As a new administration enters political office in the United States, the division in American political ideology is still very apparent. Political polarization is something that has affected the United States across multiple jurisdictions. It has only grown over the past few decades, but one organization believes simple conversations might be able to close that gap.
According to Facing history, the political polarization is broken by the fact that the United States has two main political parties, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. “In the early 1990s, the two parties had more similar political programs than today. Over the past 25 years, the Democratic Party has moved more to the “left”, while the Republican Party has moved more to the “right”.
Why it’s newsworthy: The Democratic and Republican parties are increasingly divided, which has caused uncontroversial issues, such as wearing a mask, to become more political. By accentuating the political divide in national and local politics, this has created a lot of violence and makes decisions more difficult.
Based on surveys carried out from 1994 to 2017, the Pew Research Center found that “the share of Americans with ideologically consistent values increased during this period and these political values also became more strongly associated with partisanship.” The move towards increased partisanship is also more exaggerated among politically engaged Americans.
Conversation Spark Solution
Many professionals and organizations believe that political polarization can be reduced through conversations and information from the other side of their thoughts and feelings.
National and local efforts have been made to engage in conversations about politics in order to limit political polarization.
Alliance of Bridges is a coalition of 100 organizations that try to add to this solution by promoting “coherent and open communications among its members”.
“Maybe the 15% on the far left and the 15% on the far right are pretty stuck in their ways. I really believe that 60/70% of Americans really want to have a constructive dialogue, ”said David Nevins, president of Bridge Alliance. “Our members have organized many events in various cities where citizens who do not normally interact with each other communicate and come to common ground.”
Local effort to create conversations
While there are national efforts to promote dialogue to limit political polarization, there are also efforts in northeast Georgia to do the same.
“Politics is one of those things where most of the time it’s ‘not here’, ‘not yet’, ‘there is a time and a place for it’, but we are rarely given a place to have meaningful discussions. “Michael Haug, co-founder of the Georgia College Political Society, noted.
The Georgia College Political Society is a non-partisan debate and discussion organization that brings together students to discuss political issues. Some of the issues addressed by the organization are criminal justice, foreign policy and the 2020 elections.
Haug said he didn’t like the idea of a traditional, Republican-centric or Democrat-centric political organization in college. He said there wasn’t enough dialogue there and that they didn’t want to be in a group where everyone was in agreement.
“They so rarely come out and talk to the other side, and so there is a kind of demonizing component inherent in politics, but also reinforced in our current politics. It is definitely something that we are trying to get around in our own way, ”Haug said.
In the era of COVID-19, the group meets on Zoom and publishes live broadcasts of their discussions on Facebook.
“If we were on catwalks it would have a natural look, but in a way I like it because especially with the polarization it kind of humanizes things,” Haug said. “There’s a lot of laughs and chords, and maybe if we were on the catwalks the gloves could come off a bit more.”
James Robertson, GCPS member, participated in a few debates, and he said some of them are more debate and others more discussion, depending on the topic.
GCPS first debate took place at the start of the fall semester and brought together around 300 views on the topic of criminal justice. Since then, the group has hosted around ten panels.
Robertson said those he has interacted with have been productive and led to constructive conversations.
“We all agreed that there were structural problems. The biggest difference is how we get there. So it’s kind of nice to debate not necessarily what it’s right to do in the end, but how to get there, ”said Robertson.
In recent months, Haug said the administration has so far been happy with the organization. GCPS has spoken to several presidents of different departments at Georgia College. In addition, the political science department offered its staff to take various crash courses with them, such as a course recent discussion on foreign policy with international relations Assistant Professor Gennady Rudkevich.
It’s always nice to see someone’s opinion change in real time. It’s really special and something you don’t see every day, ”Haug said.
A limitation to organizing political conversations as an academic organization is the lack of exposure. GCPS is trying to combat this limitation by partnering with the Georgia College TV and Radio Station and Newspaper.
Although GPCS is not currently thinking of bringing the organization to the national level, Haug said that GCPS encourages people to start their own non-partisan organization after seeing the success created by conversations between parties within their own organization.
Shania Shelton graduated in Journalism from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.