Breaking the Echo Chamber
Dear social media-obsessed conservatives, knock it off. I know, I know, we all are upset that the November election didn’t go our way, but that doesn’t justify the isolationism, infighting, and divisiveness currently raging online and in conservative circles. This behavior doesn’t extend to everyone, but it’s prominent enough for many to take notice. I understand that the Republican Party and right-leaning Americans come from all different points of view. Some of us are staunch tea partiers while others are more in line with the Republican “establishment.” Then, of course, you have to throw in a few libertarians for good measure. Thus, it’s easy to understand how there will always be vast ideological differences between those of us on the right. However, that is certainly no excuse to perpetuate a civil war which will lead to nothing but a fractured conservative base and a perpetually victorious Democratic party.
Let me be clear. Civil discussion and debate are healthy and vital to the perpetuation of a political party or organization. It’s GOOD to criticize people from your own party when you believe their policies have strayed. However, the discourse which has emerged since the November election is far from healthy; it’s destructive. There’s is a ridiculous amount of name-calling and finger pointing. When something goes “wrong” in the government, some Republicans blame “tea partiers” while the “true conservatives,” who claim to be the safeguards of ideological purity in the party blame the “RINOs” and “establishment.” Let me make this simple: We’ve all made mistakes. The get-out-the-vote strategy of the Republicans party failed miserably. Likewise, some conservative groups have bypassed logic and political maneuvers and have acted as ideologues, forgetting that conservatism must be advanced through the political system, not outside it. In this case, the “Fire Boehner” movement comes to mind. Let me repeat myself: knock it off. There are some deep ideological and political differences between factions on the right, but we’ll never get down to constructive discussion, if our first inclination is to scream “RINO” at those with whom we disagree. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all been wrong at some point. Instead of trying to pass the blame, let’s have thoughtful discussions about the future of the party and at least come to an understanding. Moderates, conservatives, and some libertarians all fall under the umbrella of the right. Let’s work together instead of actively tearing our movement apart.
While some on the right have taken to warring against each other, some have isolated themselves completely. A recent example of this is the development of Tea Party Community, a “conservative alternative to Facebook.” Look, I understand that living with and discussing politics with people of liberal-leaning ideologies can be frustrating. I know I barely wanted to go to class after the election for fear I would overhear the excessive celebration over the president’s reelection. However, isolation and escapism is not the best way to revolutionize the Republican party and ensure that conservative policies are enacted. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from politics or surrounding yourself with like-minded people. We tend to be attracted to people with similar value structures anyway. However, I don’t understand the point of blinding yourself from liberal opinions by joining a social network populated only with conservatives. I know it’s frustrating to have that one Facebook friend who is always posting liberal talking points, but is isolation better than fighting back? Or at least understanding alternative opinions? How are we ever going to learn to combat liberal policies if we only read conservative opinions?
These reactions have done nothing but increase the social media echo chamber where many conservatives find themselves stuck. Ideological factions on the right will war back and forth with name-calling finger pointing. Many people post conservative opinions to their like minded twitter followers or Facebook friends only to get a validation of their statement. What happened to honest debate? What happened to making yourself uncomfortable in the presence of alternative opinions? Conservatives will never win another election is we can’t stop warring with each other and start pushing our policies into the real world. Let’s be honest, most conservatives are terrible with engagement, an area where the Democratic Party is often victorious. We need to reach out to the youth, to women, to Hispanics, to black Americans, etc. We especially need to reach out to people who are liberal or staunchly opposed to conservatism. Do you really believe that conservative policies will keep our country free and prosperous? Then prove it. Spread the message. Don’t only talk to other conservatives and don’t blame other right-leaning thinkers when something goes wrong. Go out into the world and start talking to people. Start engaging. Start making the type of change that cannot be instigated while you stare at your computer screen.
Amy Lutz | Saint Louis University | @AmyLutz4