Author: Nora Corasaniti, UMBC
As a resident of one of the last “red” districts in Maryland, it shouldn’t have been uncomfortable and nerve-wracking for me to admit last spring to my POLI 100 class that yes, I, Nora, someone they all had befriended, am a conservative (and not the boogie man). Yet, as I sat there sweating, with my peers staring intently at me, I wondered: how could it be so hard for one person to simply and proudly state that they believe in lower taxes and smaller government? It was not the first time I had to explain, fearing an attack, that despite my views (that are vastly different than most of my friends), I am still a person, and am not represented solely by my opinion. Unfortunately, this fear of discussing issues based on political outlook has been translated from dinner tables across America to the chambers of Congress, where political gridlock has appeared dramatically in the last few years.
Partisanship is the shifting of the parties (and most notably some fringe members of the Republican Party) farther from the center of the political spectrum. From Ebola, to ISIS, to the recent influx of illegal immigrants, the failure of Congressmen and women to see past the R and D next to their colleague’s name hinders progress and the quick decisions that are necessary for the management of the country. Both sides are guilty of deflecting blame onto the other side. Since this is an election year, the blame game is apparent even more than usual in commercials and debates across the nation. If this is such a problem, why not elect more moderate people to serve in the legislature? The answer: voters are just as divided as the people they vote for.
The media has been not only a contributing factor to US partisanship since its inception, but has also become especially important due to the dawn of the twenty-four hour news cycle and online news. Additionally, what side a voter leans to ideologically determines which news or websites they visit. For example, Conservatives are more likely to watch Fox News and read online news from websites like Tea Party News Network or The Washington Free Beacon. Conversely, Liberals are interested in watching MSNBC, listening to NPR, or going to sites such as Huffington Post or Newsweek. Though it may not seem like it, these media outlets provide headlines like “Republicans are Responsible for the Ebola Crisis” from The Stranger, and “Hillary Clinton Has Mastered The Art of Turning Her New Grandchild Into a Stump Speech”, as per the Washington Free Beacon. Now obviously, neither of these articles nor the content within them hold much merit, but as a liberal or conservative, the accusatory language within entices those with similar values. These news sources, with their varied renditions of any given issue, create different versions of the truth that are rarely accepted by the other side.
When I was beginning the process of registering to vote, I felt conflicted: should I register as a republican, and actually have a chance at enacting change in the system? Or should I register libertarian, which is the party I actually aligned with the most? These questions led me to another conclusion: the two party system is outdated and ineffective. There may be many voters who, in actuality, do not align with either liberal or conservative, but instead fall between the two, or have completely different expectations of government: socialists, libertarians, feminists, green party, and countless others. I believe our country would be much improved with the input of other groups, and perhaps, if implemented, the United States could move in a newer, more progress-oriented direction. But until then, I’ll be here with a smile on my face, ready to face the next skeptical look I get when I say “Hello my name is Nora, and I am a Republican.”