American politics have seen better days. While our public discourse has yet to reach the political chaos of the era of civil war or the civil rights movement, it is certainly more polarized and less civil than at any time in recent decades.
Due to growing ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans and the rapid spread of partisan news, more Americans than ever are taking increasingly extreme views on almost everything from gun policy to fire from immigration laws to climate and environmental priorities. This radicalism is a dead end, and if left unchecked, it will cripple meaningful discourse in the United States, a fundamental part of that country’s democratic institutions.
Every American can engage in healthy political discussions by embracing a spirit of public service, maintaining a common sense of decency, and using a constructive approach to tackle difficult problems. Politics can really work for the people, and its main goal of improving society is noble.
At Georgetown University, students meet people with backgrounds, values, and ambitions different from their own. Interacting with diverse perspectives can be intimidating, but actively engaging with different worldviews provides an opportunity for mutual growth. It is only through sustained dialogue that we can maintain a community of shared values.
While on campus, we found the beating heart of political discourse to be the Georgetown Institute for Politics and Public Service. By providing a space for students of various political affiliations to learn and thrive, the institute has paved the way for a less polarized political environment.
GU Politics provides behind-the-scenes access to the real day-to-day operations of our federal government. In the past, for example, staff have brought prominent politicians such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Georgetown, while also facilitating small-scale informal discussion groups, as staff have done with l former colleague of GU Politics Sen. Doug Jones (D-Alabama). In addition to bringing in practitioners, GU Politics teaches Georgetown students what working in politics looks like. The Institute offers practical career advice during office hours with Fellows and Career Panels in Advocacy and Lobbying. Students learn specific skills, practice asking tough questions in political journalism, and handling Facebook advertising. These different sets of programs, combined, make the Institute a fertile ground for political discourse and a springboard into politics for so many students.
Originally from the swing state of Arizona, Anya joined the GU Politics fellows team to be part of a politically active community. Conversations with Republican students broadened her understanding of cybersecurity policies, while those with Democrats led Anya to re-conceptualize police reform. This kind of bipartisan dialogue inspired Anya to change her mind on a wide range of policies and test her comfort zones, so much so that she even switched political affiliation from Independent to Democrat.
Prior to joining GU Politics, Anya had no experience in politics or the civil service. She saw politics as one-dimensional, limited to campaigns and elected mandates, which Anya was not interested in. However, learning from his peers and policy practitioners has shown him that politics is much more than that: it encompasses advocacy, lobbying, journalism and more. In truth, politics is a public service, and it was the conversations across the aisle that replaced all political controversy that led to this awareness. GU Politics showed him that humanity supplants politics.
Like Anya, in Georgetown, Brady, a Republican from New York, has seen the best and the worst that politics has to offer. In one case, Brady spoke with another student whose father had been in and out of the criminal justice system, and from these interactions he came to understand the seriousness of the challenges faced by those formerly incarcerated who wish to reintegrate and reintegrate into society. .
Back in the days when Brady worked for organizations that impact the policymaking process, Brady saw firsthand the deadlock, selfishness, and cynicism that make politics today. looks so dark. At the same time, however, Brady has witnessed how those who are dedicated and caring can make positive changes to our system. If we care about serving others, each of us has an obligation to get involved in politics.
Politics will never be the perfect cure for all social ills, nor will it alone cure the polarization in our country. But it can give hope. If we approach politics with an open and compassionate mind, we can come together to empower marginalized and underserved communities and create more opportunities for individuals to build meaningful lives.
Brady Marzen is a senior at the School of Foreign Service. Anya Wahal is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.