Politics should be about more than parties

By Gabriella Fleming-Shemer

Contributing Writer

All this news about the upcoming presidential elections has caused me to think a lot about my political views and whether I have been lazy in picking a candidate. Does our political stance develop over time through an accumulation of lessons learned in school, childhood experiences, etc.? Or have we always accepted the political beliefs of our parents but just gradually come to understand them, embracing such ideas as our own?

While I love to feel that I am an independent thinker unbiased by the influences of people and media, in actuality I am far from it, as is a majority of the population. We grew up believing in everything our parents told us, so why would their political ideologies be any different? I think that this only becomes problematic when acceptance of such ideas hinders our ability to understand and appreciate what other parties have to offer. And due to the stark divide between political parties, it makes it even harder for individuals to experiment with new stances on an issue.

For example, I had a Democratic friend who previously felt that abortions should not be legal but she chose to ignore her own thoughts on the matter, as they did not align with her party’s. While my friend and I disagreed on this issue, I think this a great example of how a group’s ideologies can too easily override and eventually deaden the individual’s personal opinions. I know that the first time I went to the polls I voted for all Democrats without knowing anything about them, save for our current president. Even though this is how our government works and for the most part our leaders can adequately represent us, I can see how the system deters people from questioning their acquired political beliefs.

After spending some time reviewing the presidential candidates’ profiles online, I found that a lot more overlap in left and right issues than I had expected. Take former governor of New Mexico and 2012 presidential candidate Gary Johnson. He is a Republican, pro-choice and supports civil unions between gay couples. Then there is Randall Terry, a Democratic candidate who is passionately pro-life and anti-LGBT. The point is that these men, like each one of us, have a unique set of experiences that develop into their accumulated set of beliefs on political issues. It is our job, then, as intelligent people with the ability to vote, to move past the blue or red mindset and challenge our previously held philosophies.

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