Just say no to partisan politics

By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 18, 2004

I'm an observer, not a participant. Far more comfortable being on the outside looking in, you can usually spot me at parties on the outskirts, making snide remarks to another kindred non-participating soul or to a large potted houseplant, depending on intoxication levels.

However, this being an election year, my shield of sarcasm can only hide me for so long.

From the tents that have taken up permanent residency on the UA Mall to the cheap, mass-produced buttons pledge our respective allegiance to whatever party we choose, students across campus are getting involved at an unprecedented level.

Passion and fervor are replacing the apathetic attitude associated with young people.

And, despite my aversion to all things that involve involvement, I could not help but attempt to step outside my comfortable sphere of inactivity. And, what better way to do it than going to a political rally?

So, last Wednesday I headed up to Bank One Ballpark for debate watch 2004 with about 30,000 rabid Republicans. Seattle's my hometown so I've been more exposed to the leftist side to the political spectrum. As a result I've always been curious about approaching Republicans, especially in large groups. I tried to be open-minded, but that rally pretty much fulfilled every single stereotype.

Country music singer Aaron Tippin - a man whose claim to fame was in opening for Hank Williams Jr. about 15 years ago - was tapped to play and tried to rouse the half-filled ballpark as best as a middle-aged man with skintight black jeans could.

Cowboy hats speckled through the crowd while rich trophy wives maneuvered about in shoes worth more than my life.

While quietly delighting in the fact that my stereotypes were not entirely without grounds, I was ready for a night where the topic of conversation revolved around things of significance.

After all, I thought people who would come out to watch the debate would be reflective creatures.

Instead, what I got was a revisitation to grade school.

As soon as Kerry was shown on the Jumbotron of BOB, booing and hissing continued unabated for a good five minutes.

Instead of critical evaluations of Kerry's statements, the people around me argued over what kind of animal he resembled. Some thought he had a horse face, others contended he was more pterodactyl-like in appearance.

When Kerry confronted President Bush for being the first president not to meet with the NAACP since its inception, a woman next to me defended the president with the words, "What about Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell? Don't they count?" Yes, madam, of course they count. However, the fact that they are black and - by virtue of being members of Bush's cabinet - have frequent conversations with the president does not make them representatives for the entire black population of America.

Yet, the topper to all this thoughtful discourse was from a woman with an overbite that would require the finest team of dentists in the world to correct. In response to Kerry defending his stance of military issues the playground chant of "Liar, liar, pants on fire" would resound from her dental nightmare of a mouth.

I came away from the rally seething. It was then, after the debate, which made me realize why I stay away on the sidelines. The reason: partisan politics.

Whether you're a staunch Republican or Democrat doesn't matter. Partisan politics holds no benefit for this country. Straight party voters are the prime example of democracy gone wrong; more concerned with picking sides rather than doing any critical thinking. We should not be content to let our respective political parties pick our ideas for us. However, those who subscribe to a political dogma do so because of a blind loyalty that not only lessens the principles of democracy but creates animosity between differing groups.

This strict adherence to political parties has lead to an unprecedented level of divisiveness in America. Even on our own campus you can see how students segregate and discriminate based on party. Despite the fact that college is perceived as a breeding ground for open-mindedness, this is not the case.

We've become too divisive and separatist based on our party affiliations.

It's once you start organizing, give yourself a fancy acronym and order the appropriate T-shirts is when things start getting ugly.

The political zealots that we have on campus do more harm than good. If we are to follow the ideal of having a fully-operating democracy, we have to become ruled less by political dogma or more attuned to critical thinking.

Though political homogeny is not what our country should aspire to, neither is an outright schism amongst the people. Disagreements will naturally arise. However, it's when we stop listening to the opposition that the political process stops.

Susan Bonicillo is a junior majoring in English. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.