Opinion: Moderation should be embraced in political discourse

In today's polarizing world, it is imperative for students to consider a variety of perspectives

Moderation, as echoed through the works of many great philosophers like Aristotle, is often viewed as one of life's greatest virtues. In opposition to overindulgence and extremism, balance and harmony are maxims to strive for.

In the midst of blatant political polarization, not only does the quantity of our political intake need to be moderated, but the way in which we analyze politics and the world around us should embrace this philosophy of moderation.

In January, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's visit to ASU, hosted by College Republicans United, was met with intense criticism and protesters on campus, chanting "lock him up" and "no hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here," as well as verbal and physical hostility from both sides.

READ MORE: ‘A slap in the face’: Students protest Joe Arpaio’s CRU-hosted visit to ASU

President Donald Trump's recent rally in Phoenix also sparked increased tension among political groups on campus, with his actions having polarizing effects, club leaders said

READ MORE: Trump’s return to Phoenix met with mixed reactions from ASU community

A common misconception about moderation, in the political sense, revolves around a faulty definition of what it is — opportunistically placing oneself in the middle of two opposing forces, marked by a sense of moral grandstanding.

Critics denounce moderation as being too idealistic and inconsistent, because its meaning can only be understood relative to extremes. Under this improper definition, they would be correct.

However, what it means to be a moderate is far beyond just being an indecisive, uninformed idealist. To me, it's the opposite. Moderates consider multiple perspectives in order to devise a pragmatic approach to issues on an individual basis.

The first step in committing to a certain stance, whether political or not, should be to seek information from all interested parties. 

This is contrary to the tendency to cherry-pick evidence that confirms our initial beliefs. While humans convince themselves that their beliefs are derived rationally, it is really the intuitions that come first, followed by the strategic reasoning, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt said in "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion." 

To counteract this flawed behavior, proper education and medium of discourse, in addition to open-mindedness, is essential. 

While college campuses nurture the perfect environment to achieve these essentials, the prevalence of uncontained political polarization — proliferated by partisan organizations — is a growing issue that hinders thoughtful dialogue.

"Oftentimes, what you'll see in these partisan organizations is that they create echo chambers where there's no discussion taking place amongst differing views and separate organizations," said BridgeASU President Justin Heywood, a senior majoring in political science and civic and economic thought and leadership.

BridgeASU is an on-campus organization that facilitates collaborative and cross-partisan discussion on pressing political issues.

Heywood believes that in politics and in life we can't earnestly hold a position until we step outside our own bubbles and explore the contrary view.

"The people that want to engage in these transpartisan discussions are the people that are already somewhat open-minded to the fact that 'maybe I don't have a monopoly on the truth, maybe that other group has something to say that's worth value to me,'" Heywood said.

Although BridgeASU does not espouse any policy objective, the organization appeals to great number of moderates in addition to those affiliated with a certain party.

"We definitely have found our niche at ASU of allowing people to have these cross-partisan discussions, and that attracts many of the moderates," Heywood said.

The discussions that take place within BridgeASU offer a unique way to get all sides of a political issue.

So, why should moderates be taken seriously?

When beliefs are derived from a certain party, ideology or agenda, conflict is inevitable. While conflict is sometimes necessary to a certain degree, the emphasis on cooperation is the most civil and democratic way to effect change.

Instead of giving in to the craving of picking sides and committing to that side, irrespective of independent fact finding and analyzing, moderates form holistic stances composed of different views from different ideologies. 

Students should be more open to embracing the moderate approach by engaging in discussions and seeking information from those whom they disagree with, especially with the upcoming polarizing election.

With over 70 political organizations on campus, ASU has the capability to nurture an environment that is conducive to healthy discourse. 

It is up to students to decide whether or not to take multiple perspectives and form independent, comprehensive political beliefs.

Doing so would greatly alleviate political polarization on campus, in addition to combatting our irrational intuitions. 


Reach the columnist at eggold@asu.edu or follow @EGG0LD on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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