Opinion: The Politics of Habit

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The United States is a distinct union for many reasons, one of the most apparent being its bipartisan political system. This system of democracy hinges on the existence of two political parties that are conventionally considered to take opposing sides on political topics – as one Monitor reporter observed, this system is unpopular but does instill confidence in the citizenry.

Members of the voting public tend to endorse the bipartisan voting system because of the assumption that having the extreme stances of each issue represented guarantees that the moderate opinions will be given due attention. This is false.

In a bipartisan political system where each politician and party is forced to declare which “side of the aisle” they will stand on, representatives are forced to align their views with the vision of a party. This homogenizes political perspectives, reducing diversity in governance to the point at which people enter voting booths not expecting to see a variety of visions for the future but a vague mess of opinions broadly categorized as red or blue.

Lumping together the opinions of individual politicians and larger parties endangers democracy and detracts from the legitimacy of any candidates’ political appeal.

This is the case because – as individuals in this bipartisan system – we assume the political stances of candidates as soon as we know their party affiliation. For example, we assume that Democrats are pro-choice and that Republicans support military intervention abroad, that Democrats are pro-marijuana legalization and that Republicans are supportive of tax cuts for the wealthy.

Attributing these stances to politicians who announce their candidacies happens near automatically and often subconsciously. And yet in doing so, we eliminate individual candidates ability to define themselves as unique and run a novel campaign as our stereotypes of each party are so deeply entrenched in society that we struggle to look beyond them.

These stereotypes are not just carried by the typical voting public, such as you or me, but they are propagated by the media and by other politicians.

Consider the way that President Donald Trump discusses Democrats on Twitter – he lumps all members of the party together, acting as though they have a single unified vision for the future, and share the same emotions and reactions. Consequently he strips members of the party of their individuality and removes any room for intra-party discussion or disagreement.

But it’s not just Trump. Liberal candidates and news-outlets are guilty of the same actions. Consider how often news articles portray the two parties as butting heads during partisan debates, negating the reality of individuals seeking to reach consensus about issues that affect us all – for example, a recent article published by popular political outlet The Hill which portrayed Republicans and Democrats as being on the verge of fist fighting about climate change.

The deep rooted assumptions about the two dominant American political parties has created a society of two halves, through which we wander and systematically categorize what we see and hear as being aligned with The Left or The Right.

In fact, most people could pretty confidently assert what they assume to be the classic conservative voter – white, from a rural area, pro-gun, pro-choice, probably Christian and wants to work in corporate to make money. Compared to the cookie-cutter liberal – millennial, went to a liberal arts college, slept through church, pro-legalization, drinks craft beer, likely has tattoos, reads CNN and calls themselves “woke.”

Photo courtesy of Joey Hill

The accuracy, or inaccuracy, of these stereotypes is irrelevant because we use them regardless.

If you doubt what I’m saying, just consider companies that market themselves to youthful-liberals and proudly advertise their use of recycled materials, or conservative businesses that boast about their commitment to keeping jobs local. Or, even more partisan, compare the ads shown during Fox News’ afternoon special with those screened during CNN’s evening show.

Ascribing these stereotypes to mundane objects or apolitical lifestyle choices – such as Gilette did by endorsing the Democrat-led #MeToo movement and aligning its razor blades with what are considered to be liberal ideals – opens the flood the gates for our society to become nothing but a political minefield in which our day-to-day decisions cause us to be boxed in by political generalities.

The issue of politicizing the mundane along party-lines has become increasingly dominant in our society and it seems that the 2020 presidential campaigns will be no different.

Democratic candidate Cory Booker has already proudly announced that he follows a vegan diet and is using that to garner support for his candidacy, receiving an unofficial endorsement from renowned advocacy group the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

So – apologies if it’s inconvenient but – vegans and vegetarians, you’re Democrats now and it’s not your choice anymore.

But don’t worry, Republicans are making waves too as public figures such as singer Joy Villa use their platforms to advocate the agenda pushed by President Trump. In a bold move, Villa even attended the 2019 Grammys award ceremony dressed as a border wall and carrying a clutch which read “Make America Great Again.”

So, liberals, you better think twice next time you want to relax to some country-rock or Motown – that’s a Republican thing now.

Politicizing everyday choices and allowing them to become indicators for party affiliations is wrong. It defeats the purpose of government as a structure to protect the integrity of society and instead creates rifts between us.

We walk around thinking that our politics is why we shop at certain stores and buy certain clothes – Democrats shop at Whole Foods but get to wear Nike for Colin Kaepernick, Republicans shop at Walmart but find support in companies including Macy’s and Saks Off Fifth. And yet, this systematic categorization of the people we see around us is denigrating our society.

When it is impossible for us to make a purchase, eat a meal, get a job or read the news without making a political statement, it becomes near impossible for us to distance ourselves from politics and our votes become symptoms of our habits, rather than informed and purposeful choices.

And, quite honestly, when voting is just another item on the to-do list, just another action cementing one’s affiliation with a political party then it has lost its function as a means to shape society and we may as well just skip the rigamarole of elections and organize in two groups around NRA and “coexist” bumper stickers, respectively.

Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe

Sofia is a Junior chemistry and communication major at William Jewell College. Currently she serves as the Co-Editor in Chief of the Hilltop Monitor.

One thought on “Opinion: The Politics of Habit

  1. Milton Horne

    Thanks for making me think, Sofia. While I can see the correlations between an easy bi-partisan form of government and the non – thinking governed, I wonder whether you’re not closer to the true cause of such simplism with your observations about the Gillette corporation– and many others like them –and its clever depiction of an imagined advertising reality that leads to the purchase of their products. Bi-partisanship is not the cause, then, but one of many possible destructive effects.

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