The value of political compromise

Unifying polarized political parties

Yeukai Zimbwa, Copyeditor

When asked “what side I take” on x or y political issue, I like to start what often turns into an emotional, patriotic rant about Mark Lila’s The Once and Future Liberal with, “Well I like to consider myself a moderate… “ Yes, it is annoying to both diehard Liberals and diehard Conservatives, but I think it sets a necessary tone, a tone antithetical to the infamous opening line, “As a person of color…” that I often hear in political conversations.

The latter effectively isolates a conversation by shutting down the opinions of those expected to understand and empathize with the person of color’s “truths” and “lived experiences” while also inadvertently telling this person that his or her lack of experience living with the person of color’s identity makes this person incapable of doing just that. The former, on the other hand, lets everyone in the conversation know that his or her opinion, wherever it may sit on the political spectrum, is welcome. It lets everyone in the conversation know that I am willing not only to speak but to listen, try my best to understand; and maybe even find a middle ground.

We live in a democratic republic built for and by We The People. And the success of our Democracy lies in our hands. We have a civic obligation to voice our opinions – most importantly by casting votes. It is not at all realistic to think Americans will agree on every issue, so we should at least try to meet in the middle.

Above all else, though, the success of our democracy is dependent upon our ability to compromise, to find a middle ground.”

— Yeukai Zimbwa

The continued polarization of our two-party system is making it increasingly difficult to find common ground on crucial issues like immigration, health care, and tax reform. In 1968, Democratic and Republican Americans living in the midst of political turmoil created by The Vietnam War all turned to CBS News Reporter Walter Cronkite to listen to “the way it was.”

Today, the Left turns on CNN while the Right turns on Fox News, and the two groups listen to two starkly different retellings of the same realities about our political climate and what it means to be an American today. We’re no longer listening to the same, objective truths – no wonder we can’t seem to find any common ground.

Beyond the media, our country’s political polarization is evident in our inability to listen to and actually understand one another. In the world of academia, political conversations are oftentimes a painful display of that inability. Overly enforced political correctness sometimes denies all students the freedom to speak, the freedom to think, making it impossible for all voices to be heard. How can we understand if we cannot first listen?

It is time for both sides to surrender – at least a little bit. It’s time to add white to red and blue, to put our collective success above our individual party alignments. After all, our collective future – shared by the Left, the Right, and every American in between – depends on it.