By Krista Ritz
The recent presidential election revived tensions seen decades before between political parties .
Members of Youngstown State University reflected on the recent election and how a seemingly divided country can unite.
Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich, associate professor in politics and international relations, explained her thoughts on why there is so much division between the Democratic and Republican political parties.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with partisanship and different opinions and values,” Jackson Leftwich said. “I think the problem that America faces is that we don’t tend to want to hear the other side. You’ll have Republicans or Democrats that will submit legislation and because it was submitted by a Republican or Democrat, they won’t even consider it. They won’t even look at it.”
Jackson said studies show most Democrats and Republicans are more moderate. While there are extremists on the left and right, she said, the majority of individuals are in the middle and the dissent is due to single-issue voters.
Single-issue voters, according to Jackson, are people who support a political party based solely on one issue. One example she offered is people who vote Republican because they are pro-life yet still agree with many democratic views.
Regardless of the dividing issues, however, Jackson said it is better to focus on what unites the country instead of what divides it.
Associate professor in political science William Binning advises the conservative group on campus and said the country isn’t in a healthy political environment right now.
“One thing that contributes to the current environment that we’ve been in for a couple of decades now is that we don’t have any moderates or liberals in the Republican Party,” Binning said. “We don’t have any moderates or conservatives in the Democratic Party anymore.”
Years ago, Binning said, the country was less divided than it is now, with political parties being more than just Democratic or Republican.
“In the Democratic Party, there were Southerners who were conservative. In the Republican Party, there were Easterners who were liberal. That moderated the parties and created opportunities for bipartisanship,” Binning said.
Justin Shaughnessy, Student Government Association president, focuses on being a voice between the students and administration. He was a part of efforts to reach YSU students on the importance of voting in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.
“Our [SGA] initiative was helping students understand the election process, helping them be educated voters [and] helping them register to vote,” Shaughnessy said.
He said he felt proud of YSU students and community members for voting in-person or by mail and was pleased by the voter turnout this year.
“If you only get 5% of an entire country to vote, then only 5% of people select the candidate. When you have a lot more [voters], it legitimizes that person’s position, so I thought that that was a huge success this year,” Shaughnessy said.
He recognized the tensions between opposing political views. He said he hopes the disagreements won’t be indicative of the future.
Shaughnessy encouraged voters to not take people’s political affiliations at face value and to have conversations with them instead.