment stand, I want less government than even their most limited platform promotes. Add in the fact that I seldom see candidates from such parties running for local or state positions (aka, the ones where my vote could make a much bigger difference in their success), and I’ll likely stick with the Democrats and Republicans, at least for now.)
All of this is to say, don’t assume that someone is supporting the opposing political party because they disagree with you on all the issues (and definitely don’t assume that they only disagree with you because they simply aren’t informed and/or are trying to ruin the country). Most of the people who support a different candidate will disagree on some things, yes, but on many you probably agree, or at least aren’t as much in disagreement as you think, and on most, you can probably come to an agreement that would make both of you happy (or at least, keep you from being too angry). Crazy thought, I know, thinking that people (to say nothing of politicians and political parties) with different beliefs could come to an agreement (that most of the country could support), but call me a dreamer.