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Divisive politics dilute meaningful discourse

Tiffany Oliver

Issue date: 12/4/09 Section: Opinion
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What breeds divisiveness in American politics? Is it the politicians who craft manipulative strategies to coerce the masses for a vote at the ballot box? Or is it the people themselves who create divisive barriers?

In the past few months, Congress has had especially contentious debates and votes due to the strong majority that the Democrats hold in both the Senate and House of Representatives, as Republicans are hesitant to cross party lines in important votes involving health care legislation and other domestic issues. Media coverage has focused on health care reform and foreign policy, specifically President Obama's plans for Afghanistan involving an increase in combat troops. Coverage has focused on the differences among politicians in Washington, and has skewed content to meet the demands of its audience, as many members of the media present news from a distinct point of view that attracts audiences who agree with the slanted coverage, which hinders the ability of people to view an issue objectively.

Instead of focusing on practical resolutions, people create labels such as pro-choice and pro-life to articulate positions and do not seek to negotiate or find a middle way, but rather create umbrella terms to gain members for their respective movements. These attitudes combine to create political sentiments that cause people to view things as either right or wrong, and many people are unable to consider the opinions of an opposing argument because the opposing side is considered inherently wrong. Politics become polarized in a way that hinders cooperation because people are viewing their parties' beliefs not as the best set of beliefs, but rather the right ones. Such ideas create significant divisions among citizens because people are less inclined to view issues from different perspectives. This contributes to the inability of both citizens and political leaders to solve problems and seek conciliatory resolutions.

Beyond Washington, political divisiveness is exhibited on campus both in classrooms and campus organizations. In many of my political science classes, debates have surfaced involving various political issues, and have typically resulted in two distinct sides arguing in a pro-anti format. During such discussions, many students have openly identified with a party. Additionally, many students around campus wear apparel that endorses candidates and/or parties. While party identification is not necessarily bad, it exhibits how easily voters categorize their political views, views that are typically wedged into one of two options instead of allowing beliefs to stand independent of party affiliations and political labels.
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In This Issue

Cross Country

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  • Early Ending: Spartans eliminated from playoffs by Trine University

Fun Page

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Worst Case Scenario

  • Reading days and salad days


  • Column on smoking misinformed
  • Copenhagen summit may not be effective
  • Divisive politics dilute meaningful discourse
  • Editorial: Semester grades
  • Junior year abroad - wait, a whole year?
  • Take some time to earn your coal
  • What are your plans for winter break?


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  • Surviving the home stretch
  • The Buzz
  • The Observer's choices for the best books of 2009
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  • The Observer's choices for the best music of 2009
  • The Observer's choices for the best video games of 2009
  • The Spectrum Drag Ball
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