Today, politics saturates social media. Observing this sudden transformation has left many of us wondering what exactly social media is doing to the way that we affect the political system and moreover affect each other.
The platform of social media apps like Twitter tend to polarize political views. Katy Steinmetz contends in her article, “Popularity on Social Media? Not cool,” that “tweets containing strong moral and emotional language,” or moral outrage, “are about 20% more likely to get retweeted.” The effect of this desperate need to manipulate social media for attention in our political discussions is part of a larger wave of polarized thinking. More neutral political accounts that don’t really call for that same level of moral outrage are left in the dust with minimal following, which means the far left and far right are left to scream over each other, despite the fact that many Americans belong to neither group. It is no wonder people have lost their cool in political discussion, especially on these social platforms.
In essence, the middle ground has disappeared into thin air. The everyday political conversation has lost its civility. We dare not tread even the slight edges of controversial debate out of fear of upset. It is time to change; let’s bring civility back.
The significance of political civility cannot be further stressed. Political discussion is a part of free speech, typified as one of the backbones of American democracy. How can Americans develop their own opinions if not given the option to hear out both sides? How can one become educated if political debates are typically avoided due to their mostly uncomfortable qualities? The answer to leading the greater group of politically uneducated Americans out of the dark is to make it more socially acceptable to have diverse opinions.
Making informed decisions for America entails profound discussion and understanding of current issues and those running for office: how can one feel comfortable to use their voice if we live in this polarized community of screaming at the opposition? Our freedom to speak our mind is at stake as the latest behavior threatens to destroy neutral ground and civil political discussion.
Controversial topics do not have to be taboo. The simple solution to talking politics is to just be more polite. From an article by Daniel Alcott for the American Magazine, one can draw out three simple steps on how to debate politics with more civility. Step one is avoiding political discussion on social media altogether. This mitigates polarization. Step two entails engaging in debate for the right reasons. Debate should not occur for emotional reasons. Finally, step three is to embrace the struggle between what may seem to be at competing truths. F. Scott Fitzgerald says that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Our current conversations have gone askew. Let us bring them back by using our ability as humans to have humility. Try it out.
Go forth, have a decent, respectful discussion. Leave room for the opposing voice and perhaps learn something new. We can work together to bring politics back into a calmer social atmosphere.
1. Alcott, Daniel. “Three steps to a more civil political debate.” America Magazine, n.d.,
yx9Yvf5ucA&T=P&P=AN&S=R&D=rgm&K=131461080. Accessed 30 October 2018.
2. Steinmetz, Katy. “Popularity on Social Media? Not cool.” Time, n.d. 2018,
fgeyx9Yvf5ucA&T=P&P=AN&S=R&D=rgm&K=132004249. Accessed 30 October
Everyone has heard the particular story of America being a nation founded by immigrants. In recent years, it has been used to push an agenda. The fact is, America was indeed created by immigrants, by those who came to a land foreign to them in hopes that they would find something better. From the Irish escaping famines to the Germans escaping political tension, the country once opened its doors to those who needed it. Despite the hypocrisy, each wave of immigration post-colonization has also brought about its own repercussions of nativism. Today, we are repeating history in nativist attitudes towards those seeking refuge; however, we are also creating our own history with the harshest regulations and penalties for immigrants. America’s current immigration system is incomprehensive, focused more on keeping foreigners out than on implementing legislature that reflects the so-called American values of freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Our immigration system is in need of a reform that will create a fair system that not only makes immigration an easier process, but prioritizes human rights regardless of nationality or status.
Despite claims and outrage over immigration’s negative effect on the economy, a vast majority of evidence from several organizations can easily debunk that. The idea that immigrants steal jobs from American citizens stems from a belief that the set number of jobs in the country is small enough that it cannot handle the pressure of more competitors. The effect of immigration on the economy in regards to jobs is actually the opposite of depressing. The CATO Institute, a nonpartisan public research organization, has found through statistics that in years when immigration has reached a peak, the unemployment rate of the overall nation has dropped 5.5% lower than on average years. The relationship is not coincidental at all - its significance is great and only increases when the numbers are narrowed solely to economic migrants. Often working low-wage jobs in the agricultural field, migrant workers contribute heavily to the economy, providing us affordable produce while only making close to $10,000 annually. The positive impact they have on the employment sector of the economy is one reason for us to seek out more immigrants in our country, providing them a system where they can become legal residents and receive protection from underpayment and other forms of exploitation.
Despite the positive impact of immigration on the job sector of the economy, there is one aspect where they are certainly costing Americans far more than we should like. This, however, is not their faults at all. Under the current system, and more specifically under this administration, immigration detention has been the preferred method of settling disputes of legality. American nativists and its hate-fueling leadership have developed a harsh and low tolerance policy that celebrates the detention of immigrants, going as far as separating children from their parents in centers. Although this is seen as a victory by the administration and by many civilians supporting it, it does not come for free. Detention centers have been estimated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to cost around $126.46 per bed per night. The allotted number of beds is 29,953, and that is simply for adult detention centers. In family detention centers, the nightly bed rate is $161.36 for its 960 beds. The National Immigration Forum has found that even these estimations from ICE should be considered low as they do not account for the payrolls and other operational expenses for ICE. These figures then calculate that the U.S. government was set to spend $3.076 billion on detention centers in the 2018 fiscal year. This cost naturally falls upon taxpayers’ shoulders and such a large amount is detracted from funds that could be used to improve other social issues within the country. Detention centers are not directly to be blamed on however, they are a mere reflection of our incomprehensive and thus unnecessarily expensive system. There are other alternatives to detention that have proven themselves to have a 95% success rate, while only costing a maximum of $17 a day per immigrant. Even from a pragmatic standpoint, detention centers are the opposite of beneficial to the system. By sticking to our so-called values and not looking to alternatives outside of detention centers, the United States allows a xenophobic narrative not only to create social problems, but also to affect taxpayers heavily.
The progressive strides this country has been attempting to take for many years will never truly work until we have a drastic change in our immigration system. Despite the failures previously identified within it, current events are transpiring in ways that worsen the situation. The migrant caravan from Honduras that is now at the Mexican border has received response from the military, not from social workers. They have been tear-gassed rather than spoken to, and the current President has threatened the use of lethal force. Rather than looking to reform in a new and positive light, administrations are looking to set even more barriers and roadblocks, complicating our already broken system further. My first hand experience with the system has given me direct insight into the lengthy and expensive process in place. My father came to the United States before I was born and I did not know him for five years until we were able to come legally. In those five years, my mother, now raising a school aged child and an infant on her own in a third world country, applied for citizenship three separate times. She had no criminal record whatsoever and was working full time for a nonprofit in Peru. Nonetheless, she along with my brother and I, were denied entry all three times. Each application cost $450 in processing fees and took up months simply to be acknowledged. After five years and several attempts to enter the country the legal way, my mother was ready to enter the country with us through the Mexican border. As plans were being finalized for that, my father’s residence was processed and he could begin to ask for our visa applications to be expedited. In a final attempt, and now with an immediate relative being a permanent resident, we applied again. Within months, we had approval to enter the country and were set to come. It was fortunate for us that my father’s residency was approved with that timing. The majority of immigrants who enter the country undocumented lack the same family connection that turned our three time rejection into an expedited approval. This does not mention how many undocumented immigrants may lack the money to continue to apply again and again, losing close to $500 each time. Needless to say, there are also those in such a desperate state, their situations are time sensitive and they cannot wait for several years to be considered. There is a clear problem with a system that allows countless individuals to spend hundreds of dollars on an application that then takes months, even years to process to no avail, but then gives unfair advantages to those with a connection.
The United States has prided itself on its constitutional values of liberty and pursuit of happiness for many years. However, the current immigration system fails to reflect either of those, and the penalties are at inhumane levels. America needs a reform that implements a comprehensive immigration system that prioritizes the advancement of people and the importance of human rights for all. A system that prioritizes those values - and reflects us as a nation - will also result in a positive economic impact, all the while ending penalties that cost us billions. Until this reform occurs, the United States cannot move forward.
Where Supreme Court justices are typically dignified and composed, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent, the varying degree to which he took his combative behavior perhaps less significant—at least, by Republican standards—in providing substantive evidence as to whether he sexually assaulted Dr. Blasey Ford, and more indicative of his clear lack of the proper temperament and demeanor that a justice should have. He angrily accused the “Left” for “totally and permanently” destroying his name in an orchestrated “political hit.”
Kavanaugh’s tone was not the tone of a man who would someday like to have the honor of being a Supreme Court justice; his tone was that of a man, privileged and wealthy, believing that he is entitled to a seat on the bench of America’s most powerful court.
As incidences of unprecedented degrees of secrecy and backdoor partisan strategy permeated the news from the moment that Trump announced his nomination to the moment that Kavanaugh was finally confirmed, those within the political circle scrambled to maneuver around the allegations. Senators Orrin Hatch and Lindsey Graham lamented the he-said, she-said manner of gathering evidence during the hearings, but the truth is that they partook in a collective partisan failure in very feasibly changing that. Instead of gathering evidence from such individuals as Kavanaugh’s classmates, Republicans only brought in two witnesses—not inadvertently, the two individuals that the hearings concern.
Senators thus had to rely on Kavanaugh’s tears at the memory of lifting weights at his friend Tobin’s house, unchanging reiterations of his apparently wide circle of female friends who respect him, and constant affirmations of liking and drinking beer, his deliverance discomfort-inducing and and vaguely artificial. In addition to openly disrespecting the Senators on the committee, Kavanaugh misstated facts and misused evidence under oath, which means that even if there existed incontrovertible evidence that he did not sexually assault Dr. Blasey Ford, the evidence shows that Kavanaugh lacks the skills and qualities that Americans can expect from Supreme Court nominees.
Alexandra Schwartz at the New Yorker called such behavior “a model of American conservative masculinity…directly tied to the loutish, aggressive frat-boy persona that Kavanaugh is purportedly seeking to dissociate himself from.”
The American Civil Liberties Union rarely uses their platform to oppose the confirmation of Supreme Court nominees, but for Kavanaugh, the organization has made an exception. Although noting that Kavanaugh’s temper may be somewhat justifiable coming from a man who very possibly does believe he is innocent, what the ACLU and thousands of Americans find is that there is now and forever will be incontrovertible evidence made widely available to the public of unsettling anger and wild volatility in a man who is trying to persuade the nation of his proper judicial qualifications.
Lest we forget that Brett Kavanaugh was nominated by a President who undermines daily the democratic order of our nation and has a long track record of both formal and informal statements that disrespect sexual assault survivors, Americans will have the Kavanaugh hearings seared into their memories the difficult direction that this nation has chosen to take. The fundamental problem here is that the Supreme Court has become an intensely partisan arm that pretends otherwise. The Founders envisioned the Court the branch of government free from the violence of faction, but justices have divided neatly along partisan lines, especially on controversial cases involving hot-button issues.
Kavanaugh therefore threatens the integrity of the Supreme Court. And Republicans have been brushing this under the rug for a number of reasons, the main one being that while they hold unified power in Washington, most of their agenda is hugely unpopular. Even if Kavanaugh undermines the reputation of the Supreme Court, Republicans needed him on the bench before November came.