Lack of moderate views hurt students, politics

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By now, you’ve probably heard most of these famous buzzwords of the 21st century, such as like red state, blue state, globalization, liberal, and flip-flop, as well as euphemisms such as “compassionate conservative” or “progressive.” These terms are examples of the era we live in. We are in a political paradigm marked by labels, hard-line partisanship, agenda setting, single-issue voting, and the lack of a moderate voice. We now live in an era of growing polarization, both nationwide and here on campus.

What’s absent from many of the issues presented in today’s media and in some American classrooms is the political nuance, or the gray area. Many political views are simply in black and white. People are either pro-life or pro-choice, pro or anti-American, red or blue, socialists or imperialists.

Nationally, the centrist voice is systematically excluded, replaced by growing partisan extremism. On campus, this voice is trumped by emotionally charged irritant noise (formally known as protesting), ambushes by the LaRouche cult, and more importantly, biased classroom material.

Many students have or will have to take at least one American government course. One thing students may or may not have gotten out of these courses is a concept known as “compromising.” Leaders in state and national politics are supposed to, after debating, bargain with one another in order to move forward with legislation. Lately, however, as seen in our state’s heavily Democratic-leaning state assembly and growing majority of Congressional Republicans, compromise is slowly becoming archaic. The officials in these governmental chambers have become much more recalcitrant, dismissing opportunities to bargain with opposing party officials. House and Senate votes now come down to several swing votes from moderates. In other words, politics has become so polarized that those with the ability to use reasoning and rational thinking are slowly becoming extinct.

Granted, it’s very difficult to compromise and reach a moderate solution when values are involved. Understandably, not many people want to bargain with values like reproductive rights, security, or faith. In a time when people generally don’t “think outside the box,” we’ve left ourselves in political “trench warfare,” earning small victories on the left or right in never-ending appellate court battles. The only viable solution is when both parties reach out with voices of moderation, reason, and then compromise. This is fundamental in a democratic system, but in a time when polarization runs high, solutions to our most common issues will almost certainly remain in limbo.

As some of my fellow students may have already noticed, political polarization exists in the classroom. As students, the best possible instruction we can receive on social and political issues is when two or more sides of an issue are presented. Then we, as rational, independent thinkers, weigh the sides and formulate objective opinions.

Sadly, it’s not often that I see more than one side of an issue. The textbooks, articles, and other materials presented to us can be emotionally charged, with little objectivity, and sometimes force us to either totally agree with the message or be completely against it. Also, giving an objective view in the classroom, in my view, is proving to be difficult with so much bias, both from students and from our professors.

Too often have I heard fellow students state, “I’ll just agree so I can get the A.” A student’s grade should never suffer because of textbooks and lectured material they don’t agree with, especially if the course material is biased to begin with. However, we as students must always be cordial to our professors and respect their own opinions outside of the classroom, even if we don’t agree with them.

In any case, political leaders must seek balanced solutions. While bargaining, sacrifice, and compromise are difficult to come by, at some point a solution must be delivered from compromised agreements. We should also strive for academic material that is truly objective and unbiased. Finally, if we as voters don’t elect moderate thinking leaders, this nation will be torn apart by both extremes on the political spectrum.

Brett Ralston is a senior political science major.