By BIANCA LOPEZ
Before you read this, all I ask is that you take a step back. Take a step back from this year’s election, your ideologies and chosen candidate. I couldn’t care less who you vote for and I won’t tell you who I’m voting for either. At the moment, what I’m more concerned about in this election is the standard it sets for future candidates and citizens in general.
On Sunday night, the second presidential debate served to further terrify the nation. The night’s highlights quickly became memes and mention of the debate usually elicits eye-rolls. The event resembled a Saturday Night Live sketch — only this was no laughing matter.
Toward the end of the debate, an audience member posed a simple, yet poignant question: “Would either of you name one positive thing that you respect in one another?”
The candidates each had to swallow their own pride for a quick moment on live television and do the exact opposite of what their campaign managers have been training them to do. They had to find something good in the one person that they had made it their mission to solely dig for dirt on. All the mudslinging subsided long enough for Clinton to compliment Trump on his parenting and for Trump to offer a nod to Clinton’s persistence and unwillingness to give up.
Why is it that this final question was left to marinate in the minds of so many viewers?
Simply put, it’s easy to get swept up in this race. During this election, 92 percent of Republicans identifyto the right of the median Democrat and 94 percent of Democrats identifyto the left of the median Republican, according to Pew Research. Adding fuel to the fire of our election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were declared the “most unfavorable candidates ever” in a poll conducted by ABC News and The Washington Post. This election is the result of a lethal combination of two political parties that are more polarized than they have been since the Civil War (Pew Research) and two hated candidates campaigning for the not-so-humble position of Ruler of the Free World.
That’s a lot of hate and negativity.
Supporters of the two candidates are so split, in fact, that a true debate winner cannot even be determined because the forerunners have no common ground to stand on. While CNN and Politico announced Clinton’s win, Fox and a SurveyMonkey poll by NBC named Trump the clear winner.
The entire campaign up to this point reminds me of a game of tug-of-war, constantly volleying back and forth between accusations of deleted emails, videotape scandals, racism and sexism. The ultimate downfall of this rise in dirty campaigning is that many voters do not feel excited to support their candidate, rather, they are simply choosing their lesser of two evils. Only 25 percent of Clinton supporters said they would be excited if the democratic nominee were to win; and just 28 percent of Trump supporters reported that they would feel excited if he were to win, according to CNN. A majority of those polled said they would feel “relieved” by their candidate’s victory. Long gone are the days of voting for a candidate on the grounds of merit, replaced by supporting the person who churns your insides and darkens your soul just a little bit less.
This election is already ruining friendships and dividing families. Facebook users from each political party have posted statuses prompting so-called “friends” to unfriend them immediately if said friend has decided to vote for [insert hated political candidate’s name here]. Some people post on social media threatening to move to another country if one candidate or the other wins.
If two candidates with so little in common, whose actual job it is to make the other person look bad, can take a moment and stop being cruel — why can’t the rest of us?
The question posed reminds me of a technique an elementary school teacher might use to calm two children during a disagreement. Take a breath, apologize and say something nice about the other person.
Friends, coworkers and peers so often cannot have political discussions without having to walk on eggshells.
If you find that you cannot fathom why another person may vote differently than you, look for one measly reason. Maybe, in some cases, this election truly did bring out someone else’s ugly side. Maybe you discovered a family member or friend to be a closet islamophobe, facist, sexist or a plethora of other terrible things. However, this person may not agree with every word their chosen candidate spews. I urge you all to try, for just a moment, to step outside of the box you have built around yourself. Attempt to see things from another perspective.
If it’s still beyond your comprehension, all I ask is that you don’t make this election personal, no matter how personal it feels. Don’t label someone as anti-feminist or homophobic for voting for one candidate. Don’t call someone a baby-killer or socialist for voting for the other. Don’t assume someone is stupid if they don’t choose either candidate from the main parties. Understand that everyone is in the same sinking ship. They have all given up on looking for a floatation device that could actually save them, instead they’re settling for whatever they think won’t make the situation worse.
Don’t threaten people or burn bridges. Neither candidate is perfect and no two voters are looking for the exact same things. Disagree, hold debates and be politically-active; just don’t lose sight of the positive. Never lose the ability to see the good in someone else.
Bianca Lopez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org