Putting partisanship in the right place

Partisanship can be used for good

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Putting partisanship in the right place

(Flickr Creative Commons: Steve Garwood)

(Flickr Creative Commons: Steve Garwood)

(Flickr Creative Commons: Steve Garwood)

(Flickr Creative Commons: Steve Garwood)

By Shahen Melkonian, Collegian Columnist

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With a quick look at mainstream media outlets, any observer could come to the conclusion that Democrats and Republicans are at each other’s throats. That’s because we live in a time of exceptional political polarization in the United States. But how do we escape the binds of political partisanship?

Surely to become a “better” country, we should seek the best solutions that exist. And when we seek out those solutions to the problems of society, we commonly look to academia—after all, why shouldn’t we? When society fights over an issue such as climate change, we aren’t fighting over something that is intuitive to the human mind. I can, as a human being, no more easily discern the relative concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air than you can. Since none of us can intrinsically understand such a phenomenon, it’s only logical that we would refer to well-read experts—in this case, scientists—in the given field to test and interpret information for us. However, this isn’t a coherent reality for many Americans.

On average, only 31 percent of Republicans in each congressional district within our country believe that climate change is manmade.

Of course, massive scientific organizations, such as NASA, have confirmed the constantly espoused statistic that 97 percent of scientists in the field agree that climate change is accelerating, likely due to human activities. It only took me around three seconds of searching Google to find one of America’s most historically significant scientific government agencies reflecting this view. More research into the matter will lead to more evidence verifying this perspective. As it has been said to an extended degree, “The science has been settled.” But this presents a dilemma which enticed me to make my initial reference to political partisanship: why is it that an issue that is not a question of philosophical differences and subjective morals faces such parity? The answer is partisanship.

Polls have found that around 20 percent of Republicans with a high school education or less are concerned about climate change “a great deal.” When Republicans become educated, however, they become statistically less concerned about climate change, while the concern of Democrats increases. The New York Times argues that despite the prevailing consensus in academia when it comes to climate change, increased political partisanship as a result of increased education seems to be more responsible for the changes in Republican views on this issue rather than scientific consensus. Climate change is but one example of the issue of partisanship—an issue that, despite my frustration with the American right-wing, I must admit is a bipartisan plague. In the eyes of the American public, as the Times article states, climate change is a political battle as opposed to a scientific one.

I personally doubt that human beings will ever be able to fully extract themselves from tribe mentality. But if we are to decide on issues of objective truth, such as climate change, then it is imperative that we give academia the deference it deserves. One of the big hills of partisanship that we have come to tackle in America recently deals directly with the ever-looming shadow of the unscientific tribal stance that rears its ugly head in American politics. Let me be clear—this is not solely a left versus right issue. While I personally am of the belief that much of the American right-wing ideology would be eroded away by a new emphasis on valuing science, an article by The Conversation on vaccine mythology by political association shows that both political extremes assume the unscientific stance that vaccines are unsafe.

It’s imperative that we as a country make it clear that even though we cannot extricate tribesmanship from our species, we can use it to a better cause. If issues such as climate change are politicized in such a way that the two sides that form are acceptance or denial of science, we should aim to shift that dogma. Instead of the political parties fighting over whether or not science is true, they should be more concerned about adhering to strong, clear scientific thought and theory. Although there are many questions that will be difficult to answer in our heated political climate, matters of pure objective truth in the scientific space are not as difficult to solve. Through the fostering of a political environment that almost irrationally seeks to cater to scientific consensus, we can at the very least begin to wipe away some of the political issues that burden our society without complex moral afterthought.

Shahen Melkonian is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]