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.