GW’s politically active students often say they listen to the other side, but a stroll around campus proves that an imaginary line divides our campus into spheres of liberal and conservative groups.
In common spaces like Gelman Library, you may see a table of students working on laptops adorned with small, red elephant stickers. But with just a quick elevator ride upstairs, you would find a line of backpacks with pins depicting former President Barack Obama.
These divisions harm our campus and lead to an atmosphere that is politically toxic. Without discussion and joint events, students create echo chambers that mimic those that exist in the majority of the country, and without melding this gap, we will continue the problems in society that have stemmed from our partisan nature. But major political student organizations – like the GW College Democrats and College Republicans – could contribute to reversing this trend by hosting more events together and working more closely to establish ways to see the other side.
While the College Democrats and College Republicans have come together to host events like Bipartisan Baseball and Bipartisan Shabbat, most events are typically simple co-sponsored events where the organizations do not interact at all. When the College Democrats and College Republicans do interact, it tends to be for a debate where members strike down opponents’ talking points rather than a discussion.
Studies show that first-year college students across the country are more politically divided than ever before. A record-low two in five college students report that they are “non-partisan,” but even if students more closely aligned with political parties, they can at least work to understand the other side’s point of view to better inform their own opinions. This will also ensure debate is more focused on merit and facts rather than personal attacks.
On the national level, NPR found that while the partisan split between the two parties has been consistently high, the gaps in political values, like race and immigration, have widened. As seen from these results, students aren’t alone in their partisan polarization — but that doesn’t mean we can’t be a catalyst for the solution. As our party leaders on the national stage disagree violently, it is up to the new generation to work to understand the other side and work to make informed decisions on national policy issues and political candidates.
While organizations like TableTalk GW, No Labels GW and the Bipartisan Women’s Supper Club have formed to bring students from different political backgrounds together, individuals are more inclined to divide rather than unite. These groups, most of which are new to campus and only formed after the 2016 presidential election, can only do so much to meld a chasm between students. GW’s most powerful political organizations can have more pull in promoting bipartisanship by serving as role models for how students should listen to each other when it comes to politics.
American democracy relies on our ability to embrace differing proposals and ideas. Increased hatred of the opposing party consistently erodes democracy and students must recognize that they can promote more understanding as the next generation. If students cannot compromise over issues, it’s likely that our future politicians will continue to vote on party lines.
GW’s political groups aren’t to blame for this issue, but they can be part of the solution. Individual organizations on opposite ends of the political spectrum will continue to exist, but they must work together to challenge their members views and work to understand the other side to be truly effective. For conservatives, liberals and centrists to exist, they need a space for honest, efficient discussion.
Powerful politicians around the country are failing to reach across the aisle, but students can be the start of a movement to become more bipartisan.
Zachary Nosanchuk, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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