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The severance between opposing political parties has become more prevalent in the past years; is PRHS as divided as the rest of the world?

Transcript

Left, Right, Is there a center?

By Malia Gaviola

The division between political parties has become more prevalent over the past years; is PRHS as divided as the rest of the world?

What topic is so divided that a crowd of people could divide themselves into two sides by whispering its name?

What can ruin a dinner among friends, makes an appearance at almost every holiday dinner and has been encompassing America’s social media, newsfeeds, and daily lives since even before November 3? What can be so controversial that it can cause a student to want to remain anonymous for fear of being ridiculed for their opinion?

LEFT!

RIGHT!

If you guessed politics, then you are right... Or left dependingon your affiliations.Political polarizationis prevalent in all the previous scenariosand though they may seemextreme, therealityis that the animosity andstandingsbetween the left and rightsides of the Americanpoliticalspectrumarejust assuperlative.

Bearcats from the Democrat, Republican, and even Independent parties have had experiences with this division and took a survey on it after November 3, 2020. Through this poll they were given the opportunity to share their opinions about their own political party as well as those on the opposite side of politics. When asked what political party they were in, out of 24 responses, 41.7% said Democrat, 29.2% were Republicans, 25% claimed to be Independents, and 4.2% said they were not affiliated with any of the previous parties.

PRHS Ideologies in relation to Political Party Affiliations

These moderately balanced statistics differ from the overall political standings of America. Through the years, political polarization and ideological thinking tying into partisanship has increased in the United States of America since 1994, according to a survey held by Pew Research Center. In turn, the “ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished: Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican” (Pew Research Center, “Political Polarization in the American Public”). From this complete difference of opinion and hostility arises an imaginary, yet distinct, line that divides Democrats from Republicans, left from right, red from blue, and Liberals from Conservatives. This fragmentation can best be described as political polarization.

“Political Polarization can be defined as hyper-partisanship, where people are even more divided in their views, and perhaps even more extreme in those divisions that they are sort of further and further apart than normally with less middle ground…. where people do not listen to or understand other viewpoints, you might want to call it balkanization or tribalism”.

Mr. Geoffrey Land, the Government and Economics teacher at PRHS

Photo of Geoffrey Land provided by Geoffrey Land

The result of political polarization is a country full of people that are so far apart at the two ends of the political spectrum that the demographic of those in the middle-with mixed opinions- is getting smaller and smaller. For a country with a government dependent on democracy (where power is invested in the people and whom they want to represent them), the fact that we are so divided is distressing to Land.

Quoting Ruth Bader Ginsburg he said, “The symbol of America is not the Golden Eagle, it's the pendulum. And the pendulum, just in our recent years has been swinging further and further, further, further extremes”. He gave a hypothetical of Democrats winning both the houses of Congress as well as the White House and then making as many changes that coincide with their views as possible. After the Republican are able to stop them, he explained, it would lead to another pendulum swing to the right with the mindset of “whoever's in charge does all they can and who cares about the other party?” presiding over both sides.“And then it just creates more animosity and opposition until the other side rallies enough to win and repeats the cycle,” Land said. “So I don't think it [political polarization] is good for the country. I think that our system is built on compromise. And we because we haven't seen a lot of compromise recently, democracy is suffering”.

Due to the lack of accomodation between political parties, democracy isn’t the only thing suffering from political polarization. Human decency and mannerly debate has also taken a hit according to an anonymous student at PRHS.“My family and I have been receiving a lot of hate for supporting our country and law enforcement, and I would really like to not bashed for my views yet again,” they said, describing why they wanted to stay anonymous for the interview.Fearing ridicule and backlash from the public as well as their peers, they were hesitant to share their opinions on the controversial topic of politics. However, after assuring them that their identity would remain a secret, the student continued on about why they are a part of the Republican party.“My parents both served in the U.S. army and my dad was a police officer for almost thirty years, so my family has always supported our country and served to protect the people within it. I am a part of the Republican party because this party supports our country and doesn't degrade it,” they said, hinting that kneeling for the national anthem and burning the American flag, “disrespects our country”. “I stand by the Republican party because it takes pride in our country and respects those who have risked and lost their lives for it”.

What ideology (liberal/conservative) do you think most Paso Robles High School Bearcats have?

What political party do you think most Paso Robles High School Bearcats have?

Mainly Republican

MainlyDemocrat

62%

33%

Senior, Kasey Nuygen, a self-proclaimed independent and a part of the Activists’ Coalition of Tomorrow, agreed with the previous student’s opinion on the tense political climate in highschool as well as throughout the country.“You can feel the tension in the air between the two parties. It seems to cloud people's judgment so that in a conversation each side shuts the other down without listening. Instead of trying to understand the other side they're not even listening… just arguing,” she said thinking about the plethora of debates she has seen circulating online. “ You should be able to have a conversation about it [controversial matters] and hear both sides of the story kind of thing… It almost feels unsafe for everyone on both sides”.

Photo of Nuygen provided by Nuygen

"I think the hatred that gets thrown by both sides at each other is tearing America apart. We as a country need to come together, not grow further apart"

Independent

"Ibelieve that the Democratic party is a threat to our nation's well being because they believe that our country needs to redirect funding for local police departments to social and community based programs which will threaten our nation's well being because it will be chaos on the streets everyday."

Republican

"I feel like a lot of conservatives/republicans don’t support groups like LGBTQ+, BLM, etc. It is essential to support all Americans so we can move forward in our country."

Democrat

"Extremely conservative people want to limit immigration and abortion and take away marriage equality and basically their policies want to hold minorities and women back from opportunities and the same freedoms that they care so much about."

Democrat

"Mainly cause trump supporters are causing a lot of hate towards minorities and people of the LGBTQIA+ community causing more issues to arise"

Democrat

"Most of the problem with the democratic party is that they advocate for equal rights and equality yet discriminate against white people"

Republican

"We should be advocating for basic human rights."

Independent

"Conservatives want nothing to change about gun laws which is wrong. Democrats want to rightfully so put stricter gun laws up so people with ill intent cant get hold of them. It is far to easy to get hold of a gun right now so people can get one and harm others or cause school shootings."

Democrat

Why do you think the opposing party is a threat to our nation’s well being?

(Responses from Survey)

Do you think the opposing party is a threat to our nation’s well being?

Do you think the opposing political party is a positive or negative force for our country?

KIND OF

YES

NO

Despite the fact that the United States of America was built on a foundation of conflict and compromise, political parties in the twenty-first century have mutated to the point of dissociation and stretched democracy to its limits. Our country is in a state of such division that a teenager is afraid of showing their opinion or their face because they don’t want to be berated about their character or morals. Many aren’t able to talk with each other about prevailing issues that need to be addressed because the views on it are so distinctly left or right with no center ground in sight.When asked if they believed the political party opposing theirs was a threat to our nation’s well being, 13% clicked ‘no’, 60.9% responded with a ‘kind of, and 26.1% said ‘yes’. Though the majority of bearcats chose the more ambiguous middle option, this data shows that an overwhelming 87% of Paso high schoolers believed that the contrasting political party is causing some variation of detriment to America. A greater number of students also stated that the opposing political party was a negative force on our country among other four options (extremely negative, neutral, positive, and extremely positive).

HOW HAS THE ELECTION AFFECTED YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS YOUR OPPOSING PARTY?

Despite the outcome of the surveys and the split reactions to the election results, with one side being exponentially happier than the other, Kacey Nuygen is looking to her generation for cooling down the heated political climate to a much more moderate temperature where everyone can thrive.“If we start to listen, like truly listen and have a two sided conversation rather than one sided, then we will experience real change in our country,” she said. “I feel like you shouldn't be talking to a brick wall when talking about your own beliefs and should have an open mind. And I feel like our generation is capable of that if we just learn to actually close our mouths and open our ears”.

Regardless of the outcome of the surveys and the split reactions to the election results, Kacey Nuygen is looking to her generation for cooling down the heated political climate to a much more moderate temperature where everyone can thrive.“If we start to listen, like truly listen and have a two sided conversation rather than one sided, then we will experience real change in our country,” she said. “I feel like you shouldn't be talking to a brick wall when talking about your own beliefs and should have an open mind. Our generation is capable of that if we just learn to actually close our mouths and open our ears”.

Learning to stop the arguments inherited by past generations is not an easy thing to do and it can be almost impossible to try to find a middle ground with someone who has beliefs that are so different from your own. Ideologically, liberal and conservatives usually have drastically different ideals and core values, but if we are able to find something to unite us, then the next step can be building a bridge of understanding and respect.Land believes that it isn’t enough to say that the youth will lead us to a better tomorrow. “But in many ways, the job of your generation has never been more urgent to overcome the challenges that we haven't been able to solve, such as political polarization, massive national debt, international, you know, crises and climate change. I think the urgency hopefully would motivate you and all of us to realize that you may be one of our last best hopes to, to solve these problems,” he said, speaking to bearcats and all the young people who have the future of the United States in their hands. “So I think that the challenge, the job ahead of your generation is to, to crack the code to dissolve that we haven't been able to solve and that means finding a middle ground and middle path between the polarized parties, finding a way to unite the country and the world”.

Thanks for Reading!

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