While the political conversation on Penn’s campus is dominated by left-leaning groups, there have been recent calls throughout Penn, including in the Daily Pennsylvanian, for more diversity of political views.
The article placed the responsibility for initiating and engaging in such dialogue squarely on Republican groups at Penn. However, an idealized world of open discussion is not that simple.
Take a recent incident when student volunteers for the PA Democratic Party came knocking on the doors of on-campus residents. Although such campaigning can be expected in a Democratic voter stronghold, it was their line of questioning that caused me a second thought. Rather than explain the merits of their nominee, Hillary Clinton, they simply asked “Are you voting for Clinton?”. Upon hearing “yes” as they desired to hear, the volunteers remarked “That’s good!”.
While the exchange may seem harmless to most, the implications of the volunteers’ question explain why diversity of thought is not displayed across Penn.
If voting for Clinton is “good”, then is voting for someone else “bad”? It is that exact labeling of “good” and “bad” in the political sphere that dampens diversity of thought and fosters increasing division across the country. How can anyone be expected to step up with a minority opinion on campus when their views are “bad”?
While I applaud the conversation regarding diversity of thought, it is not enough. There has to be a constant awareness of how villainizing the other side of the debate is contradictory to the idea of embracing open dialogue. Therefore, the work to increase conversation on campus between varying viewpoints, a central mission of The Statesman, is not just something the right-leaning groups need to put effort into. All groups on campus need to realize that debate is best when reasoning is used, rather than shame tactics.
Some might think that such a mentality is merely a liberal college problem, but it isn’t.
At the Clinton-Kaine rally at Penn Park on Saturday night, Clinton said “friends don’t let friends vote for Trump.” While there are plenty of reasons to object to a candidate based on their policies or temperament, simply saying that people should not let their friends make their own judgments displays the current lack of tolerance for differing opinions.
To move forward as a nation, we must stop shutting down the other side of the aisle as merely “wrong” or “bad.” Instead, we must listen with open minds to increase true diversity of thought, and we must begin to challenge our own convictions based on the available evidence.