By: Madeline Coffey
As I listened to John Kasich address his supporters and those who were undecided at a townhall in Windham, NH on Monday morning, I became frustrated with the questions that were being asked by New Hampshire voters. Many of their questions were, in my view, not incredibly important to the state of our nation. I wondered where were the questions about access to healthcare, wealth inequality, and the militarization of police. These are the issues, you see, that I personally deem to be most instrumental of the 2016 election cycle, and it seems that my party agrees. As a lifelong democrat, I suppose I always believed that the questions were the same despite the difference in answers. This week in New Hampshire, I realized I was wrong.
On the bus ride to the events on Monday, Dr. Harris-Perry incited a discussion that resonated with me as I developed my frustration with Kasich’s supporters. She asked the bus, filled with students of vastly different political ideology, what they felt was the most pressing issue in American society. I answered police brutality. My more conservative peers had very different opinions, citing debt and national security among their top concerns. It seems to me, then, that there is an integral difference between liberals and conservatives that has nothing to do with ideology. Rather, it is the questions that are being asked that divide us.
I realized that at any given republican event, the concerns echoed by the conservative cohort members came up time and time again while my concerns never gained entrance to the conversation. Similarly, I haven’t heard much about their concerns from either democratic candidate. The question that I have, then, is can there really be a deliberative dialogue about these issues when we are not exposed to similar frameworks of looking at them? Is it possible that the reason for our polarization stems from the fact that our most admired political pundits do not even bring up the same issues?
I’ve got to say, I can’t remember the last time I worried about national security or national debt. No one ever talks about it in our party, so it escapes my mind. Of course, I know it’s on the radar, but because of my disposition to listen most thoroughly to democratic candidates and pundits, am I missing out on a debate I should be a part of?
Following this experience, I think the most beneficial thing for partisans to do about our intense gridlock might be much simpler than what we think. Perhaps if we started asking the same questions of our candidates, we could have a better idea of where compromise can happen. Understanding the viewpoint of each other is one thing, but knowing the answers to a standardized set of questions could have the potential to change the way we look at United States politics. My proposition? Let’s stop saying gridlock is inevitable until we’ve actually tried. Let’s ask each other about the same issues, and maybe then we’ll get somewhere.