Opinion

Democalypse 2016: Macalester’s problem with conservatives

It pains me to admit how many times I’ve been told, “for a republican, you’re actually really sane.” I have been complimented by my peers numerous times on my ability to respect and hear out liberal positions while arguing for a conservative cause. Due to these facts, I have a question for Macalester: if this college is supposed to be a community of diversity on all levels, then why are we so quick to disregard and disrespect conservative viewpoints? When it comes to welcoming opinions from a multitude of viewpoints, Macalester College is a failure. I am not nor will I ever argue that you must agree with opinions in conflict with your own point of view, but I think it should be common courtesy to at least respect opposing viewpoints and those who believe them. If you think they’re wrong then educate them, don’t belittle them.

Donald Trump, to put it lightly, is not the ideal candidate for the presidency. I have expressed my discontent for him, and his unpopularity at Mac is quite clear. If I run into a Trump supporter on campus, which I have, there is no reason for me or anyone to attack their character or moral judgement. The issue is that every Trump supporter I know on campus refuses to display that support in public due to fears of being ostracized, verbally attacked and demeaned. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to have a civil disagreement or debate with that person, but there is a fine line between disagreeing with someone and being down-right disrespectful.

In a classroom discussion about minimum wage increases, I utilized arguments, facts and statistics provided by the Heritage Foundation, a well-known, respected and distinguished conservative think tank. The response from one of my peers was not a constructive criticism of the validity of the research, but an attack on the political leanings: “That’s irrelevant because it was written by republicans.” Following this statement, the whole class had a good chuckle and discussion moved on, completely disregarding the point I made. I’ll always remember that moment because a legitimate argument was shut down on the basis of its being conservative. There was no discussion of the merits or the facts, just assumptions based on the political inclination. It is situations like this that are all too often overlooked at this school due to the negative perception of conservatives on this campus. I understand that many here will disagree with my beliefs, and I expect to have political arguments with people. I know what I signed up for. But don’t just complain about my opinions, make a constructive argument. Discussions like these need to be had with people who we don’t necessarily agree with, otherwise you’ll just hear a regurgitation of your thoughts, and no one will gain any ground in combating serious problems.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not just liberals who disregard opposition. I know as well as anyone that conservatives are just as bad. The problem is how one-sided things are on the Macalester campus. There is a group of people at Mac who feel silenced by the majority based on their political beliefs, and unless I’ve mistaken Mac for another school, this is exactly what Macalester aims to stop. I have spoken to student athletes, resident assistants, MCSG officials, people of color, org chairs and others who have expressed conservative beliefs but many of them have expressed concerns that they can’t publically act on them due to the negative connotations at Mac. That’s screwed up. I received an email two weeks ago saying that calling myself “an unapologetic republican” in my last article “took some guts.” It shouldn’t. People shouldn’t be nervous about announcing their political ideology, especially at a liberal arts college.

Before I conclude, I want to clear the air on a few points. I am not saying everyone at Macalester is incapable of respecting conservatives. There are a great deal of you that go above and beyond at assuring ALL opinions are given equal treatment in academic and social settings. Before I inevitably get this complaint, I recognize that republicans are not a marginalized or suppressed group nationwide. There isn’t an actual fear of violence or severe intimidation on this campus, but arguing that conservatives and liberals are treated equally at Macalester is complete ignorance.

The premise that democrats and republicans can’t get along and should write one another off is ridiculous. To quote John Kasich this last week, “The idea that I’m a republican and therefore I can’t work with democrats and you’re a democrat and can’t work with republicans; how does anyone think that the issues of debt, social security, medicare, healthcare, any of these issues are going to be resolved when we spend all of our time fighting with one another?” This argument also pertains to hearing out the other side and failing to respect that people were brought up differently and have beliefs that are different from yours.

You won’t always be surrounded by individuals who share the same mindset as you. It’s about time we learn how to respect those people.

September 23, 2016

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