“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leaden and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”John Adams
As I’ve written before (here and here), I spent most of my life entrenched in partisanship. In Kindergarten I even convinced my entire class to vote for Bush because we could spell his name. I didn’t know then what it meant to be Republican or Democrat, but I was already drawn into it all.
I remember eagerly watching election results come in when Pete Wilson was running against Diane Feinstein for governor of California – I was seven. I remember being proud to be part of the Republican party as I learned more and more about their platform and beliefs from a very young age. I never stopped to consider every issue – I went along with what was said. I was blinded.
Politics have always been part of my identity.
However, as I began to work for improved Newborn Screening in Pennsylvania my views on partisanship changed drastically, and that experience has changed me, too. I saw firsthand the ugly side of partisanship, unashamedly and openly preventing a bill from going to the floor for a vote despite it’s bipartisan appeal and support because the minority party introduced it. I saw grownups refusing to acknowledge the other party and their valid points simply because of their political affiliation.
And this week, I saw our bill become partisan because of pride.
All of this has made me consider things in a much different light, and I’d really encourage you to do the same if you’re caught up in the partisan divide that is so pervasive today. Both parties essentially want the same things – they simply differ on the means to those ends. Having a different perspective doesn’t make someone evil, or make them your enemy. It makes them human.
The Republican party isn’t perfect. The Democratic party isn’t evil. We all basically want the same things in the end. Why do we feel the need to be blinded to the possibility that the other party’s approach might actually be valid?
Partisanship is blinding. It ruins relationships, stirs up anger, and effectively silences anyone who may think a little differently. It shouldn’t be this way.
If you believe in your party’s platform wholeheartedly, that’s great. But please be kind to those who can see the good in both parties, who don’t fully belong in one particular party, who are truly undecided in this election. People like me.
Believe it or not, there are thousands of undecided voters right now, and one thing we all have in common is a fear of speaking up. I’ve been part of an ongoing focus group for undecided female voters and we all feel fear of repercussions from friends and family for admitting that we don’t know who deserves our vote. I had the honor of doing an interview for national television yesterday that I’m afraid to share because it will reveal that I’m not a devoted Trump supporter and I fear the comments, assumptions, and reactions.
When I first told a few trusted people that I was undecided their reactions were exactly as I had feared. One person said that a vote for Biden is a vote to hurt their children. Others have been flabbergasted that I don’t fully support Trump and made me immediately feel ashamed and regretful about being honest.
The reporter told me that she has had such a difficult time getting women to speak on camera about this because of fear. What does that say about our culture? No one should be made to fear being honest about their opinions! Freedom of Speech means allowing others to be honest even if you don’t agree.
This is long enough, so I will end with this: don’t be blinded by your party and what they say is right. Decide for yourself. It’s absolutely okay to not agree with everything your party stand for or the leaders they put forward. Voting party lines is generally not a wise practice and I hope that you will consider each person – or issue – on its merit and not on what you’re being told to believe. Be humble and willing to accept that you could be in the wrong on an issue. That’s the only way we can become united once more.