Updated: Nov. 3, 2014 at 6:03 p.m.
A few weeks ago, I was walking to Chipotle with a group of my new friends. You know the group I’m talking about: the first four or five people you meet during syllabus week and latch on to so you don’t have to eat alone.
We were talking about what student organizations we wanted to join, and then, like typical GW students, we talked about politics. Or, at least, my new friends talked about politics. I stayed quiet.
On the surface, I’m a stereotypical GW girl: I wear leggings and combat boots and Instagram my pumpkin spice lattes. I’m all in all “basic.” But below the surface, I’m actually a minority on this campus: I’m a Republican.
Telling my new friends about this felt like social suicide. For years now, people have branded me as someone who “hates poor people,” “doesn’t believe in marriage equality,” “is pro-life,” and “is the reason nothing gets done in Congress.” Unfortunately, based on my friends’ reactions to my political views, it seemed that would be true at GW, too.
While I’m proud to attend the most politically active school in the country, it baffles me that having different views doesn’t tend to spark discussion here. More often, in my experience, it incites personal attacks.
As we head to the polls tomorrow to vote in the midterm elections, I urge you to remember that just because some folks vote for the Grand Old Party doesn’t mean they fit into a whole host of negative stereotypes.
1. I do not hate poor people
This assumption continues to perplex me. How could I possibly develop an emotional hatred toward someone because of his or her economic status?
What I do believe in is personal responsibility, and I don’t support a welfare state – I don’t believe that people should be able to live off government welfare agencies for substantial periods of time.
In 2011, a little more than 23 percent of the population received or lived with a family member who received a benefit from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Supplemental Security Income, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ latest report to Congress. And the number looked to be rising.
No, I do not hate poor people. And I realize how difficult it is to pay for an education or find employment. However, I think it’s time for the system to be restructured: Let folks who would otherwise stay on welfare for long periods of time be steadily taken off the aid and gain employment. So, in brief, I don’t hate anyone, besides rapists, murderers and terrorists, and I guess I’m not too fond of bees, either, but I digress.
2. I support marriage equality
Everyone deserves the right to marry whomever they choose. It is not the right of any politician to tell me who I can marry or who anyone else can marry. As per my Republican ideals, I believe in a limited government. In fact, I believe in a government so limited that it doesn’t get a say in what I choose to do with something as utterly personal as my love life.
Conservatism doesn’t have to mean reverting to 1950s standards of right and wrong. Just like we’ve rightfully advanced past considering a woman’s place to be in the home, people’s places in society are supposed to modernize with time. Being conservative doesn’t mean you can’t also be progressive. Everyone of any gender, race or sexual identity should be represented and active in politics.
3. I’m just your typical pro-choice Republican
Yes, we do exist – and in a far larger number than many believe. Again, for me, the most important aspect of Republicanism is the government staying out of my life (I promise NSA, my text messages are really not that interesting). That means legislators should also stay away from dictating what a woman can do with her body, and groups such as Republicans for Planned Parenthood support that view. A woman’s reproductive health is between her and her doctor, not her and the federal or state government.
With that said, there are going to be people who are morally opposed to abortion. Just like it’s my right to be pro-choice, it is someone else’s right to believe that life starts at conception and that abortion is murder. It doesn’t bother me that many members of my party are pro-life – that’s why there are groups like Republican Majority for Choice for people like me.
What does bother me is when people assume that just because I’m a Republican, I’m only voting for pro-life officials. When I vote, I do take into consideration whether a candidate’s personal beliefs will affect how they legislate and whether I disagree with those beliefs.
4. No, I am not the cause of deadlock
I’m 18 years old, a college student trying to survive my first semester and maintain my sanity, and I just started to vote. My party affiliation is not driving the gridlock in Congress.
It may seem as if nothing is getting done on Capitol Hill, but it takes two parties to create deadlock, so that isn’t a problem that can be blamed on one group. In fact, perhaps it seems like nothing gets done because people spend more time pointing fingers at each other than trying to find common ground.
Instead of looking at our differences, look at how similar we really are. I don’t hate Democrats, not one iota. If I did, going home to my mom over Thanksgiving break would be pretty awkward. I actually agree with many Democratic ideals, and I bet that if you read both parties’ platforms, you’d agree with elements from both sides, too.
Commit to keeping an open mind
That day at Chipotle, my friends should have stopped and asked me about my views, just like my classmates should ask questions rather than jump to labeling me “anti-everything.” If they did, they might get a chance to not only learn some new information but maybe even strengthen their own ideas of what it means to belong to a certain party.
Don’t point fingers at me because I vote red and you vote blue. Intolerance is what has gotten us into the deadlock we face now. Let’s be the generation to close this divide, not widen it.
Melissa Holzberg, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
This post was updated to reflect the following corrections:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that unemployment and Medicaid were included in the DHHS report. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that 23 percent of the population was reliant on welfare. The DHHS report actually found that 23 percent received or lived with a family member who received a benefit from TANF, SNAP or SSI. We regret these errors.