Tusinski: Stop making politics about yourself

Dylan Tusinski

Buttons laid out on voter registration table put up on the Colorado State University Plaza by The Associated Students of Colorado State University Sept. 28. (Garrett Mogel | Collegian)
Buttons laid out on a voter registration table put up on the Colorado State University Plaza by The Associated Students of CSU Sept. 28. (Garrett Mogel | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

A year or two ago, as the Democratic presidential primary was heating up, I was tabling on The Plaza. I was part of Colorado State University’s Rams for Bernie, now Rams for Progress, a student group organizing to elect Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee for president.

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A couple of other students and I set up our table early on a Friday morning, playing music and handing out flyers encouraging students to vote for Sanders in the upcoming election. One of the things we did when people came up to our table was ask them what issues were important to them and why. It was a strategy designed to let us show how Sanders could tackle those issues, but on a personal level, it was an interesting way of gauging the current state of American politics.

Regardless of what issues people talked about and regardless of which side of the political aisle they fell on, there was one thing that remained near constant: Almost everyone was looking at politics from a personal, self-centered lens.

Rather than trying to reform our society for the benefit of, well, our society, people have become interested in politics for self-centered reasons.”

People wanted Medicare for All because their own health care costs were too high. People wanted to protect the Second Amendment because they thought their personal firearms were going to be taken away. People wanted to build a wall on the southern border because they felt personally threatened by immigrants.

While I’m not dismissing these beliefs in and of themselves, it painted a rather bleak picture of American politics. Rather than trying to reform our society for the benefit of, well, our society, people have become interested in politics for self-centered reasons. Needless to say, this isn’t the healthiest thing for a democracy.

The entire notion of politics is centered around creating policies that help better society at large. What this means is that politics should be a selfless endeavor. You should be interested in politics and hold the beliefs you do because you want to help better the lives of your fellow citizens, not because you want to solely better the life of yourself.

It’s also important to note that this selfish nature breeds much of the political toxicity we see today. For example, in a Vox analysis of a general political survey, they found that political selfishness tends to create cultural divides that perpetuate and further systemic discrimination against minorities. Needless to say, these discriminatory rifts in our modern-day society have created many of the large issues dominating contemporary politics.

Whether it’s the notion of systemic police racism, homophobia and transphobia being injected into state legislatures or inherent racism in the organizations tasked with policing America’s borders, the fact of the matter is that our selfish ideas about politics are creating and furthering societal discrimination.

It’s time to realize an important truth: Politics are about more than you.”

On top of that, selfish beliefs about politics make political debates more vitriolic. When you get into a political debate, the section of your brain associated with your personal identity lights up. This means you perceive people challenging your political beliefs as an attack on you as a person.

Of course, when you perceive something as an attack on your person, you’re going to respond in a defensive — and sometimes offensive — manner. This makes political discourse much more vitriolic and divisive and only furthers the societal rifts created by our selfish mindsets to begin with.

The fact of the matter is this: Selfish politics are harming our society. It’s making us angrier and more divided and is driving political discourse to an area it hasn’t been in since the Civil War. If we want to nip this trend in the bud, it’s time to realize an important truth: Politics are about more than you.

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Reach Dylan Tusinski at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @unwashedtiedye.