A look at political polarization

To see whether conversation could be used to bridge the gap between the ends of the political spectrum, Nordic decided to moderate a political discussion between a Democrat and a Republican — junior Trisha Trinidad and senior Cody Meyer. 

Can the parties compromise and work together?

Trinidad said there are issues to confront before cooperation is possible.

“People are really really divided and I think we can get really emotionally invested in our views,” Trinidad said. “I think on both sides a lot of people have the tendency to turn everyone in the opposite party into a straw-man.”

Meyer, who was born and raised a Republican, said he has chosen to continue supporting his parents’ political beliefs after evaluating the views on the left.

“As a teen, I have been looking at both sides because it’s important. And [by] looking at both sides, I have found that ‘the right’ is for me,” he said.

Despite being firmly grounded in the views of their respective parties, both Trinidad and Meyer initially told Nordic that they were open to working with members of the opposite party. Trinidad, especially, stressed the importance of collaboration.

“I think that’s an important part of democracy, is being about to work with people from your opposing party,” Trinidad said. “If you surrounded yourself with people who thought the same as you, you would never learn anything.”

This spirit of open-mindedness was apparent once Trinidad and Meyer began to talk to one another. Over the course of their conversation they discovered some ideological differences, but both were consistently respectful of one another’s ideas.

“I think it’s vitally important, for whatever party you choose, to understand the other side thoroughly, because that’s when you can form an opinion — after you know both sides,” Meyer said.

“I totally agree with you,” Trinidad said in response. “As a country as a whole, we should think of this as more of a collaborative thing, because people of the opposite party are totally here to help you come to a better decision… Just working together, trying to understand each other, I think that’s a big step that we need to take.”

Trinidad and Meyer’s closing thoughts

“I think when you’re in such a liberal place [like Western Washington], I don’t get the opportunity to talk to a lot of people in the Republican party. There’s a lot of demonizing that goes on and that I try to avoid in myself,” Trinidad said. “Having someone [like Cody] to just hang out with and have a really honest conversation with — it was really nice.”

Cody reflected on his experience similarly.

“I now understand that we are a lot more similar than people give credit to,” he said. “I mean we are both humans. We both have our own political views, and one is not necessarily right or wrong.”