Op-Ed: On Diversity of Opinion

Theo Spohngellert ‘18

In mid-August a close, conservative, family friend showed me an article from the Huffington Post titled “The Culture of the Smug White Liberal.” The article, written by lifelong Democrat Nikki Johnson-Huston Esq., examines the various problems within the community of White liberals. One line in the article that struck me in particular read, “they [liberals] can’t even have a conversation with someone who sees the world differently without resorting to call someone a racist, homophobic, misogynistic, bigot.”

Immediately I began to realize that I was guilty of throwing these types of words at my family friend for having differing political views from mine without thoroughly hearing their side of the argument first. I thought of the sources from which I learned about the state of current events and realized that practically all of my sources were stiflingly liberal. I read the New York Times, I watched CNN and MSNBC, and even my Facebook feed almost exclusively consisted of pages like Occupy Wall Street and similar progressive sources.

It was then that I realized that practically all of the political literature I had been reading fell directly in line with beliefs that I already held, and I—as a left wing progressive— was almost never challenging my own beliefs and thus wasn’t truly learning anything new. I also came to the realization that, in political discourse, nothing is truly gained when both sides of an argument basically agree. We have much to gain from political opinions that don’t align with our own— whether that be changing our minds on certain issues or strengthening the views we had previously held. I began to see more value in not only reading more conservative viewpoints, but also engaging in political conversation with conservatives and people who are not partisan by nature.

What I began to realize as I gained knowledge from more conservative and non-partisan sources (like Prager U videos, college Republican clubs, and others) was that in my life and in my education I suffered from an extreme lack of political diversity and true diversity of opinion. At school, the vast majority of my peers are like-minded hippie progressives like myself. Most (if not all) of the political discussions I’ve had with BHSEC students have occurred with both sides on the left side of the political spectrum. This realization was troubling to me.

Of course there are differences of opinion amongst progressives, but, on a basic level, progressives are generally both socially and fiscally liberal. I came to the realization that, in what I thought were wholeheartedly fruitful political discussions, an entirely different viewpoint was being shut out. I realized that I was to gain significantly less from a conversation about the economy, for example, when I’m speaking with like-minded people who are fiscally liberal than if I were to discuss issues of the economy with somebody who is more fiscally conservative.

Most importantly, I came to the realization that if I were a conservative at BHSEC I would be petrified to share my viewpoints on politics. I would be scared of being socially ostracized for having different opinions than the liberal majority. One can see from Facebook debates and basic conversations how socially dangerous it can be to disagree with the exact agenda commonly held amongst progressives.

What I’m saying is not that we all have to love each other or that we can’t even be disturbed privately by somebody’s viewpoint, but rather that we as a community should be more open to a spectrum of political voices because we have much to gain from them. For example, this summer I read parts of a book called What You Should Know About Politics but Don’t: A Nonpartisan Guide to the Issues that Matter. This book gave me insight on issues such as the Wall Street bailout of 2008 which I had previously adamantly opposed, but—after reading and seeing the true damage that not bailing Wall Street out would have done to the average American— I saw why it was completely necessary. Without voices that counter the opinions that we already hold, we essentially learn and gain nothing.

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