On Tuesday, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry into Pres­ident Donald Trump over shady dealings with Ukraine.

The battle lines have already been drawn. No matter what the facts turn out to be, those who walk the halls of Con­gress have their marching orders. Those with an “R” behind their name will, for the most part, rally to the Pres­ident and seek to dis­credit his attackers and defend his image. Those who have chosen the “D” label will broadside anyone who dares asso­ciate with Pres­ident Trump.

This kind of trib­alism is the “modus operandi” in pol­itics today.
Of course, the idea of impeachment is nothing new. For years, Democrats have been throwing every accu­sation pos­sible at the Pres­ident, hoping some­thing will finally be enough to bring him down. The general response to these alle­ga­tions will, I’m certain, be no dif­ferent than what we’ve seen in pre­vious news cycles.

With the next pres­i­dential election upon us, there seems to be little hope for the end of that same trib­alism. As can­di­dates wrangle in tele­vised debates, trip over gaffe after gaffe, and flip flop on issues to pander to their chosen demo­graphic, I have no doubt that the stu­dents of Hillsdale College will scru­tinize every moment.

We can treat this time as an oppor­tunity to expand our view­points, hone our beliefs, and learn from those who dis­agree with us, or we can dig in, entrench our opinions, and refuse to take advantage of the chance to be chal­lenged in a con­ducive envi­ronment.

College is the first chance many of us have to define our beliefs for our­selves.

No longer anchored in the safe harbor of the views of our parents, we are cast adrift in a vast, tur­bulent sea of com­peting ide­ologies. It can be com­forting to seek security by attaching our­selves to a spe­cific party or per­son­ality, and by aligning our own views in accor­dance with theirs.

Unfor­tu­nately, this can lead to the need to defend objec­tionable rhetoric or policy, because to fail to carry water for a chosen person or party would be a rejection of our per­sonal political guiding star.

But instead of auto­mat­i­cally defending others — even those we think we agree with — we should think for our­selves and make delib­erate judge­ments on a person’s words and actions. Refuse to be defined by a party, politician, or even a labeled ide­ology. Don’t allow yourself to be pigeon-holed by pre­con­ceived notions of what you believe or why, and cer­tainly don’t adjust your con­vic­tions in the name of loyalty to an outside source.

A person or group isn’t correct simply because they are popular or have a platform. History has no shortage of ter­rible ideas that rode the wave of massive pop­u­larity.

We shouldn’t be closed-minded, however. On the con­trary, to learn and grow and meta­mor­phose our beliefs is one of the great reasons to par­tic­ipate in higher edu­cation. In the end, the goal of liberal-arts edu­cation is to free our­selves of the bondage of par­roting those deemed more intel­ligent or more expe­ri­enced than our­selves.

A person freed by a liberal edu­cation can compare and analyze argu­ments pre­sented to them and make a deter­mi­nation for them­selves of what is right. Voting for, or oth­erwise sup­porting, someone for political office is nothing more than a means of fur­thering our ideas. Exam­ining pol­itics through the lens of a belief system gives us a clarity not afforded by simply picking a can­didate and unwa­ver­ingly endorsing them.

As another “most important election of our time” rolls around, I urge you to stand by your con­vic­tions, not a politician. It’s often not as easy, but loyalty to the truth is its own reward.

Clint Pagurko is a senior studying history.