What party politics does to the Latino community

What party politics does to the Latino community

(Photo: EFE)

For decades now, we’ve been witnessing how American politics are becoming increasingly polarized: the left moves further left while the right moves further right. The end result is a political stalemate between lawmakers who are unwilling to compromise.

The last four years have seen an unrelenting practice of obstructionism by conservatives in Congress, all in the name of limiting Obama to a one-term presidency.

There’s plenty of evidence of this: who could forget Indiana Tea Party Senator Richard Murdock and his infamous definition of compromise? As if the Tea Party’s very existence weren’t enough, he said compromise should consist of Democrats adopting Republican principles.

This extreme polarization is especially evident during an election year. Even though the candidates are now doing everything in their power to appeal to moderates and independent voters, Obama and Romney supporters who have already made up their minds have been at each others’ throats since the Republican primaries ended.

If that’s not convincing enough, I encourage you to visit the comments section at the bottom of any story on any major news website. If you’re anything like me, you enjoy the occasional political debate with friends (or complete strangers) online. Anyone who’s ever read or participated in these online discussions will know they’re anything but that – if one thing is certain, it’s that the people of the internet can’t agree on anything.

A related study even shows observable patterns of political polarization on social networking sites like Twitter (although I imagine trying to hold a debate in 140 characters or less to be somewhat ineffective). The findings suggest that these online interactions might actually serve to exacerbate the problem of polarization by reinforcing pre-existing political biases.

Latinos are no exception to this. In fact, internally, we’re probably more polarized than any other ethnic group in America. Our diversity means we argue about everything from politics to… well, just about everything else.

That’s exactly why we should be cautious of this extreme political polarization. When our ideologies become so radically different, we lose sight of the virtue of compromise, just like Senator Murdock. With so much unconstructive bickering over small political issues, the Latino community runs the risk of being torn against itself – especially when candidates are specifically targeting us for votes.

I’m not saying we should all hold hands and sing kumbaya; I’m also not saying we all need to adhere to “identity politics” and vote for the same guy. But I am asking that we put an end to the extreme negativity and politically-charged personal attacks amongst Latinos.

Remember: it’s still perfectly possible to hold a civilized conversation with someone who doesn’t agree with you. It’s fine if we disagree. In fact, it’s actually better that we do. It makes our community stronger – socially, politically, and culturally.


This article originally appeared in Being Latino.