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To bridge the political divide, appeal to moral values

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Everyone enjoys being right. When it comes to politics, especially in this current political climate, the problem is that it becomes a lot harder and puts friendships on the line. The gap between the left and right has never been more divided in this tense political climate. Explaining ideas from the right to left and vice versa has never felt so difficult.

This is one of the problems that continue to widen the gap between each political group. When one stumbles across a point of view that may oppose your own values or beliefs, the first thing that is commonly done is to look down upon their ideals or stereotype them.

For example, if someone supports stricter immigration laws and policy, instantly, they are a Trump supporter who is assumed to have little to no knowledge on immigration. If someone supports open borders, they are considered a “snowflake” who has no idea what they are talking about.

This type of mindset has made it a task to have politically based arguments with those who support different views. This separates both sides from having a successful, progressive conversation.

On the other hand, Joel Whalen, a professor in marketing with an expertise in political communication in the art of persuasion, explains how both sides are essentially right.

“One person says that everyone should have health care. They are called esoteric. Someone else responds: ‘who will pay for it?’ They are called problematic. In the end, both are right,” Whalen said. “There are just polar extremes. The general physiology of conservatives tend to show that they are not excited by new ideas. (They are) afraid of change and the new, while liberals are excited by change and the idea of new.”

Neither side is wrong in the mind of supporters. However, when it comes to an argument it is important to first check the way you approach the conversation.

One of the problems that the left faces is their argumentative approach. The most common weapon in their arsenal tends to be emotion. However, according to the New York Times, attempting to “play at the heartstrings” of the right nearly always ends in failure.

The reasoning behind the failure ties back to what beliefs each side holds.

Liberals tend to lean more towards ideas that support care and equality. Conservatives, on the other hand, show support for patriotism.

Amanda Cervantes, Student Government Association (SGA) senator for third year students, majoring in political science, details the reasoning behind why appealing to emotion is not always the answer when conversing with somebody with different beliefs.

“I think playing at the heart strings is nearly impossible to do. My dad is a pure Conservative. As a moderate, I find it difficult to even get him to understand some of left leaning social opinions,” Cervantes said. “They just tend to think more about logic and analytical ways of thinking.”

In hopes of bringing these two groups together, the “moral foundations theory” was suggested by social and cultural psychologists Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg as the “key to political persuasion.”

The moral foundation theory suggests “when discussing a contentious topic, liberals should reframe their arguments to appeal the moral value of conservatives and vice versa.”

This theory entails reframing your own beliefs and morals to appeal to “the other side’s” moral values.

“Conservatives often believe in liberty. With the idea of liberty comes this idea that everyone is born free and with certain inalienable rights,” Cervantes said. “With these rights comes the idea of that everyone has an equal chance, so they do not see a reason to play the heart strings and moral card. They believe it is the job of the individual to create success and get ahead while the left tends to believe in utilizing the community.”

Therefore, liberals would have to appeal to the morality of conservatives by referencing the patriotic appeal in political debates. Conservatives would appeal to the argument of equality. Whalen gives advice on how to have a successful conversation while appealing to these ethics.

“I think the first goal is to understand the other side’s point of view. Respect their point of view. It can have nothing to do with agreement. Most people, as they express their point of view, think to themselves whether or not to agree with you,” Whalen said. “While they express their idea, you should constantly be thinking of a counter argument.

The act of understanding is overlooked in the current political platform. Yet, it is one of the strongest ways of tackling an argument and conveying ideas. This can be used for both sides.

Instead of the two sides reverting to emotion for debate, the art of listening and responding appropriately is the first step towards progress in bridging the gap.

And, while the moral foundations theory suggests appealing to the moral values of those with different political beliefs, in doing so you, however, loose the initial passion behind your initial argument.

Yet, failing to appeal to other’s moral values displays the tension in our current political environment. There is a struggle to set aside personal values, and failing to do so can lead to missing out on forming a consensus with someone who might support the same position although holding different values.

Others like Peter Vandenberg, professor and chair of the Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse department, believe the gap is only continuing to grow as time moves forward.

“In modern day technology, it has become easier for the quality of argument or debate to deteriorate. Social media has pushed us farther apart. We only see what is in the mirror. We only have friends with similar views added on Facebook. We never see the other side of the argument.”

As the policies continue to bring both sides above surface, it is important to encourage the combination of ideas and values in order to progress as a community.

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To bridge the political divide, appeal to moral values