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Ah. Well. That was disgusting, right?
Over the last four years, no one escaped having to get their hands dirty, regardless of political affiliation. We’ve defended, opposed, protested, and then protested the protesting, at steadily increasing decibel levels. This election was the climax of something that long predates Trump’s presidency: Years and years of a dirty, unashamed, nasty political culture. Maybe now at the end of a truly fatiguing 2020, we can reflect back on it with some fresh eyes, see what has not been useful, and change our ways accordingly.
Democrats are chuffed at Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, as they should be; beating an incumbent president by garnering the most votes for any candidate in U.S. history is no easy feat. Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris’ presence in her new role will be even more historic. But Democrats should be keenly aware of the fact that Donald J. Trump got the second most votes of any candidate in U.S. history. It was far from a Kumbaya around an anti-Trump fire. Nearly half the electorate loves him and or supports his policies, and that is not changing overnight.
The strategies we have been using to politically engage dissenting fellow citizens are flawed, and they’re the first thing that needs to go. America treats politics like a sports match, which is both foolish and reprehensible given the real-life impact of politics. Watch the first 30 seconds of these CNN commercials for the presidential debate — no really, go watch — and compare it to a promo for the Superbowl. See the similarities? It’s far too fitting to represent anything like a healthy political discourse. If we are going to treat politics as a contact sport, we are going to get a contact sport. We are going to get incoherent shouting matches instead of policy debates. We are going to get rivalries and diehard fans who would rather go to war than have an opposing set of ideas win an election.
If treating politics as a game allows you to use your superior debating skills to crush the entire “right” or “left” (if those terms even have a meaning anymore) under your intellectual and moral might, you may feel great. You may go watch some Tucker Carlson or Don Lemon, have a good back-patting session at the expense of the fools who believe the “un-American” things that you do not, and wonder why anyone would bother to disagree with you. I get it, it feels good. But you would have gained nothing but an inflated ego and an inaccurate understanding of the people whose votes you still need to actually get anything done.
Categorizing every Trump supporter as a threatening white supremacist will never get the support you need for Black Lives to Matter. Categorizing every Biden supporter as a socialist will never get you the support you need to Make America Great Again. It’s in your own best interest to engage productively with those who hold different political opinions. If you really want your vision for America to become a reality, and not just to be something that you shout about in an endless loop, then you are going to have to find and truly consider all the nuances of your opponent’s stance.
I am not advocating for some grand migration to the political center — far from it — good ideas start from the fringes. I do not suggest that every idea must be viewed as equal or good — damaging ideas definitely exist. I am advocating for everyone to actually communicate and discuss ideas instead of trying to demonstrate their fellow citizens’ stupidity or flawed moral character, which achieves nothing.
I will be the first person to admit that I have participated in these kinds of pointless demonstrations in the past, presenting wholesale rejections of Trump and others. I stand on no high ground. But I am 20 years old, and people my age have only known a toxic American political culture. Indeed, it’s the only politics I can remember.
I have only seen an America in chaos. I have only known an America burdened by fear of mass shootings. I have only known an America — like every other Black person — that is plagued by fear of racial injustice. I have only known a world under the imminent and existential threat of climate change. I have only known an America where all of the things I just mentioned are divisive political statements. I have only known a media ecosystem that algorithmically feeds everyone what they want to hear and what they already believe.
I am 20 years too young to be tired of literally anything yet, here I am. Exhausted.
I am no political expert — heck, I’m not even a Government concentrator. But it doesn’t take a genius to know that our current political discourse is untenable. For the sake of moving America forward and leaving toxic politics in the past, I am giving up on accepting the degradation of politics to a lowly sport. I implore you to do the same.
Marcus B. Montague-Mfuni ’23, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a joint concentrator in Social Studies and African and African American Studies in Dunster House.
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