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Being politically moderate on a liberal campus

Renee Pineda, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.

Everything is good in moderation, even politics. But what I’ve noticed on campus over the past few semesters is that students don’t seek political moderation.

I hear students having conversations about elections, political ideologies and the people of the “other” political party. But rarely do I hear students wanting to compromise or engage with people they don’t agree with. Students need to change GW’s record of associating with a particular ideology – and we should do that by lessening the value of political parties.

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The two major U.S. political parties are just umbrella terms. People are more than their political identifications and chosen parties, and neither major party accurately portrays every individual view of the millions of people they represent. But here on campus, I’ve seen students assume that everyone in one party believes every viewpoint that party puts forward. Unfortunately, that leaves moderates out of political conversations and on a liberal college campus, it ostracizes students with conservative beliefs.

While I’ve seen tension brewing between liberals and conservatives on campus since the election, I noticed it come to a head a few weeks ago when Tomi Lahren, a conservative TV host from The Blaze, was suspended and then banned from the network after she said on “The View” that she was pro-choice. Lahren, a vocal Trump supporter, shocked her fans with this announcement and many started boycotting her on social media. But instead of seeing my liberal-minded GW peers support Lahren for her viewpoint, I saw people rejoicing because someone they usually didn’t agree with lost her job for speaking her mind.

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Although I’ve never been a fan of Lahren, mostly because of her incendiary commentary on issues like Black Lives Matter, it’s interesting how quickly her followers and employer turned against her because she didn’t comply with all of the values associated with the conservative side of the political spectrum. And it was equally concerning to see how my liberal friends were happy that she was fired. As a student body that focuses so much on political ideology, we should not criticize those who have views on both sides of the aisle.

As someone who comes from a conservative town in Nebraska but identifies as a moderate, I was never harassed or made fun of for my views by my conservative friends and colleagues at home. But here at GW, I notice conservative voices are criticized just because they are conservative. There have been several instances in which friends or acquaintances have started talking about a person by saying, “Well, she’s a Republican.” And I’ve overheard students praising a person for their intellect and talents, only to end it with, “too bad he’s conservative” or “wait, she’s a Republican?” It’s concerning that at a liberal university that boasts inclusivity, the only people who are respected in political conversations are the ones who think like everybody else.

Frankly, it’s both intriguing and frustrating to see how much students value something that many Americans don’t regularly consider. Once we graduate, we should already have the skills to compromise, so we need to start now. It’s crucial that we move away from extremes because if we continue looking at political identity as black and white, we won’t be the generation to compromise.

It would be hypocritical to write about compromise if I didn’t practice it myself. And it’s definitely easier said than done. One of the first steps students should take is to listen to each other. If an idea or voice is not being heard in a classroom or casual conversation, take a step back and consider why people are collectively allowing this voice to be ignored. If we start to analyze our conversations, then we can begin to understand what ideas we are leaving out. By doing this, in classes and with close friends, I’ve started to look at party identification as less of a necessity and more of an option. But I haven’t let that quiet my voice or decrease my political awareness.

Although I don’t believe that GW has purposefully created a campus where liberal views are embraced more than conservative ones, I do believe that due to more liberal-leaning professors and students, it’s easy to drown out moderates and conservatives. But life after college will require compromise and hearing opinions that we don’t agree with, so students need to practice acceptance now.

As the most politically active university in the country, we have an opportunity to set an example by changing the way we perceive the importance of political ideologies. Many students here will go into politics and will continue to be proud members of major political parties, but we should realize that that isn’t the norm for most Americans. Students should find a road to the middle, instead of living in the extremes.

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