The problem with politics and how we have the power to change it



The Washington Post recently published a controversial cartoon of Ted Cruz’s daughters depicted as monkeys doing his bidding. Donald Trump has made many headlines for rude attacks on his opponents, including Carly Fiorina, telling Rolling Stone magazine, “Look at that face! Would anybody vote for that?”

He even insulted Iowa voters, asking how stupid could they be when Ben Carson surged ahead of him in the polls a few months ago. When Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton was asked who her number one enemy was she said Republicans and later compared them to the Taliban. Sense a theme?

Hateful personal attacks have become all too common in American politics, and with the 2016 presidential election in full swing, it is only bound to get worse.

Election season is an exciting time. Unfortunately, election season is also a time for hordes of negative TV ads and vicious personal attacks among the candidates and between parties. Politics has the tendency to bring out the worst in us, and many complain of its corruption and malice. We must consider why it has become that way and how much we contribute to the toxicity.

In a year that will end with the most important presidential election our country has seen in decades, we must learn from each other and put aside the personal attacks if we ever hope to get our country back on track.

It is no secret that starting a conversation about politics is opening a can of worms. Discussing hot-button topics almost always ends in an argument with each party walking away believing the other to be stupid, uninformed or even bigoted simply for holding a different opinion. Nobody ever wins when arguing about politics, and you certainly aren’t going to change anyone’s opinion by yelling at or insulting them.

We have lost the ability to talk with each other about the issues because we are so reluctant to hear opinions that aren’t our own. Many people have resorted to silence for fear of being attacked for their beliefs.

Many attacks are aimed at the candidates. We need to remember that they are human, too. They have parents, children, spouses, friends – an entire life outside of politics. Keep in mind how personal attacks affect those closest to them.

Many think that if you run for president you’re asking for any attacks made against you as if it justifies hurling slanderous insults. Now, running for president of the United States is not something that should be taken lightly. Candidates should be vetted, asked hard questions, and held accountable for what they say and do. If they want to hold the most powerful position in the world, they should be able to defend their past and their policies.

But attacking someone’s looks or family, intentionally taking their words out of context, and blatantly lying to make them look bad is when the “vetting” process goes too far.

The animosity is not limited to the politicians. Republican and Democratic voters are constantly at odds with each other. While Republicans and Democrats have many differences, they do have one thing in common: most just want to make our country a better place. It is easy to define someone by their political party or write them off if they don’t share your ideologies. It is harder to get to know them, understand why they believe what they believe, and sometimes, to acknowledge their ideas as valid.

There are politicians who are corrupt, ill-intentioned and just plain bad – on both sides of the aisle. There are people who are uninformed, hateful and bigoted. Do not let the few define the many.

Learning to keep your cool about politics is never going to be easy because the issues at hand are important and personal. We are lucky to even have the opportunity to openly discuss and criticize. We have severely abused that privilege.  We have the power to change the way politics is talked about and that begins when we start to see people who disagree with us as human, too. Being able to listen and understand someone else’s point of view is never something you will regret.