You’re allowed to disagree with someone you love. You’re allowed to agree with someone you don’t like. It is healthy to challenge opinions and ideas regardless of the source.
This year is the first year I can vote. I recognize what a big opportunity and responsibility this right is, and as such, I want to inform myself more about the political process. The idea of attending this meeting was a stretch for me because although I recognize the importance of being an informed voter, I tend to not share my political views. I always feel like I don’t have enough evidence to form and defend my beliefs. Speak Up Speak Out seemed like a good way to become a more informed and active citizen. As such, I challenged myself to attend three meetings this semester.
At the first meeting, we discussed the presidential candidates and how people choose different political parties. I really appreciated this discussion because they actually brought up points by other political parties- we discussed not only Republican and Democrat, but also Libertarian and Green. I appreciate this because I do not identify as a Republican or a Democrat, but I know it is important to understand the viewpoints of both parties. One thing they discussed were the benefits and repercussions of voting third-party, which I found helpful because I am strongly considering voting Libertarian.
The most inspiring thing for me about this first meeting was the amount of open political dialogue. The board and the students did a good job of generally avoiding incendiary statements about any of the candidates, which allowed us to have real discussion on the faults of the candidates. We also talked about how social media has shaped this campaign, and how by people selecting their own media that they agree with, it could even be contributing to recent polarization of American politics. I know I have seen first-hand how my friends or family with certain political views will post one-sided articles with evidence that directly shows how they arrived at their beliefs. One question was asked about people had ever changed their mind about a topic based on something they saw online, and I was shocked to see that I was one of only about five or six people raising their hands. I was also surprised to learn that the majority of the crowd only followed political figures with whom they agreed. I know that for me, social media is a way for me to follow political figures I both agree and disagree with, in order to get a full spectrum of opinions, sort through media from both sides of the debate, and better form a more accurate idea of my own beliefs. In addition, I have friends and family members from polar opposite sides of the political spectrum, so through their posts I am able to see how they came to their viewpoints and better decide my own views. I was surprised that most people were only surrounded by people who agreed with them, and followed political figures and media as such.
I was also shocked at how many other Libertarians there were. I don’t exactly identify as a Libertarian, because I realize that government regulation is sometimes helpful and necessary, and that sometimes ideas of more limited government can be extreme and unrealistic, but overall I am closer to a Libertarian than to any other political party. I am economically more conservative and socially liberal. In my life, I only know four other people who openly identify as Libertarian: my dad, my old boss, my friend Delainy, and my friend Delainy’s crazy ex-boyfriend. Everyone else I know either identifies as Republican, Democrat (or even more liberal), or doesn’t know/doesn’t care. Here there were multiple vocal proponents of third parties, and I was happy for a healthy part of debates and recognizing that there are other viewpoints.
Overall, attending the SUSO meeting helped me to think more critically about the different parties and candidates, the role that social media has played in my perception of the election, and the impressive community of other informed voters that exists on campus.